Blanche Ingram: Villain?
Blanche Ingram is the most important woman, other than Jane Eyre, in the novel. Arguably, she is the most important antagonist in this book. It is difficult to fathom how an absolutely horrid, conceited, venal, apathetic creature could be so vital to the book; but take her away, the motivation, conflict, and character itself crumbles.
Consider this synopsis: Jane Eyre has not yet come to terms with her love with Mr. Rochester. Mr. Rochester is so infatuated with Jane that he can not contain himself and is ready to proclaim his love at any moment. Mr. Rochester must somehow occupy himself until he is certain of Jane’s fervent love for him and what better way to test this than with jealousy? This feminine competitive jealousy can only be achieved by bringing in the stereotypical, perfect woman of the epoch. This woman is Blanche Ingram. Blanche produces enough tumult to spark Jane to get over her reticence and speak out to Rochester of the love she feels for him.
A second scenario: Jane loves Mr. Rochester in her heart. She only needs something, some happenstance, where she can break through her reserve and coyness to express her feelings. Mr. Rochester brings to Thornfield a party of guests; all elegantly appareled and socially sophisticated. Hesitantly, Jane reaches the drawing room where she and Adele wait for the party to enter. The ladies all come in first, gathered together and chatting when they notice Adele and Jane. The ladies swoon over Adele while Jane sits on the side inspecting and criticizing each lady as she passes by. No one is unpleasant to her and no one seems to grab Mr. Rochester’s attention; which puts Jane at ease. Jane is content and almost enjoying herself while she participates in some activities and becomes amiable toward the party. This is an extreme fairytale-like revision without Blanche. There is no hostility, no conflict, no pain, but also no motivation. There is...
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