A TALE OF TWO HEARTS
While an artist uses a variety of colors and brushes to create a portrait, Charlotte Bronte used contrasting characters and their vivid personalities to create a masterpiece of her own. In her novel Jane Eyre, Bronte uses narration and her characters to portray the struggle between a society s Victorian realism and the people s repressed urges of Romanticism.
In order to discern between the Victorian and Romantic themes, Bronte selects certain characters to portray the perfect stereotype of each theme. Mademoiselle Celine Varens is the model of the Romantic attitude. Varens a French opera-dancer found herself as the grande passion of Mr. Rochester. The amour between Rochester and Varens started in a complete establishment of servants, a carriage, cashmere, diamonds, dentells, etc. and ended with Rochester finding her out with another man. Varens irrationality did not only affect Rochester, but also her child: she abandoned her child and ran away with a musician or singer. Celine Varens, a woman in a daring profession, led a life of passion, freedom and irresponsibility. Her life was ballad of adventure idolized by Romantics but frowned upon by society. Mrs. Reed is the perfect representative of Victorian realism. She had all the visual attributes found in a Victorian styled lady. She possessed gentry as the mistress of Gateshead Hall and her material wealth was made obvious by the luxuries found in her home a bed supported on massive pillows of mahogany, hung with curtains of damask and in her children in their Muslim frocks and scarlet sashes. Besides wealth and gentility, Mrs. Reed also maintained Victorian characteristics of insularity and censoriousness.
Mrs. Reed literally maintains insularity snobbishly creating an island of her and her children, detaching themselves from Jane. Lastly Mrs. Reed exercised censoriousness towards Jane on a continual basis until Jane was left with a habitual mood of humiliation, self doubt, forlorn depression. Jane s state is the result of the Victorian need of moral severity, which was expressed by blame and disapproval. Bronte uses Varens and Reed to paint the contrast between the Romantics controlled by emotion, freedom and imagination and the Victorians who exhibit middle-class stuffiness and pompous conservatism.
But any author can capture the essence of two societies and illustrate the opposites in two opposing characters. Bronte s talent lies in her ability to place the two contrasting attitudes in one person, allowing a conflict to grow, until a civil war is raging in a single person s mind. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester were to be Bronte s vessels of such confusion. Jane Eyre was a child of Romantic desires. As a little girl she often acted upon deeply irrational and emotional impulses. These tendencies were very obvious to those around her. Helen, a schoolmate, tells Jane: Hush Jane! You think too much of the love of human beings, you are too impulsive, too vehement. Jane soon learned that emotions, rashness, and imaginative fancies were considered as faults by society. She learned that such tendencies must be erased or at least repressed. For a time, Jane successfully repressed such desires. School rulers, school duties, school habits and notions such was what I knew of my existence. Jane Eyre soon became the model governess. By being confined to Lowood School for eight years, Jane learned to be docile, humble, and modest woman and lived a quiet moral…