Use of Allusion in Jane Eyre

Topics: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, Gothic fiction Pages: 6 (2589 words) Published: April 22, 2011

This paper will focus on the use of allusion that Bronte has made in her novel Jane Eyre. The novel is written in first person. The novel has in it elements of the gothic. The gothic novel is an amalgamation of romance and terror. The tradition started with Horace Walpole’s novel ‘the castle of Otronto’. Bronte uses elements of this tradition in Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre digresses from the other novels, written over a four-year period, largely because of Bronte's use of images, symbols, and allusions. In marked contrast, Jane Eyre is filled with allusions and citations: thirty-seven from the Bible, eleven from Shakespeare, and references to or citations from more than twenty writers ranging from Vergil to Sir Walter Scott. The novel’s autobiographical leanings can be observed in aspects of characterization. First of all, she is, like Charlotte Bronte herself, a very well-read young woman. Secondly, the Biblical quotations and allusions are quite understandable in the context of an almost, at times, oppressively religious atmosphere. The story does deal, to a large extent, with the struggle between human passion and Christian duty. But something more important arises from the Biblical and Shakespearean allusions. In the second and third parts of the novel Bronte clearly associates her somewhat typically Gothic lovers with three other pairs of men and women from the past: Adam and Eve, Samson and Delilah, and Lear and Cordelia. Some critics have pointed out the individual analogues, but no one has shown that together they form a pattern or motif of male/female pairings. As a matter of fact, these three pairs should signal, to some readers at least, that Bronte is associating the individual, particular confrontation between Jane and Rochester with the universal, archetypal confrontation between the sexes. Thus, the struggle between Jane and Rochester is based not solely on economics, or class, or moral codes, but also on the fundamental nature of the relationship between man and woman-the struggle for a reconciliation of opposites that are correlative and equal. Her deepening of the psychological dimension of the story through richness of imagery and symbolism moves the characters beyond the potentially stereotypical to the real and individual. Her associating the two principal characters, in turn, to the three pairs mentioned above moves the individual toward the archetypal. Thus, at a surface level, Jane Eyre can and always will be read by many if not most readers as a stereotypical Gothic romance, as a fable, as a dream come true. At a deeper level it can be read, in spite of the many romantic elements, as a story of profound, even daring, psychological realism-an exploration of the "dark passages" of the human psyche. At an even deeper level it can be read as a story of mythic significance. Jane and Rochester act out the recurring archetypal conflict between male and female. At this level of archetypal meaning the allusions are integrated with the imagery, symbolism, and themes of the novel. For these pairings suggest "opposition," which is the most important organizing principle in the novel. There is opposition between Jane and other characters in each section of the novel: Jane vs. Mrs. Reed/Mr. Brocklehurst; Jane vs. Rochester; Jane vs. St. John Rivers. There are corresponding opposites-conflicts and tensions-within the three main characters, Jane, Rochester, and St. John Rivers. Finally, the ideas, images, and symbols in the novel cluster in patterns of opposition: ice/fire, white/red, sparrow/eagle, reason/feeling, duty/passion, life/death, master/servant. By means of the imagery all these opposites coalesce into the archetypal, cosmic conflict between male and female: Adam and Eve, Yin and Yang, if you will. But what Jane Eyre achieves is a partial reversal and a total...
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