Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre created quite a stir when it was published, under a false male pseudonym, in the mid 1840’s. This novel introduced the idea of the individualize women and how feminism was shifting throughout this time. She explores the undermining sexual innuendos hidden in Jane’s actions throughout the Victorian Era. From orphanhood to marriage, she shows growth in her sense of self. Jane has contradictory desires to be both independent and to serve a strong-willed man. Passion and desire play large roles in Jane’s relationships, but especially with Mr. Rochester, St. John, and can be seen represented in Bertha’s personality. This novel is a hybrid of genres. The Gothic aspect of this book provides a supernatural, suspenseful, mysterious story line, while the Romance parts of the novel focus on passion, love and destiny.
Jane longs for somewhere to belong, but also a sense of freedom. Each relationship she has contributes to her search. Mr. Rochester was Jane’s employer in Thornfield. While he is initially distant and short towards her, he is intrigued by her story and honesty. His arrogant attitude comes from the fact that he has power. His feelings of privilege and superiority fade when he begins to open up to Jane about his past. Her passion begins to heat up for him after saving him from the late night fire that started in his bedroom. Fire is a reoccurring motif that occurs throughout the story representing the burning passion in their relationships. After rescuing him from the burning curtains, she describes him with, “strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look.” (96) Although he is with Miss Blanche, he gives Jane a hard time about leaving his room. Jane acts as though his hand holding means little to her and she must return to her duties, but is over come by optimism and hopefulness by Mr. Rochester’s flirtatious attitude. “Till morning dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in fancy—a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back. Sense would resist delirium: judgment would warn passion. Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned.” (Bronte 96) The desire between them is mutual but there still lies then constant struggle between Jane giving into her sexual desires to be with Mr. Rochester and the desire to fulfill herself and achieve the freedom she is looking for. She is taught by Helen how to better control her fiery rage and passion.
St. John has a similar dominating personality to Rochester, but is more cold towards Jane. He is very dedicate to his religious principles, similar to the way Jane is dedicated to her quest. Jane resorts to her orphan ways and ends up staying with the Rivers’ family and creating a relationship with St. John, who appears to be in love with Rosamond Oliver. He refuses to be with her, in fear she will not make a sufficient missionary wife. While Rochester vents his passions, St. John represses his. He lacks what she used love about Rochester. St. John values Jane for her skills and qualities. He says to her, “God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary’s wife you must—shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you—not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service. (257) He is more passionate about his destiny to be a missionary worker than he is about a relationship with Jane. He admires her and her work ethic but not as a companion or wife. He wants power over her, not a relationship, “either our union must be consecrated and sealed by marriage, or it cannot exist.” (Bronte 258) She would consider going if he was not demanding marriage. The idea of being “a useful tool” on his missionary trip, seems about as belittling as being Rochester’s mistress. Yet she is still Rochester’s relationship.
Jane has grown from being an orphan with no money, family or support to an empowering women finally reaching her full potential. After denying St. John’s trip offer, she realizes that while she would have been free in India, she would have been trapped in a relationship with no love, passion or desire to be together. With Rochester, she felt like she could not be in a marriage that made her feel less respect, being the mistress. Bertha serves as not only Rochester’s wife, but a symbol for Jane’s subconscious feelings. Jane learns to control her rage and never displays to Rochester her thoughts about feeling imprisoned in marriage. Bertha’s existence is what stops the wedding, ruins Jane’s veil then sets the house on fire. Fire reoccurring for another time in the novel, “they called out to him that she was on the roof, where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a mile of.” (274) She manifests Jane’s inner fiery personality. Jane’s five minutes in the Red Room is comparable to Bertha being locked in the attic. While Bertha appears to be insane, her releasing emotions is to show Jane hiding her inner passions and desires.
Jane Eyre’s struggle between wanting to be free and wanting to be loved evokes a lot of different emotions through out the story. Each character shares similar qualities to her. Charlotte Bronte puts emphasis on the sexual aspects of Jane’s life by intertwining similar characteristics through Jane, Mr. Rochester, St. John and Bertha. The amount of passion and desire conveyed through their relationships helps Jane grow into a blossoming woman in a freeing yet equal relationship.