by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Theme of Marriage
In Jane Eyre, marriage is about a combination of three things: compatibility, passion, and ethics. A marriage only works between like-minded individuals with similar attitudes and outlooks on life. Inequalities of class background or financial situation are surmountable, but characters who marry for wealth or status are doomed. But a marriage has to have more than common ground – it has to have passion. Characters who try to match themselves up based on rational criteria, the ones who are doing nineteenth-century-style online dating, sin against their own natures, as do characters who try to claim that marriage and love are the same thing.
Questions About Marriage
- What are the different marriages that Jane Eyre, as a novel, explores as possibilities? What makes each of these pairings likely or unlikely?
- Are any of Rochester’s arguments that his relationship with Bertha isn’t really a "marriage" persuasive? Why or why not?
- At what point in the novel does it become clear that a marriage between Jane and Rochester is possible? Why? At what point in the novel does their marriage become desirable? Why? What’s the difference?
- Why does Jane refuse to marry St. John Rivers?
- How would Jane, as a character, be different if she did marry St. John and go with him to India?
Chew on This
Rochester’s relationship with Bertha Mason is no longer really a marriage, and he should not be considered ethically bound to her as a husband.
Rochester’s attempt to convince Jane to elope with him while Bertha is still living results from his redefinition of marriage in terms of interpersonal sympathy rather than a social contract.