Contents Index

The Monster Within: The Alien Self in Jane Eyre and Frankenstein

Arlene Young

Studies in the Novel, 23:3 (Fall 1991), 325-38

{325} In his early review of Jane Eyre, G. H. Lewes attests to Charlotte Brontë's accomplished artistry while nevertheless acknowledging the novel's defects. Lewes particularly objects to the presence of "too much melodrama and improbability, which smack of the circulating-library," and he specifically cites "the mad wife and all that relates to her, and . . . the wanderings of Jane when she quits Thornfield" as offending elements in the novel.1 Modern analyses of Jane Eyre, as Karen Butery points out, have tended to refute the early adverse criticism, much of which was considerably less favorable than Lewes's review.2 Certainly Lewes's general concern about the abundance of melodrama has been masterfully answered by Robert B. Heilman in "Charlotte Brontë's 'New' Gothic."3 And Lewes's specific objection to "the mad wife and all that relates to her" has been more than adequately responded to by critics and novelists alike.4 But the second specific melodramatic element referred to by Lewes, "the wanderings of Jane when she quits Thornfield," has apparently not much interested subsequent critics, and remains one of the most problematic sequences in the novel. Indeed, it is generally elided in critical analyses of Jane's psychological journey from dependence to maturity, even by critics who specifically address the nature of the transitions of the story from one physical venue to another as it moves from Gateshead to Lowood, to Thornfield, to Moor House.5 The few existing analyses of Jane's experiences immediately after leaving Thornfield do not satisfactorily explain the improbable elements. Mark Hennelly, Jr. discusses Jane's observations of Mary and Diana Rivers through their cottage window at the end of her wanderings, but only in order to draw analogies between the novel and Friedrich von Schiller's play Die Räuber, which they are reading.6 In her critical biography of Charlotte Brontë, Helene Moglen focuses only briefly on Jane's wanderings.7 And while Moglen makes an apt comparison between Jane's situation and that of Christian in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, her religious and spiritual reading of the scene does not address the problems of the internal coherence and implausibility of the episode itself. In a more extensive {326} analysis, Margaret Homans relates Jane's wanderings to the novel's theme of foreboding dreams involving children.8 In Homans' interpretation, Jane's situation threatens to become a realization of the dreams, and Jane's relationship to the natural world a destructive "literalization" of the ambivalent daughter-mother relationship figured in the dreams. This reading, while provocative and interesting, again does not address the problem of the excessive melodrama and improbability which seem to mar the episode; and in focussing on Jane's relationship to the natural world, Homans almost entirely ignores the repeated juxtapositions of Jane's experiences on the heath with those in the nearby town, the dichotomy of the natural and social worlds that delineates Jane's isolation and alienation.

The evasion by most critics of a comprehensive analytical discussion of the episode of Jane's wanderings is certainly understandable, for even in a novel as rife with Gothic elements as is Jane Eyre, the heroine's experiences after leaving Thornfield seem out of place. The melodrama of the episode is unrelieved by the undercutting characteristic of Brontë's "'New' Gothic" as described by Heilman. And the episode does not attain "the truth of the psyche" that Ruth Yeazell describes as rendering so many of the novel's fantastic episodes "more true than real."9 Jane descends to complete destitution, unable to obtain food, shelter or any satisfactory form of human charity or compassion. But she accepts her intensifying degradation, even her seemingly imminent death, with a self-accusatory fatalism that is devoid of the spirit and humor she displays in other sections of her story. In a fashion characteristic of melodrama, she is saved only by the timely arrival of St. John Rivers, who finds her on the brink of starvation on his doorstep. But Jane's reduction to beggary seems contrived, the consequence of a combination of her own conscious and unconscious actions in spending all of her money on coach-fare to get as far from Thornfield as possible and in inadvertently leaving her belongings behind on the coach when she disembarks. As a result, her misery fails to elicit the sympathy it should, for it seems to be a form of gratuitous self-abasement which is simply out of character with the strong-will and integrity she otherwise exhibits. Her wanderings seem neither true nor real. They lack the quality of psychological authenticity characteristic of the more fantastic Gothic scenes elsewhere in the novel, scenes involving putative ghosts, murmuring moons or mad Bertha's violent outbursts. Brontë's attempt to depict Jane s "dark night of the soul," it would seem, simply does not succeed. The cause of this failure, I would suggest, paradoxically lies in the absence of overtly Gothic elements in this episode, the divorce of melodrama from logically inexplicable factors, which here results in an apparent failure of psychological realism. The very precision of the physical details in this section of Jane's story, the material realism, seems to undercut the psychic realism of her experience.

A closer examination of the precise details in this episode, however, provides the key to a fuller understanding of the symbolic function of Jane's {327} wanderings. Her experience after fleeing from Rochester, it becomes clear, has sharp parallels with that of the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein after he flees from his creator. And the association of Jane with the wretched and unhappy monster produces a symbolic commentary on her feelings of isolation and alienation, and on her desire to achieve a satisfying integration in a society that seems to have no place for her. In this episode, I would argue, Brontë creates another kind of realism, neither mimetic nor psychic but symbolic, in which the apparently contrived elements no longer seem artificial because they have a symbolic purpose, and the apparently extravagant elements no longer seem forced because they have relevance. Jane's wanderings accordingly take on a profound significance and so contribute to, rather than detract from, the realism of her psychological journey to maturity.

That there are certain affinities between Jane Eyre and Frankenstein is not an entirely new idea. George Levine, in The Realistic Imagination, suggests that Shelley's monster is "kin to the oppressed women and children of Victorian fiction," including Jane Eyre.10 And in "Fire and Ice in Frankenstein," Andrew Griffin examines the parallel uses of imagery in Frankenstein and Jane Eyre. In his view, both novels use this imagery to express passion and alienation, fire representing anger or sexuality, and ice, isolation, repression, and rejection.11 Without overtly identifying her with the monster, Griffin concludes that Jane is able to achieve what the monster could not, the proper use of fire, in the satisfying human warmth of her marriage with Rochester.12 But other subtle connections between Jane and the monster abound. Each is connected to a Doppelgänger, the monster to his creator, Victor Frankenstein, and Jane to the excessively passionate Bertha Mason.13 Jane is also frequently characterized by words such as "mad," "fiend," and "monster," terms used by Victor Frankenstein to describe his creature. For example, on her death bed, Mrs. Reed remembers Jane as speaking to her "once like something mad, or like a fiend."14 And Jane challenges Mrs. Fairfax's skepticism about the sincerity of Rochester's marriage proposal with a question which, while intended to elicit an immediate negative response, produces unsettling resonances: "Why? -- am I a monster?" (JE, p. 233). Also, both Jane and the monster perceive in their own images beings who are alien first from themselves and ultimately from their fellow beings. The monster, charmed by the beauty of the cottagers he has been observing, recoils from the first sight of his own reflection:

how was I terrified, when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity.15
Jane, too, is perplexed when she catches sight of her own reflection in the mirror on the afternoon she is immured in the red-room:
{328} I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie's evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers. (JE, p. 11)
Jane is not repelled by her image, as the monster is by his, but her reaction nevertheless reveals the same dissociation of the image from the self and from reality. Moreover, the association of her image with phantoms appearing before travellers suggests something in Jane's aspect as capable of inspiring a level of fear; not, certainly, the kind of fear inspired by the hideous appearance of the monster, but rather the uneasiness and alarm felt first by Mrs. Reed, later by the townspeople Jane encounters during her wanderings, and finally by Hannah at the door of Moor House.

These rather tenuous connections between Jane and the monster become firmer and more explicit as Jane's flight from Thornfield begins. Like the monster, Jane surreptitiously flees what she regards as her only home. Jane is not fleeing her creator, as is the monster, but a man who wishes to recreate her, to distort her perception of herself by attempting to force on her extravagant clothes, unwanted bridal veils, and ultimately a false identity as Mrs. Rochester. Rochester's initial expression of his desire to dress Jane in "satin and lace" prompts her to protest: "I shall not be your Jane Eyre any longer, but an ape in a harlequin's jacket" (JE, pp. 227-28). Jane later feels humiliated by his persistence in his plan to see her"glittering like a parterre": "the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation" (JE, p. 236). Nevertheless, Jane begins to view Rochester as a veritable deity: "My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol" (JE, p. 241). Moreover, Jane appears to be losing the battle with Rochester for control of her identity. Dressed for her wedding, she looks at herself in the mirror: "I saw a robed and veiled figure, so unlike my usual self that it seemed almost the image of a stranger" (JE, p. 252). Jane here stands on the brink of becoming not a wife but a fabrication, a forgery of Mrs. Rochester wrought by her would-be husband. And this is the fate she must flee.

Both Jane and the monster are initially guided in their wanderings by the moon. For the monster the moon is the first recognizable natural object which he can distinguish amongst the confusion of sensuous images crowding in on his mind:

{329} a gentle light stole over the heavens, and gave me a sensation of pleasure. I started up, and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path . . . No distinct ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light, and hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rung in my ears, and on all sides various scents saluted me: the only object that I could distinguish was the bright moon, and I fixed my eyes on that with pleasure. (F, p. 103)
In her despair after the interruption of her sham marriage and the subsequent destruction of her hopes for happiness, Jane also finds in the moon a source of light and guidance:
She broke forth as never moon yet burst from cloud: a hand first penetrated the sable folds and waved them away; then, not a moon, but a white human form shone in the azure, inclining a glorious brow earthward. It gazed and gazed and gazed on me. It spoke to my spirit: immeasurably distant was the tone, yet so near, it whispered in my heart -- "My daughter, flee temptation!" (JE, p. 281)
Jane's moon becomes personified, a significant distinction from the monster's moon, but otherwise works in similar symbolic ways. The moon is the one thing that she can focus on in the midst of her confused feelings and, just as it "enlightened" the monster's "path," so it illuminates a course of action for her.

While there are many striking parallels between Jane's and the monster's wanderings, their experiences are not identical. Jane's conscious decision to leave Thornfield, for example, contrasts with the monster's initial indistinct thought and vague wanderings. Jane flees to avoid being recreated by Rochester, but neither she nor her would-be creator reject or cease to love one another. Indeed, it is Jane's continuing regard for Rochester, even as she leaves, that first causes her to despise herself. But her sense of identity and purpose almost immediately begin to erode and she consequently expresses a sense of self-hatred typical of the tortured monster:

In the midst of my pain of heart, and frantic effort of principle, I abhorred myself. I had no solace from self approbation: none even from self-respect. I had injured -- wounded -- left my master. I was hateful in my own eyes. Still I could not turn, nor retrace one step. God must have led me on. As to my own will or conscience, impassioned grief had trampled one and stifled the other. I was weeping wildly as I walked along my solitary way: fast, fast I went, like one delirious.16 (JE, p. 283)
The source of Jane's distress, then, is her inability to reconcile her "frantic effort of principle" with her affections, and she thus feels that she is responsible for her master's pain.

While Jane's wanderings are a conscious form of escape or resistance, the monster's begin because he has been rejected by his creator. Victor Frankenstein is so repulsed by his creation that he abandons it, leaving the monster with no solace or guidance in his first confusing hours of life, during which he is seized {330} by a "strange multiplicity of sensations" (F, p, 102). It is, in fact, his unfocussed efforts to respond to these sensations, which he can neither understand nor interpret, that prompt the monster to flee into the forest at Ingolstadt. Here he finds shade to protect him from the light and heat which he finds "oppressive" and "wearying," and berries and fresh water to relieve the torments of his hunger and thirst. The monster's wanderings thus begin without conscious motivation; he is led only by the urgency of his physical needs. "I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch," he later recalls; "I knew, and could distinguish, nothing" (F, p. 103). Knowledge, however, brings the monster only more misery. He learns from his observations of men and from their repeated rejections of him that he is "hideously deformed and loathsome," and so condemned to be spurned and despised (F, p. 120).

There are thus clear differences between Jane's self-loathing and the monster's. Jane despises herself at the outset of her wanderings because she sees herself as the source both of her own and of Rochester's suffering. Her subsequent rejection by the people she approaches then reinforces the sense of worthlessness and isolation she already feels, but this rejection does not drive her to blame others for her misery. The monster learns to hate himself as a result of the rejections he experiences, and accordingly he feels that he is pure victim, driven to isolation and finally to cruelty only in response to the injustice and violence he has suffered at the hands of men. This discrepancy in responses is essentially a result of the different natures of the two stories -- Shelley's modern myth of heroic and unregenerate alienation and Brontë's fundamentally domestic tale of a successful struggle for identity and self-awareness. But whatever the causes of the monster's and Jane's reactions, the results are parallel. Each develops an overwhelming sense of self-hatred and becomes isolated from society.

In light of her associations with the monster, Jane's actions after she leaves Thornfield, which otherwise seem so absurdly contrived, take on logical and meaningful shape. She stops the first coach she sees on the road and decides to travel to its farthest destination, "a place a long way off, and where . . . [she] was sure Mr. Rochester had no connections" (JE, p. 283). She thus severs all ties with her previous identity by removing herself physically from familiar surroundings and from any possibility of an association with Rochester. At the opening of Chapter 28, her dissociation from society is also almost complete:

Two days are passed. It is a summer evening; the coachman has set me down at a place called Whitcross; he could take me no farther for the sum I had given, and I was not possessed of another shilling in the world. The coach is a mile off by this time; I am alone. At this moment I discover that I forgot to take my parcel out of the pocket of the coach, where I had placed it for safety; there it remains, there it must remain; and now, I am absolutely destitute. (JE, p. 283)
As with the monster's vague roamings, it is chance that determines the location of Jane's hardly less random wanderings. The indeterminacy of the monster's path is the result of his complete unawareness of his surroundings when he first comes to life; Jane's destination is likewise uncertain, decided not by deliberate selection but by contingency, by variables such as the route of the coach, the sum of money in her possession, and the distance the coach-driver apparently arbitrarily decides her twenty shillings will take her. Like the monster, Jane is now "absolutely destitute": alone, without money or provisions, and unsure of her surroundings. Even her story becomes disconnected from what precedes it as the narrative switches to the present tense, symbolically making her, like the monster, a being without a past, without identity.

The monster begins his peregrinations in "the forest near Ingolstadt" (F, p. 102), spending most of his days in isolation, only occasionally either seeing or approaching people. Jane, too, finds herself alone and virtually in the wilderness: "Whitcross is no town," she reports, "nor even a hamlet; it is but a stone pillar set up where four roads meet" (JE, pp. 283-84). From this signpost, Jane is able to determine what county she is in, and she learns that the nearest town is ten miles away. But these reminders of civilization only serve to underscore her solitude, surrounded as she is by symbolic barriers: "great moors . . . waves of mountains . . . [a] deep valley . . . [and] white, broad, lonely [roads]" (JE, p. 284). Like the monster, she now is alienated from and shuns mankind: "Not a tie holds me to human society at this moment -- not a charm or hope calls me where my fellow-creatures are -- none that saw me would have a kind thought or a good wish for me. I have no relative but the universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose" (JE, p. 284).

The solace Jane finds in nature also suggests the experience of the monster, who delights in the sights, sounds and tangible sensations of the natural world as they crowd into his developing consciousness: the sky, the stars, the moon, the shade of trees, the songs of birds, the cool water of the brook and the wild berries that assuage his thirst and hunger (F, pp. 102-04). For Jane, too, Nature is benevolent and beautiful:

I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The dew fell, but with propitious softness; no breeze whispered. Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness. (JE, pp. 284-85)
And Jane, like the monster, sustains herself with wild berries she gathers on the heath, and she sleeps on the ground, covered with her shawl, as the monster has covered himself with an old cloak he has found (JE, p. 285; F, p. 103); both finding providence in an otherwise indifferent natural world that throws into harsh relief the pitilessness of rational men in their response to these two outcasts.

{332} The limitations of nature's providence, however, eventually drive both Jane and the monster into contact with men. Cold and hungry, the monster seeks food and shelter in a shepherd's hut, causing its occupant to flee in terror (F, p. 105). Later, he arrives at a village, and, drawn by the sight of food within, enters one of the cottages. This time, his appearance prompts not only fear, but hostility: "The whole village was roused; some fled, some attacked me" (F, p. 106). Like the monster, Jane enters a village and is immediately drawn by the sight of food: "There was a little shop with some cakes of bread in the window. I coveted a cake of bread" (JE, p. 286). But Jane's appearance, of course, does not immediately incite fear or even suspicion. When she enters the shop, the woman within, "seeing a respectably-dressed person, a lady as she supposed . . . [approaches Jane] with civility" (JE, p. 287). Jane cannot at first bring herself, as she had planned, to barter for food. Only after having been repeatedly denied work or refuge, even at the parsonage, she returns to the shop and offers her handkerchief and gloves in exchange for the bread. Her requests elicit from the shopwoman a look of "evident suspicion," for, as Jane recognizes, "an ordinary beggar is frequently an object of suspicion; a well-dressed beggar inevitably so" (JE, p. 289). It is this disparity between her appearance and her actions that makes Jane a monster in the eyes of society, and she now sinks to even greater depths of humiliation and degradation. She frankly begs for food at a farmhouse, and later, like the monster, who at one time sustains himself with "the offals that . . . travellers had left" (F, p. 105), Jane is reduced to eating refuse. She asks a little girl for "a mess of cold porridge" that the girl is about to throw in a pig trough. Significantly, the child asks permission of her mother, who, answering from "within," grants this bit of cold charity without seeing Jane (JE, p. 290). It would seem then that, just as the monster receives some compassion when he approaches old Mr. De Lacey, who is blind (F, pp. 132-34), so Jane can now expect compassion only from those who do not see her monstrous incongruity.17

The ultimate and most striking parallels between Jane and the monster occur in the scene in which Jane peers through the window of Moor House at the homely domestic scene within. Jane has already sensed that her wanderings have come to an end. Unable to inspire compassion in her fellow men, she faces the prospect of another night on the moor, unsheltered from the cold and rain; death from starvation and exposure seem inevitable. Only the most tenacious remnants of her instinct for self-preservation draw her to what appears to her to be a last "forlorn hope" -- the light from Moor House (JE, p. 291). Her experiences have made her wary, however, and she feels no assurance that this house will prove to be a refuge. She approaches cautiously and finds the small and almost completely obscured window that is the source of the light:

There shot out the friendly gleam again, from the lozenged panes of a very small latticed window, within a foot of the ground; made still smaller by the growth of ivy or some other creeping plant, whose leaves clustered thick over {333} the portion of the house wall in which it was set. The aperture was so screened and narrow that curtain or shutter had been deemed unnecessary; and when I stooped down and put aside the spray of foliage shooting over it, I could see all within. (JE, p. 292)
Jane here demonstrates the level of her abjection, as she stoops literally and metaphorically to spy through a small low window on a private domestic scene.

The monster similarly observes the De Laceys covertly through a small, obscured aperture. He, too, has sought refuge from "the inclemency of the season, and still more from the barbarity of man" [2.3.5], and he finds shelter in a "low hovel." This miserable hovel, which is indeed so low that he can only "with difficulty sit upright in it," backs onto "a cottage of a neat and pleasant appearance." After his "late dearly bought experience" in the nearby village, he does not dare enter the cottage or approach its inhabitants (F, p. 106). Inside his hovel, however, he discovers a communicating window that has been boarded up, but through which he can see, thanks to "a small and almost imperceptible chink" (F, p. 108). Crouching beside the window, the monster peers through the chink and watches the De Laceys in the cottage, just as Jane, stooping outside the window of Moor House, watches the Rivers family within.

There are close parallels, too, between the scenes that each of these surreptitious observers beholds. The monster sees through his window "a small room . . . whitewashed and clean, but very bare of furniture" (F, p. 108). He watches two young people and an elderly man, whose relationship he does not understand, but all of whom appear to be sad. The room is warmed by a small fire, and at night the monster watches and listens as the young man reads aloud to his companions. At this point, the monster does not fully comprehend what is happening, for he has not yet learned language and so perceives only that the young man "utter[s] sounds that . . . [are] monotonous" (F, p. 109). Nevertheless, the monster is drawn by the "gentle manners of these people" and he confesses that he "longed to join them, but dared not" (F, p. 110).

Jane describes the interior of Moor House in somewhat greater detail than the monster describes the cottage, and, while the Rivers' house is not as spare as the poverty-stricken De Laceys' home, there is a similar sense of material austerity coupled with domestic order and warmth. Jane sees "a room with a sanded floor, clean scoured; a dresser of walnut, with pewter plates ranged in rows . . . a clock, a white deal table, some chairs" (JE, p.292). The room is illuminated by candles and warmed by "a glowing peat-fire," and is peopled by "an elderly woman" and two "pale and grave" young ladies in mourning. This sad trio is, like the former one, engaged in reading aloud words that the observer cannot understand, for they are written in German. "At a later day, I knew the language and the book" (JE,p. 293), Jane points out, using words similar to those of the monster in reference to Felix De Lacey's reading: "I since found that he read aloud, but at that time I knew nothing of the science of words or letters" (F, {334} p. 109). And while Jane is better able than the monster to comprehend the scene she observes, she is nevertheless perplexed and unable at first to determine the relationship of the three women, or to fit them to their surroundings: "A strange place was this humble kitchen for such occupants! [the two young women]. Who were they? They could not be the daughters of the elderly person at the table; for she looked like a rustic, and they were all delicacy and cultivation" (JE, p. 292).

Jane becomes as absorbed by the domestic scene she is watching as the monster has been by watching the De Laceys. Like the monster, who says that he "longed to join . . . [the De Laceys], but dared not," Jane feels both a personal distance from, and a strong attraction to, the situation she observes:

I had been so intent on watching them, their appearance and conversation had excited in me so keen an interest, I had half-forgotten my own wretched position: now it recurred to me. More desolate, more desperate than ever, it seemed from contrast. And how impossible did it appear to touch the inmates of this house with concern on my behalf; to make them believe in the truth of my wants and woes -- to induce them to vouchsafe a rest for my wanderings! (JE, p. 294)
For both Jane and the monster, this contrast between their own situations and the domestic communion from which they are excluded becomes the definition of their isolation.

The strongest and most meaningful connections between Jane's and the monster's situations occur in the parallel symbols of exclusion in these scenes; in their roles as mere observers, able to catch glimpses of the domestic scenes only through tiny, hidden apertures; in their inability to comprehend fully what they see, or to understand what is said; in their suffering of the cold and dark while observing others in the light and warmth of the fireside; and finally, in their certainty of rejection by those within. The moments when they abjectly crouch and stoop in order to watch and envy normal, unremarkable human relations are indeed the painful fulfillment of their wanderings. Repeated rejections by those from whom they would seek help force both Jane and the monster to confront their positions vis-à-vis society: they are outsiders, unwanted and misunderstood. What this means on a personal level, however, becomes apparent only as they gaze upon the domestic intimacy from which they are excluded. They are, it is clear, barred from ordinary human intercourse, from the everyday communion of family, friends, or associates. Alienation from mankind as an abstraction, or from individuals who reject them singly, seems meaningless or insignificant by comparison. It is only in the exclusion from intimacy, from companionship and fellowship, that the isolation of each of these outcasts takes on true significance and pathos.

After the scene of exclusion in Jane Eyre, the allusions to Frankenstein and the parallels between Jane's experiences and the monster's disappear. Jane finds temporary refuge with the Rivers family, after being initially spurned by Hannah, {335} and, of course, she ultimately finds domestic felicity with Rochester. The monster remains an outcast, forever alienated from himself and from mankind. There are also other important differences between Jane and the monster, in addition to the obvious ones of their origins and appearance, that anticipate the differences in their ultimate fates. The monster tends to blame his creator, Victor Frankenstein, and "the barbarity of man" for his isolation and finally for his violence. "I am malicious because I am miserable," the monster tells his maker. "Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces, and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?" (F, pp. 106, 145). Jane, in contrast, harbors no such urge for revenge. She understands and even provides a curiously capitalistic rationale for her rejection by the people she approaches:

To be sure what I begged was employment: but whose business was it to provide me with employment? Not, certainly, that of persons who saw me then for the first time, and who knew nothing about my character. And as to the woman who would not take my handkerchief in exchange for her bread, why, she was right; if the offer appeared to her sinister, or the exchange unprofitable. (JE, p. 289)
Jane thus relieves others of any responsibility for her isolation; she is prepared to lose her struggle for identity rather than to turn her self-hatred outward to encompass society.

Jane also differs from the monster in her ability to escape the folly of entrusting her fate to a false god, even one as benevolent as Rochester. Her flight from him is, indeed, the entire rationale for her wanderings, the precipitating cause of her heightened sense of alienation. As the narrative of her flight proceeds, she moves steadily towards an acceptance of the providence of a greater God. She progresses from the retrospective "God must have led me on" to direct recognition of God's power during her first night on the heath: "I felt the might and strength of God" (JE, pp. 283, 285). In his relationship with his maker, the monster is, of course, in an untenable position. Victor Frankenstein has neither the efficiency nor the will to save what he has made, or to rectify the injustices suffered by his creature, and the monster despises him for his ineptitude and callousness. "Accursed creator!" he rages in his agony, "Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance" (F, p. 130). The monster's reading of Paradise Lost has shown him the felicity of God's relationship to Adam, the model of omnipotent love and commitment that his maker has no power to emulate. "I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator," he tells Frankenstein. "But where was mine? He had abandoned me; and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him"(F, p. 131). Thus the monster recognizes that he cannot entrust his fate to his creator and have faith in ultimate salvation, as {336} Jane can after her last hope of relief from starvation has apparently been lost, when Hannah closes the door of Moor House in her face. In her first step toward strengthening her failing sense of identity and personal worth, Jane submits her will to that of God: "I can but die . . . and I believe in God. Let me try to wait His will in silence" (JE, p. 295). As the debased creation of a mortal and fallible maker, however, the monster has no logical recourse to the higher authority of God. Accordingly, he remains the eternal outcast, left to envy man's relationship to his Creator, just as he envies man's relationship to man as figured in the affectionate unity of the De Lacey family.

As Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar point out, Jane Eyre is a variety of Bildungsroman, a "pilgrimage [that] consists of a series of experiences which are, in one way or another, variations on the central, red-room motif of enclosure and escape."18 The sense of Jane's enclosure in and need for escape from both Thornfield and Moor House is unmistakable, dominated as she is in each by Rochester and St. John Rivers respectively. But without the episode of the wanderings, the transition from Thornfield to Moor House would lose significance: it would be merely a movement from one obvious enclosure to a virtually identical one, suggesting regression rather than progress in the pilgrimage. The use of Jane's wanderings as a bridge produces a no more satisfactory progression without the subtext of Frankenstein. Stripped of the symbolic undertones that Frankenstein provides, the episode would remain an aimlessly enigmatic means of transferring Jane from one enclosure to another, and Jane's attempt to assert her independence from Rochester would continue to seem excessively melodramatic, to "smack of the circulating library." Once illuminated by the side-lights of Shelley's novel, however, Jane's attempt to liberate herself is revealed as a form of self-bondage as she unwittingly consigns herself to the red room of alienation. The true horror of this fate, the true precariousness of her situation, and the true meaning of the insight she gains from her ordeal become clear when her experiences are viewed in relation to those of the monster. Her wanderings then conform to the pattern of enclosure and escape as she frees herself in succession from Thornfield and the domination of Rochester, from the prison of alienation, and finally from Moor House and subjugation by St. John Rivers.

The disappearance of allusive parallels to Frankenstein once Jane is taken into Moor House demonstrates that she has satisfactorily completed the stage of her psychic pilgrimage represented by her wanderings. The shadow of the monster, however, remains, and heightens the significance of Jane's ultimately happy fate. Jane's need for, and appreciation of, domestic harmony has greater force when seen in the light of the horror and misery of her temporary isolation. And the redemptive nature of Jane's absolving of others of the blame for her alienation takes on greater significance when considered in conjunction with the depths of her degradation and hopelessness. Jane's culminating triumph in her {337} "marriage of true minds" with Rochester is thus amplified by an implicit contrast with the fate of permanent and destructive alienation, the alienation of the monster, which she has escaped.


1. G. H. Lewes, "Review" (unsigned), Fraser's Magazine 36 (December 1847): 686-95. Reprinted in Miriam Allott, The Brontës: The Critical Heritage (London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), pp. 83-87; 85.

2. Karen Ann Butery, "Jane Eyre's Flights from Decision," Literary Review, 24 (1981): 222-51; 222-23. For examples of early adverse or mixed criticism of Jane Eyre, see the following items reprinted in Allott: Anonymous, "Review," Spectator 20 (6 Nov. 1847): 1074-75, pp. 74-75; A. W. Fonblanque, "Review" (unsigned), Examiner (27 Nov. 1847): 756-57, pp. 76-78; Elizabeth Rigby, "Review" (unsigned), Quarterly Review 84 (Dec. 1848): 153-85, pp. 105-12; James Lorimer, "Review" (unsigned), North British Review 11 (Aug. 1849): 455-93, pp. 113-16.

3. Robert B. Heilman, "Charlotte Brontë's 'New' Gothic," in Robert C. Rathburn and Martin Steinmann, Jr., eds., From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1958), pp. 118-32. Ruth Bernard Yeazell also addresses the psychological realism of the supernatural and fantastic elements of the novel in "More True than Real: Jane Eyre's 'Mysterious Summons,'" Nineteenth-Century Fiction 29 (1974): 127-43.

4. For example, two standard essays on Jane Eyre, Heilman's "'New' Gothic" and Richard Chase's "The Brontës, or, Myth Domesticated," in Forms of Modern Fiction, ed. William Van O'Connor (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1948), pp. 102-19, treat Bertha Mason as symbolic of repressed passion; Jean Rhys's novel, Wide Sargasso Sea (London: Deutsch, 1966), relates that author's conception of the story of Bertha and Rochester's marriage from Bertha's perspective.

5. See Butery, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 1979), pp. 336-71.

6. Mark Hennelly, Jr., "Jane Eyre's Reading Lesson," ELH 51 (1984): 693-717.

7. Helene Moglen, Charlotte Brontë: The Self Conceived (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1976), pp. 132-33.

8. Margaret Homans, "Dreaming of Children: Literalization in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights," in The Female Gothic, ed. Juliann E. Fleenor (Montreal and London: Eden Press, 1983), pp. 257-79; 267-71.

9. Yeazell, p. 128.

10. George Levine, The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley (Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1981), p.30.

11. Andrew Griffin, "Fire and Ice in Frankenstein," in The Endurance of Frankenstein: Essays on Mary Shelley's Novel, eds. George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: Univ. of California Press, 1979), pp. 49-73.

12. Ibid., p. 73.

13. The importance of the Doppelgänger is a commonplace in criticism of Frankenstein. Several critics have also noted the function of Bertha as Jane's Doppelgänger in Jane Eyre. See, for example, discussions of Bertha as Jane's "dark double" in Gilbert and Gubar, p. 360, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism," Critical Inquiry 12 (1985): 243-61, 248.

14. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, ed. Richard J. Dunn (New York: Norton, 1987), p.203. Subsequent references to Jane Eyre are from this edition and are given in the text, indicated by JE and page number.

15. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, ed. M. K. Joseph (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), p. 114. Subsequent references to Frankenstein are from this edition and are given in the text, indicated by F and page number.

16. Jane's reference, at this point, to God leading her on suggests a discrepancy, since she has stated previously that she "could not, in those days, see God for his creature," a situation which her experiences after fleeing Thornfield rectify. Her belief in God's providence in this passage is retrospective, however, indicated by the shift in verbal tense in the sentence, "God must have led me on."

17. In its disjunction between appearance and socially accepted norms of behavior, Jane's "monstrous incongruity" here is not unlike "the disparity between the nature of their minds and forms of their bodies" that Marcia Tillotson suggests links the monster with his true creator, Mary Shelley, who, because of her sex, was never completely accepted by the intellectual circle of her husband's friends. See "'A Forced Solitude': Mary Shelley and the Creation of Frankenstein's Monster," in The Female Gothic, op. cit., pp. 167-75; p. 172.

18. Gilbert and Gubar, pp. 426, 341.