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TagsNovels Jane Eyre Brontë Family Charlotte Brontë Emily Brontë
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Table of Contents
Editor’s Note
Jane Eyre: Lurid Hieroglyphics
“Indian Ink”: Colonialism and the Figurative Strategy of Jane Eyre
Thornfield and ‘The Dream to Repose on’: Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre and the Secrets of Furious Lovemaking
The Enigma of St John Rivers
St. John’s Way and the Wayward Reader
Triumph and Jeopardy: The Shape of Jane Eyre
Fairies and Feminism: Recurrent Patterns in Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and Brontë’s Jane Eyre
The Wild English Girl: Jane Eyre
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Alice’s Adventures in

The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn

All Quiet on the
Western Front

Animal Farm
As You Like It
The Ballad of the Sad

Billy Budd, Benito

Cereno, Bartleby the
Scrivener, and Other

Black Boy
The Bluest Eye
Brave New World
Cat on a Hot Tin

The Catcher in the

Cat’s Cradle
The Color Purple
Crime and

The Crucible
Darkness at Noon
David Copperfield
Death of a Salesman
The Death of Artemio

The Divine Comedy
Don Quixote
Emerson’s Essays
Fahrenheit 451

A Farewell to Arms
The General Prologue

to the Canterbury

The Grapes of

Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby
Gulliver’s Travels
The Handmaid’s Tale
Heart of Darkness
I Know Why the

Caged Bird Sings
The Iliad
The Interpretation of

Invisible Man
Jane Eyre
The Joy Luck Club
Julius Caesar
The Jungle
King Lear
Long Day’s Journey

Into Night
Lord of the Flies
The Lord of the Rings
Love in the Time of

The Man Without

The Merchant of

The Metamorphosis
A Midsummer Night’s

Miss Lonelyhearts
My Ántonia

Native Son
The Odyssey
Oedipus Rex
The Old Man and the

On the Road
One Flew Over the

Cuckoo’s Nest
One Hundred Years of

Paradise Lost
The Pardoner’s Tale
A Passage to India
Portnoy’s Complaint
A Portrait of the Artist

as a Young Man
Pride and Prejudice
The Red Badge of

The Rime of the

Ancient Mariner
Romeo & Juliet
The Rubáiyát of Omar

The Scarlet Letter
A Scholarly Look at

The Diary of Anne

A Separate Peace
Silas Marner
Song of Myself
Song of Solomon
The Sonnets of

William Shakespeare
Sophie’s Choice

Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations

Page 122

Jane Eyre and the Secrets of Furious Lovemaking 113

tool to enable them to gain a fortune. Like Blanche Ingram, indeed,
Rochester himself was commodified on the marriage market: his father (like
Blanche’s mother) arranged for him to be “provided for by a wealthy
marriage” (332) that would also profit his relatives. Just as painfully, during
the charade of his courtship in the West Indies, he was tricked by Bertha’s
family (who kept secret his bride’s five year seniority as well as her mother’s
madness) because they wished to secure a man “of a good race.” Like Queen
Victoria’s daughter, Rochester was supposed to sacrifice his youthful body to
this marriage of convenience, and, if necessary, on his wedding night he was
supposed to “close his eyes and think of England.” At the same time, to
further complicate the matter, the language with which he describes his
earliest responses to Bertha reveals that her eroticism had at first
“stimulated,” “excited,” and “besotted” him, even turning him into a “gross,
grovelling, mole-eyed blockhead” (332–3). The symbolically foreign and
beastly, “impure, depraved” nature he associates with his madly sexual wife
remains “a part of me,” he admits. That after consigning Bertha to
Thornfield’s attic he has indulged in erotic adventures with a series of foreign
(and thus metaphorically alien and beastly) mistresses lends substance to this
confession. What, Brontë seems to wonder, if female desire is simultaneously
debilitating and contagious (to men), even while it is maddening (to women)?

In one sense, then, through its portrayal of “furious lovemaking” and its
meditation on the dangers of desire, Jane Eyre investigates the problem that
even a closely guarded wish for such lovemaking posed to both sexes in
Victorian society. From this perspective, the secret in the attic is not simply
Brontë’s rebellion and rage against the subordination of women, but also her
intuition that the social enforcement of such subordination was grounded in
widespread fears of yearnings that, if not properly controlled, could turn into
insatiable and deadly sexual hungers. Certainly, the novelist’s Bluebeard is as
frightened of beastly Bertha as is her Cinderella: if the madwoman at
Thornfield instills in Jane a dread that she will turn into a grovelling,
intemperate harlot besotted with desires of “giant propensities” for her
“master,” she also evokes in Rochester an anxiety that either his own virility
will be found wanting in a sexual contest or that he will be turned into an
instrumental “blockhead” who is himself subordinated to—destined merely to
service!—a growling, snatching wild animal. In another sense, however, Jane
Eyre’s (and Jane Eyre’s) preoccupation with “furious lovemaking” represents an
unusually candid rejection of Victorian moral constraints. Indeed, it is arguable
that an implicit repudiation of sexual double standards was a major source of
the novel’s power, for ultimately Brontë allowed her heroine to acknowledge,
accommodate, and articulate her own as well as her mate’s “giant propensities”
without becoming either a clothed hyena or a sacrificial lamb.

Page 123

Sandra M. Gilbert114

Throughout the novel, indeed, Jane’s gaze turns voraciously, even at
times voyeuristically, toward Rochester, as she catalogs his bodily parts and
properties in what amounts to a series of female-authored blazons. His “broad
and jetty eyebrows, his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal
sweep of his black hair ... his decisive nose ... his full nostrils, denoting, I
thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw” (151) and “his great dark
eyes” (162) all receive her close scrutiny, along with his “unusual breadth of
chest, disproportionate almost to his length of limb,” the “unconscious pride
in his port” (164) and his hand that is “a rounded, supple member, with
smooth fingers, symmetrically turned” and “a broad ring flash[ing] on the
little finger” (231). When he confides to her what from any conventional
Victorian perspective are the sexual improprieties in his past, she “hear[s]
him talk with relish ... never startled or troubled by one noxious allusion”
(177). Indeed, she explains, “my bodily health improved; I gathered flesh and
strength” (177; emphasis added) while his face becomes “the object I best
liked to see” (178). Growing ever less ethereal, more physical, she becomes
ever more easily intimate with him, so much so that after she wakes him from
his burning bed in chapter fifteen, she rather boldly remains in his presence
while he gets “into some dry garments” (180), then huddles in his cloak for
half the night in his smoky chamber while he goes to deal with “Grace
Poole.” And that at first he himself explicitly associates the ostensibly pale,
pure governess with the ungovernable elements of fire and water that have
engulfed him in his sleep—first inflaming, then flooding—surely has erotic
resonance. “ ‘In the name of all the elves in Christendom, is that Jane Eyre?’
he demand[s], ‘What have you done with me, witch, sorceress?’” (180). Nor
is the significance of this interaction lost on Jane, who delightedly records
the “[s]trange energy ... in his voice, strange fire in his look,” then repairs to
her bed, trying to “resist delirium” and “warn passion” though she is too
“feverish to rest” (182).

Interestingly, while many of us seventies feminists concentrated on
Jane’s “wild declaration of the ‘Rights of Woman’” in their old aspect, Brontë
bestows on the ice-encrusted St. John Rivers the same awareness of her
sexual intensity that informed Mrs. Oliphant’s identification of the “alarming
revolution” fostered by the novel’s commitment to a “new aspect” of the
“‘Rights of Woman’” that would condone a female desire for “furious
lovemaking.” Though Jane never confesses to St. John her fear that “as his
wife ... [she would be] forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low,
to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned
flame consumed vital after vital” (433), he nevertheless intuits her
ineradicable passion. “ ‘I know where your heart turns and to what it clings,’”
he declares, adding censoriously, “ ‘ [t]he interest you cherish is lawless and

Page 243


Swift, Jonathan
Gulliver’s Travels, 181

Taylor, Mary, 124
Temple, Miss (Jane Eyre), 98, 201

marriage, 17, 106, 162–63, 166,

power, 82, 210, 213
“The Temptations of a Motherless

Woman” (Rich), 102
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

(Brontë), 1
Tennyson, Alfred, 175
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Hardy), 76

Tess in, 2
Thackeray, William Makepeace, 5,

102, 138
eulogy of, 8
praise of, 9–10
Vanity Fair, 3

Thornfield setting in Jane Eyre, 19,
63, 83, 111

battlements of, 99–100, 164,
168, 194, 196–97, 204–5

fire in, 26–27, 31, 61, 67–70, 87,
91, 107, 149, 193

imagination of, 83
Jane’s flight from, 11, 24, 32–33,

62, 150, 158, 173, 193, 212
third story of, 13, 18, 31, 50–52,

55, 108, 113, 211
Todd, Mabel Loomis, 109
Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare),

The Turn of the Screw (James),


Vanity Fair (Thackeray), 3
Venn, Henry, 128
Victorian themes

in Jane Eyre, 7, 10–11, 13,
15–18, 22, 24, 26–27, 31, 33,

35, 38, 79, 88, 101, 106–12,
114, 118, 151, 159

medievalism, 175
society, 176, 182, 186

Vidal, Gore, 2
Villette (Brontë, C.), 6

children in, 76
colonialism in, 43–44
Lucy Snowe in, 43–44, 76–77,

M. Paul in, 43–44, 80
narrative, 1, 27

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
(Wollstonecraft), 104

Virgil, 175

Wakoski, Diane, 101
Waverly (Scott), 196, 205
Webb, Igor, 52–53
White, Charles, 65
Wide Sargasso Sea (Rhys), 46–47,

Williams, Carolyn, 65,

Williams, Judith, 125, 128
Williams, W.S., 8
Will to Live vision, 2–3
“Wife of Bath Tale” (Chaucer)

fairies and elves in, 176, 178–79,

politics between men and
women in, 176, 180–82

precursor to Jane Eyre,

Wollstonecraft, Mary
A Vindication of the Rights of

Woman, 104
Women in Love (Lawrence), 1

Gudrun in, 2
Ursula in, 2

Woman’s as She Is and As She Should
Be (anonymous), 160

Page 244

Index 235

Woman’s Sphere and Work
Considered in the Light of
Scriptures (Landels), 160

Wordsworth, William, 162, 176
The Borders, 3
“Resolution and Independence,”


Wuthering Heights (Brontë), 1,

afterlife in, 138
children in, 76,

romance of, 5

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