by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Theme of Marriage
(Click the themes infographic to download.)
In Jane Eyre, marriage is about a combination of three things: the dynamic trio of compatibility, passion, and ethics.
This novels shows us that marriage only works between like-minded individuals with similar attitudes and outlooks on life. Inequalities of class background or financial situation are no biggie, but characters who marry solely for wealth or status are totally 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 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.