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Both Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bront , and Great Expectations, written by Charles Dickens, have many Victorian similarities. Both novels are influenced by the same three elements. The first is the gothic novel, which instilled mystery, suspense, and horror into the work. The second is the romantic poets, which gave the literature liberty, individualism, and nature. The third is the Byronic hero, which consists of the outcast or rebel who is proud and melancholy and seeks a purer life. The results when all three combined are works of literature like Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. BOTH NOVELS CONVEY THE SAME VICTORIAN IDEOLOGIES COMMON FOR THE TIME PERIOD IN, WHICH THEY WERE WRITTEN. Bront displays many of her experiences and beliefs through the main character, Jane, in her novel. As does Dickens, he portrays his own experiences and thoughts through Pip, the main character of Great Expectations.
Dickens and Bront use setting as an important role in the search for domesticity. Great Expectations is a circular book, with Pip finding his childhood home at the end of the story finally filled with happiness and a real family (Chesterton, 102). Pip begins the novel in his village, innocent though oppressed. Moving to London, he becomes uncommon, but also loses his natural goodness. Paying his financial debts and living abroad after losing his great expectations, he regains his goodness, or at least pays for his sins, and can finally return to his childhood home. His physical traveling reflects his mental and emotional journeys. Only when he returns to his childhood place and childhood goodness can he begin to look for happiness again.
In contrast, the use of setting in Jane Eyre is linear (Martin, 154). Instead of returning to her childhood home to find domesticity, Jane cannot find home until she moves to a totally different place. Setting plays an equally important role as she moves from Gateshead Hall to Lowood to Thornfield to Moor House, and finally to Freudian Manor. She cannot find her native ideal at Gateshead Hall, the site of her childhood torment, or Lowood, a boarding school, of Thornfield, where Rochester hid his first wife and almost became a bigamist, or Moor House, where St. John s presence constantly reminds her of true love s rarity (Martin 155). She and Rochester can only create their own domestic haven in a totally new and fresh setting.
A theme that can be acknowledged in both novels in the concept of social and gender mobility. In both novels the characters encounter social and gender mobility and each character attends to the notion differently. In Great Expectations, much of Mr. And Mrs. Joe Gargery s experiences of a class above theirs must be achieved vicariously, namely through Pip as he goes back and for the to Miss Havisham s:
If a dread of not being understood be hidden in the breasts of other young people to anything like the extent of which it used to be hidden in mine it is the key to many reservations. I felt convinced that if I described Miss Havisham s as my eyes had seen it, I should not be understood. Not only that, but I felt convinced that Miss Havisham, too, would not be understood; and although she was perfectly incomprehensible to me, I entertained an impression that there would be something coarse and treacherous in my dragging her as she really was (to say nothing of Miss Estella) before the contemplation of Mrs. Joe (Dickens, 60).
However, in Bronte s Jane Eyre, no such previous dependence on indirect experience between Jane and Rochester occur, until Rochester s injury, which cripples is hand and blinds him. The fire in which Rochester received his injuries, however, cleansed him of his previous wife, the unethical money he lived on, and the dominating position he held Jane under. A good quote that demonstrates the idea of social and gender mobility in Jane Eyre is the following:
Mr. Rochester continued blind the first two years of our union: perhaps it was that circumstance that drew us so very near that knit us so very close; for I was then his vision, as I am still his right. Literally, I was (what he often called me) the apple of his eye. He saw nature he saw books through be; and never did I weary of gazing for his behalf, and of putting into words the effect of field, tree, town, river, cloud, sunbeam of the landscape before us; of the weather round us and impressing by sound on his ear what light could no longer stamp on his eye (Bront , 475).
The new relationship forged between Jane and a new Rochester, according to Bronte, knits them very close and happy. Jane becomes Rochester s hands and eyes, becomes the controller of how he moves and perceives. Jane becomes the apple of his eye. An empowered woman, why should not Jane be content and why should not Bront , a female writer, pass anything by the best of judgements over this unequal arrangement. Pip, however, in his childlike way, understands the problems of vicarious experience. He worries his account of the Havisham would not be understood, nor would his account of Miss Havisham herself. Moreover, the word coarse has made such an impression of him from Estella, which Pip worries whether his station allows him to drag Miss Havisham
as she really was before the contemplation of Mrs. Joe Gargery. Pip, then is acutely aware of how his and Mrs. Joe s lower class standing to Miss Havisham s limits the observations he may make, whereas between Rochester and Jane, the previous class distinctions have disintegrated, allowing information to pass freely (Martin 56).
Jane found a way over social as well as gender barriers. Her marriage, therefore, presents itself as an exceptional relationship for the period. That Jane has devoted herself remains true, however, to say that her role is one of submission does not hold. Rather, all of Rochester s sensory experience depends itself upon Jane, making him submissive. Fortunately for Pip and other Victorian men in his dilemma, they do not need to concern themselves with moving beyond this sort of gender discrimination, but only with rising above their stations.
Another element that is intertwined in both novels is the power of the unconscious. A good passage that demonstrates the ultimate influence the unconscious has in Great Expectations is the following:
All night there were coaches in my broken sleep, going to wrong places in stead of London, and having in the traces, now dogs, now cats, now pigs, now men-never horses. Fantastic failures of journeys occupied me until the day dawned and the birds were singing. Then I got up and partly dressed, and sat at the window to take a last look out (Dickens, 148).
This passage related the dream that Pip has just before he sets out to London for the first time, with his all of his great expectations before him.
An example from Jane Eyre that displays the strong emphasis that is put on the unconscious, is when Jane decides she is going to leave Rochester:
I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning dawned I was tossed on a bouyant 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, judgement would warn passion. Too feverish to rest, I rose as soon as day dawned (Bront 305 ).
The passage from Jane Eyre occurs when Jane makes up her mind to leave Thornfield because of Rochester s relationship with Bertha. There are further similarities between the passages from both novels. One, they each precede a journey. Also both occur at night, and have the sense of being in the state of between sleep and wakefulness, as they describe dream-like images of the mind envisioned during fitful sleep or rest. They are not images of the fully conscious.
Jane and Pip are at these moments preoccupied with inner conflict. Jane struggles with society s reason and her own passion for Rochester, and Pip with the sadness and guilt caused by his imminent departure from Joe and Biddy and his aspirations for a new social station. These passages exemplify a common device used in both Great Expectations and Jane Eyre. In both novels, the inner struggles of the characters manifest themselves in their dreams, illusions, and other musings of the unconscious. There is a definite recognition that human mind operates on more that just a conscious and literal level (Engel 102).
Both novels expose the internal struggle of the main character s desires and passions. Sense would resist delirium, judgment would warn passion, Jane warns herself (Bront ,), when she attempts to keep under control her excitements and irrational hopes for love with her master, Rochester. No such judgment keeps Dickens Pip in line, however. The only thing that occasionally checks Pip from running headlong after his great expectations is guilt at abandoning Joe. The bed, for both Bront and Dickens, represents for their characters a place where they both can reflect upon their dreams. An excellent passage that demonstrates Pip s internal struggle is about Pip watching Joe smoking a pipe:
Looking towards the open window, I saw light wreaths from Joe s pipe floating there, and I fancied it was like a blessing from Joe not obtruded on me or paraded before me, but pervading the air we shared together. I put my light out, and crept into bed; and it was an uneasy bed now, and I never slept the old sound sleep in it any more (Dickens 136).
The passages from both novels have similar aspects than just this reflection upon repose. Both characters have just felt communion with others, Pip with Joe through his pipe smoke and Jane with Rochester, as she had just saved his life from the fire. The feelings resulting from both of theses encounters renders sleep impossible. For Jane, her hopes first roll triumphantly towards the bourne, (Bront ) then a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove her back (Bront ). This represents Jane s repression of irrationality (Kramer 45). For Pip, his bed just has become uneasy and that uneasiness also comes from himself, as his own conscience bears down upon him for leaving Joe and Biddy to become a gentleman, and rejecting that sphere of life Joe and Biddy represent (Engel 135). In conclusion, in Pip s case, anxiety comes from giving into his desires instead of following down the most logical path for his training and status.
Throughout both Jane Eyre and Great Expectations the reader can identify many universal themes of the Victorian period. It is shown through the similarities and differences of setting, social and gender mobility, the power of the unconscious, and the main character s struggles with their internal passions, that Bront and Dickens shared common bases for writing their works of literature.
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