The purpose of any literary work is to convey the author's message to the reader. Given that it may be of different nature, it is necessary to distinguish religious, social, political, or philosophical contexts of the author's message. The novel Jane Eyre written by English writer Charlotte Bronte and published in 1847 is not an exception. It has a particular semantic meaning that the author successfully transmitted against an intriguing background of the story. The acquaintance with this novel gives the reader a chance to reflect primarily on the philosophical issues that are of paramount importance in human life, namely the question of human happiness. The concept of happiness, according to the idea of the author, involves admitting a few major truths.
First, everyone has a right to happiness, regardless of whether he/she is rich or poor, has a low or high social status. Second, happiness cannot be achieved by a vicious way of life in which the purity of feelings, thoughts and actions is replaced by lecherousness, mendacity, hypocrisy and greed. Happiness is the result of a highly human moral spirituality. The main characters of the novel clearly demonstrate this idea, not giving the reader the slightest possibility to doubt it. Given the difficulty of achieving moral and spiritual purity, Charlotte Bronte points to the third truth, according to which the path to true happiness is often full of obstacles and difficulties. The man who has not overcome many obstacles cannot be happy. This truth can also be seen from the example of the two lovers. They were able to pass the difficulties that seemed to be insurmountable. Moreover, only the person who deserves happiness finds it. Happiness is a bird which can be caught by those whose souls have a right to happiness.
Both Jane and Edward deserve to be happy, because each of them had to face the cruelty and meanness of the dishonest world. However, each of them has found the strength to see the light of goodness and warmth, which led them to happiness. Finally, Bronte extols love as the most reliable way to gain happiness. The main characters, which do not have outer beauty, nevertheless possess incredibly beautiful souls capable of deep and loyal love. For Edward, Jane is an angel who descended from heaven in order to help his soul revive. For Jane, Edward is a fallen angel who wants to find the true path and break the shackles of the vicious circle created by human baseness, depravity and hypocrisy. Love inspires them and makes them infinitely happy. Happiness is love that knows no boundaries and cannot be stopped.
Edward Rochester may seem to be a contradictory person at first glance, but in my opinion, he is not. He is a man of integrity who understands what he needs in order to be completely happy, namely, to find peace of mind. He understands the peace of mind as a result of spiritual and moral revival after the years of a vicious life in which there was no place for pure feelings, thoughts and actions. The protagonist strives to lead a moral life. His road to a clear conscience begins with the awareness of his depravity. Edward admits that his conscience is stained and needs to be purified. He feels that he dies in a viscous swamp of human vices. From my point of view, Edward’s vices, because of which prevented him from leading a moral life are the following:
- Tendency to carnal pleasures;
- Tendency to hypocrisy;
- Tendency to lie.
Edward recognizes the fact that up to 18 years, he was as pure and naive as Jane was, and his heart was filled with pure thoughts. However, due to various circumstances, he stepped onto the path leading to a dissolute life. The idleness, drinking, and free relationship with women were the main characteristics of his life before he met Jane. Edward tried to change his life, but his spiritual weakness and tendency to carnal pleasures prevented him from becoming a man of worth. Perhaps, the reason for his depravity was also the fact that he had not met such a pure and chaste girl as Jane earlier.
The propensity to hypocrisy was also a serious obstacle to Edward’s moral life. Living in a society of hypocrites and flatterers, Edward imitated their demeanor. He continues to suffer from its pretense even after meeting Jane, although he uses it in order to learn about Jane’s feelings toward him. Edward feels that he loves her, and he decides to use hypocrisy in order to make Jane feel jealousy. The question arises whether it is possible to justify such Edward’s behavior, even considering his “good” motive.
Finally, lie also does not give Edward the opportunity to become better as it brings heartache not only to him but also to his beloved. He hides from Jane the fact that he has a wife who is suffering from an incurable mental illness. This action cannot be justified, even taking into account Edward’s good intentions. As a result, Jane leaves him because, unlike Edward, she cannot accept the fact of lie. In contrast to Rochester, Jane has unshakable moral principles, which she is unable to break even in the name of mad love for Edward.
Tired and disappointed, Edward seems to be a man who has lost all hope for happiness, because his life does not bring him happiness. However, fate gives him a chance to gain true happiness and be reborn by giving him a meeting with Jane. Jane is a fairy, whom Rochester has been waiting for so long for. His dark and gloomy life, devoid of love, joy, and genuine laughter gave way to moments of extraordinary happiness in the arms of Jane, the little girl with a huge heart. The following passage conveys Edward’s happiness:
I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one. (Bronte, 2007)
The novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is a story about two people who fight for the right to be happy. Love that unites their passionate hearts becomes their road to true human happiness. The lovers found it despite social prejudices, life obstacles, hardship and suffering. They won in the fight for their happiness because their strong and stubborn natures were led by the true love. This novel is a perfect illustration of the power of love, which goes beyond age, social status, or external appeal. The power of love is in its ability to inspire the hearts of lovers in their quest to be together and share joy and misery, health and sickness, wealth and poverty.