Critical Essays A Jungian Approach to the Novel


The famous psychologist Carl Jung was interested in the collective unconscious, or the primordial images and ideas that reside in every human being's psyche. Often appearing in the form of dreams, visions, and fantasies, these images provoke strong emotions that are beyond the explanation of reason. In Jane Eyre, the bounds of reality continually expand, so that dreams and visions have as much validity as reason, providing access to the inner recesses of Jane's and Rochester's psyches. Their relationship also has a supernatural component.

Throughout the novel, Jane is described as a "fairy." Sitting in the red-room, she labels herself a "tiny phantom, half fairy, half imp" from one of Bessie's bedtime stories, a spirit-creature that comes out of "lone, ferny dells in moors." As fairy, Jane identifies herself as a special, magical creature, and reminds the reader of the importance that imagination plays in her life. Jane's dreams have a prophetic character, suggesting their almost supernatural ability to predict the future. In a dream foreshadowing the direction of her relationship with Rochester, she is "tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea." Jane's dream warns her that their relationship will be rocky, bringing chaos and passion into her life. Similarly, her dreams of infants are prophetic, indicating impending trouble in her life.

Not only is Jane a mythical creature, but the narrative she creates also has a mythic element, mixing realism and fantasy. We see the first instance of this as Jane sits nervously in the red-room and imagines a gleam of light shining on the wall; for her, this indicates a vision "from another world. Generally, supernatural occurrences such as these serve as transition points in the novel, signaling drastic changes in Jane's life. As Jane's departure from Gateshead was marked by her pseudo-supernatural experience in the red-room, her movement away from Lowood also has a paranormal component. Meditating upon the best means for discovering a new job, Jane is visited by a "kind fairy" who offers her a solution. This psychic counselor gives her very specific advice: Place an advertisement in the local newspaper, with answers addressed to J.E., and do it immediately. The fairy's plan works, and Jane soon discovers the job at Thornfield.

As a gypsy woman, Rochester aligned himself with mystical knowledge. During her telling of her fortune, Rochester seems to have peered directly into Jane's heart, leaning her deep into a dream-state she likens to "a web of mystification." He magically weaves a web around Jane with words, and appears to have watched every movement of her heart, like an "unseen spirit." During this scene, he wears a red cloak, showing that he has taken over the position of Red Riding Hood that Jane held earlier. The potion he gives Mason also has mystical powers, giving Mason the strength he lacks for an hour or so, hinting at Rochester's mysterious, possibly supernatural powers.

In emphasizing the uniqueness of Jane and Rochester's love, Brontë gives their meetings a mythical feel, so that they are depicted as archetypes of true lovers. Her association of Rochester's horse and dog with the mythical Gytrash places their initial meeting in an almost fairytale-like setting. Later, Rochester reveals that at this initial meeting, he thought Jane was a fairy who had bewitched his horse, and he repeatedly refers to her as a sprite or elfin character, claiming the "men in green" are her relatives. The lovers' reunion at the end of the novel also has a psychic component. As she is about to accept St. John's wishes, Jane experiences a sensation as "sharp, as strange, as shocking" as an electric shock. Then she hears Rochester's voice called her name. The voice comes from nowhere, speaking "in pain and woe, wildly, eerily, urgently." So powerful is this voice that Jane cries, "I am coming," and runs out the door into the garden, but she discovers no sign of Rochester. She rejects the notion that this is the devilish voice of witchcraft, but feels that it comes from benevolent nature; not a miracle, but nature's best effort to help her, as if the forces of nature are assisting this very special relationship. She introduces the ideal of a telepathic bond between the lovers. This psychic sympathy leads Jane to hear Rochester's frantic call for her, and for Rochester to pick her response out of the wind. In fact, he even correctly intuits that her response came from some mountainous place. Through the novel's supernatural elements, Jane and Rochester become archetypes of ideal lovers, supporting Jane's exorbitant claim that no one "was ever nearer to her mate than I am." These mythic elements transform their relationship from ordinary to extraordinary.