Jane Eyre: elements of romance

Activities to explore the elements of Romance in Jane Eyre

The following are some key elements of romance.  The activities will help you to explore the novel’s form, structure, language and context:

Powerful love: Heart stirring, often sudden, emotions create a life or death commitment.
ACTIVITY 1: Find examples e.g. Jane’s dreams

Uncertainty of reciprocation: What is the beloved thinking? Is the lover’s love returned or not?

ACTIVITY 2: Find examples e.g. Rochester’s unsaid words after the bedroom fire: ‘words almost visible trembled on his lips – but his voice was checked.’

Use of Myths:  I cannot think of any at the moment, but I am sure they are there

Unreturned love: Someone loves in vain (at least temporarily): Jane is unaware of Rochester’s feelings up to the moment of his proposal.
ACTIVITY 3: Find specific moments.

Tension between true love and family or accepted social values:  In Jane Eyre, disapproval is shown through Mrs Fairax and the Dowager Lady Ingram.  Further tension appears in Jane’s internal debate of conscience versus passion in chapter 27

ACTIVITY 4: Find evidence of this in the text.  Also, note the actual difference in ages and social standing between Jane and Rochester

Lovers parted: Some obstacle arises and separates the lovers, geographically or in some other way: e.g. Rochester leaves suddenly.  

ACTIVITY 5: Find one other example.

Illicit love or lust threatens the virtuous one: Rochester’s proposal puts Jane into an invidious position.
ACTIVITY 6: Find quotes to demonstrate Jane’s inner conflict at this point.

Rival lovers or multiple suitors: Blanche is deliberately used by Rochester to create a rival and to draw out Jane’s feelings for him.
ACTIVITY 7: Find evidence to support this view

 Some further characteristics of Romance

  1. The Romantics embraced the exotic and the unknown.  The view was “emotion over reason”.  It was felt that reason was a restraining and limiting tyrant.  ACTIVITY 8: Read the key moment when Jane Hears Rochester’s disembodied voice calling her and note the words.
  2. The Romantics had sympathy for the outcast who inhabits a shadowy world outside the “light of common day”: Jane becomes an impoverished outcast who relies on the charity of others.  ACTIVITY 9: Select a few short quotes that demonstrate her hopeless state.
  3. Individuals are able to cross the partition separating the conscious and the
  4. Unconscious: Romantics have an over-riding interest in a hidden process underlying nature, of unconscious irrational forces: Jane and Rochester have an invisible link which brings them together after their separation.  ACTIVITY 10: Find examples of references to the invisible connection between Rochester and Jane e.g. in the orchard scene
  5. There are deep “recesses” within one’s “heart” or “soul” or “nature”.  ACTIVITY 11: Find examples

Imagery (adapted from Northrop Frye)

 The main direction of the [Romantics’] quest . . . tends . . . to be downward and inward,” towards “a hidden region, often described in images of underground caves and streams,”   For instance consider:

‘it was not without a certain wild pleasure I ran before the wind delivering my trouble of mind to the measureless air-torrent thundering through space’ (ch 25)

ACTIVITY 12: Find  images of or similar to uncontrollable torrents and sounds of whirlwind underground, earthquake, fire, mountains cloven, fountains and volcanoes, violent uprushes of water, depths of the earth, bodies of water- such as streams, rivers, and, especially, the sea.

The sleeping state is the abode of dreams, but Romantics often note its similarity to death itself.

The Romantic Sublime

There are said to be three stages in the structure of the Romantic Sublime, which appear in one form or another throughout eighteenth-century writings on the subject.  These entail: harmony; separation; development; and cyclical return of consciousness to its landscape of origin.

First Stage: the mind is in harmony with surroundings. There is the celebration of the individual’s initial “oneness” with the unconscious

Second Stage: relation of mind and object suddenly breaks down.  Inner feelings and outer reality differ There is the language of waking catalepsy, of magnetic slumber or “critical sleep,” “an intermediary state,” says Crabtree, “between wakefulness and perfect sleep”.  a lament for the subsequent alienation from that original unconscious wholeness

Third Stage; “in the third, or reactive, phase . . . the mind recovers the balance of outer and inner by establishing a fresh relation to a transcendent order” – often accompanied by feelings of profound peace or tranquillity, an ultimate longing for a “return” to that wholeness.  There may be a stoic resignation that the individual is separated from the unconscious “One.”  From the damaged condition to being made whole is a mystical experience.  There may be “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”

ACTIVITY 13: Identify the romantic three part structure of the novel.


Chapter 1 of IMMORTAL SEA, ETERNAL MIND Romanticism and the Unconscious  (Master’s Thesis: USD, 1992) 


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