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Themes

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

  1. What are the different marriages that Jane Eyre, as a novel, explores as possibilities? What makes each of these pairings likely or unlikely?
  2. Are any of Rochester’s arguments that his relationship with Bertha isn’t really a "marriage" persuasive? Why or why not?
  3. 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?
  4. Why does Jane refuse to marry St. John Rivers?
  5. How would Jane, as a character, be different if she did marry St. John and go with him to India?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

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.

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