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'Reader, I Buried Him': Apocalypse and Empire in "Jane Eyre" Author(s): THOMAS TRACY Reviewed work(s): Source: Critical Survey, Vol. 16, No. 2, Post-colonial Interdisciplinarity (2004), pp. 59-77 Published by: Berghahn Books Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41557272 . Accessed: 12/02/2013 03:52
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'Reader, I Buried Him': Apocalypse THOMAS TRACY

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overevery AndI saw a beastrising outofthesea ... Itwas given authority of the and all theinhabitants tribeand people and languageand nation, the whose name has not been written from earth willworship it,everyone foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb thatwas slaughtered. (Rev. 13: 1, 7-8)' The centrality of the colonial motif in Jane Eyre has been well established.2 The figureof Bertha Mason Rochester hauntingthe text has made this centralityundeniable: her confinement at Thornfield Hall drives the plot, her eventual fiery demise both enables and conditions the conclusion, and the oppression of Bertha and other peoples subjected to imperial domination metaphorises Jane's of various males throughoutthe subjection to the patriarchalauthority narrative. Moreover, the wealth appropriated from the colonies materially sustains the society with which the novel concerns itself.3 The conclusion of Jane Eyre reinforces the preponderance of the colonial motif. The imperial project is foregrounded at the novel's end in St John's mission to India, and the characters of the novel are sustained by the wealth obtained from the colonies in the form of Jane's inheritance. The novel's ending, however, has been read by many recent critics as an affirmation of St John's evangelising mission, leading some of them to conclude thatJane Eyre represents Charlotte Bronte's own colonial appropriation. Susan Meyer's assessment reflects the critical consensus: 'Bronte makes class and gender oppression the overt [metaphorical] significance of these other races, displacing the historical reasons why nonwhite people might suggest the idea of oppression . . . What begins then as an implicit critique of British domination and an identification with the oppressed collapses into merely an appropriation of the image of slavery.'4 However, a careful historicising of the circumstances in which Jane Eyre was writtenreveals not 'merely an appropriation of CS2004

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the image of slavery' but ratherthe incorporationof this imagery into a larger thematics which criticises the hierarchical organisation of class, gender and racial categories in British society, as well as the material values which motivate and encourage exploitation among it those hierarchies. In order to appreciate Bronte's critique, therefore, is necessary to adopt an interdisciplinaryapproach which modifies earlier critical readings. The novel's chief apparent concern is the reformation and regeneration of British society and not the plight of the colonial subject. However, Jane Eyre's repudiation of imperialism is complete and unequivocal. Moreover, the novel's utilisation of what Meyer terms 'nonwhite people' to suggest the idea of oppression is a bit misleading; while some of the images in the novel (in addition to those associated with Bertha) do indeed connect non-white peoples and oppression, it is by virtue of those peoples' appearance in a text which provides a significantcontext forJane Eyre's symbolic system - the Christian Bible. Implicit within the following argument is an assumption thatCharlotte Bronte could not be expected to write from a colonial subject position. Despite its undeniable Eurocentrism, sometimes expressed in subtle ways (as when Jane assumes thatwhite people who ventureinto India will be 'grilled alive'), the textdoes not offer evidence of hostility towards colonised peoples, nor does it appropriate the image of slavery merely to figure the oppression of white women, as Gayatri Spivak, Meyer and others claim. On the contrary,the novel offersa damning critique of both patriarchyand imperialism, which is contained in its references invoking a cultural code quite familiar to Bronte's contemporaryreaders but apparently less so to modern critics - namely, biblical allusion. The thoroughgoing critique of imperial metropolitan culture is accomplished not only in the metaphorical content of Jane Eyre, but and use of generic conventions as well. by the novel's formalstructure Bronte structuresJane Eyre as a Bildungsroman in which her hero, Jane, attains spiritual enlightenment in the Christian tradition exemplified in John Bunyan's Pilgrim 's Progress (a work whose influence on Jane Eyre is palpable, as many commentators have noted).5 The links between St JohnRivers and the Book of Revelation are also widely acknowledged. But seemingly unnoticed is the fact that the novel's ending not only references but replicates the Revelation, a work which is central to Jane Eyre's signifyingsystem. Likewise, references linking Rochester to imperialist figures of the

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Old Testament are relativelyunacknowledged. When these two major sections of the novel are examined togetheralong with the additional consideration of traditional Biblical interpretation (to which Patrick Bronte exposed his children from an early age), these references stronglysuggest that,like the work upon which it was modelled, Jane Eyre's critique of imperialism is much more radical and thoroughgoingthan previously supposed. The tradition in which Bronte located herself as an artist was described by her fellow Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer Lyttonas characterised by a type of 'moral signification': '[A] striking characteristic of the art of our century [is its] duality of purpose ... [combining] an interior symbolic signification with an obvious popular interest in character and incident.'6 The 'interior symbolic signification' which Jane Eyre utilises most extensively is the Christian tradition and, more specifically, Evangelical Christian biblical interpretations, with which a large segment of her contemporary readership was familiar. Barry Quails has identified the 'moral signification' associated with the Bronte sisters, Carlyle, Dickens, Eliot, Thackeray, and others, as having 'its sources in the religious tradition [of] ... the old emblem books and in Pilgrim 's Progress , in the intense typological reading of Scripture, and in the works of the spiritual biographers and autobiographers'.7 An awareness of this tradition is crucial to a full appreciation of Jane Eyre, because Jane's writingof her 'autobiography' replicates in both Book of Revelation its formand contentthe decidedly anti-imperialist of St Johnthe Divine, sometimes also called simply the Revelation or the Apocalypse. Like the Bible in which Revelations appears, Jane - in other Eyre can be read both symbolically and typologically words, events, characters and intertextualreferences in the novel are not only allusive, but embedded within networks in which they both prefigure and hark back to (often multiple) typological referents, which for the Christian reveal the workings of divine Providence throughouthistory.This interpretiveframeworkreveals illuminating connections among characters and events in the novel. Perhaps the most important of these connections is that of imperialism, the central issue in Jane Eyre so often overlooked in traditional literary criticism until the work of recent post-colonial critics recalled it to our attention. If Jane Eyre is read typologically, the West Indian colonial motif, which ends apocalyptically in Bertha's death and the destruction of Thornfield Hall (the country

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house which metonymically represents England itself), becomes a prfiguration of the East Indian colonial project upon which the suggestively named St John Rivers embarks. In this context, Jane's cryptic text written from her 'exile' at Ferndean prophesies an equally apocalyptic sequel. Jane Eyre becomes then a 'teaching text' in the manner of Pilgrim s Progress or the Bible; indeed, Keith Jenkinshas aptly labelled the novel 'Charlotte Bronte's new Bible'. The final chapters of Jane Eyre mightjust as appropriately be called 'Charlotte Bronte's new Book of Revelation'. To fully grasp the significance of Jane Eyre's commentary on imperialism, an awareness of the Revelation's critique of imperialism is necessary. It is also necessary to recognise thatJane Eyre's larger structuretypologically links St John Rivers to Rochester and East Indian to West Indian colonialism. Jane's position as writerin exile of Britain in the apocalyptic storyfurthermore places nineteenth-century a position parallel to that occupied by the imperial Rome of St John the Divine. To develop this argumentit will be necessary to divide it will give a very briefhistorical overview into three sections. The first of the British Empire at the timeJane Eyre was produced. The second will examine ways in which the characterological, narrative and metaphorical strategiesof the novel are typologically interwoveninto an anti-imperialistthematics. The final section will examine how the novel incorporates these elements into Jane's 'teaching text'. I: Historical Context Jane Eyre was first published in 1847, a moment of historical transition in which Britain was turning its attention away from its West Indian colonies and towards the colony that would become the 'jewel' in Victoria's crown, India. The primary reason for declining of sugar British involvement in the Antilles was the unprofitability and tobacco plantation in the wake of the abolition of slavery in 1833. There are several compelling reasons to suggest that the move into India would meritconsiderable attentionin a novel published in 1847 and so palpably concerned with colonialism as is Jane Eyre. The conquest of India was protractedand violent. Moreover, it was well publicised, as Lawrence James details in The Rise and Fall of the British Empire: 'The army in India fought campaigns in Burma . . . [and in] Afghanistan (1838-42), conquered the Sind (1843) and the

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Punjab (1845-6) ... The British press gave extensive coverage to the campaigns, usually reproducing stories from local papers, official dispatches, and letters from men serving at the front' (190). The securing of India's north-west frontier,a bloody and drawn-out process which occupied much of this press attention in the years leading up to the publication of Jane Eyre, was characterised by catastrophes. One of the most notable examples was the killing of almost the entire Kabul garrison of the British Army during a harrowing winter retreat through the Khyber Pass in 1838. The response to this 'massacre' was a number of barbarous raids of reprisal in which entirevillages, along with theirlivestock and crops, were destroyed,in addition to often costly (both in terms of life and property)British militaryvictories.8 These events provide the immediate historical context in which Jane Eyre was written,and render the direction of events towards India at the end of the novel ominous. However, most commentators have focused chiefly on the West Indian dimension of British following Gilbert and imperialism in Bronte's novel, and furthermore, motif as have the colonial Gubar, regarded primarilya vehicle used to highlightthe concerns of middle-class Western feminism. Criticism focusing on West Indian colonialism in the novel tends to regard Bertha's death as a symbol of the ultimate repression of Jane's uncontrolled passion.9 When Bertha as racially other (itself a problematic construct) is reduced to the embodiment of Jane's passion and the figurative deploymentof colonialism is seen primarily Bronte's commentaryis as a vehicle to encode superiority/inferiority, or worse. Susan Meyer regarded as 'provocatively unresolved'10 concludes that '[t]he figurativeuse of race relations reveals a conflict between sympathy for oppressed and a hostile sense of racial superiority'." The few studies to assign Indian imperialism anything approaching a central importance in the text assume that it recuperates British imperialism through St. John's 'positive' characterisation (another problematic construct). Meyer concludes that 'Bronte uses these referencesto relations between Europeans and races subjected to the mightof European imperialism ... to represent various configurations of power in British society: female subordination in sexual relationships, female insurrection and rage against male domination, and the oppressive class position of the female without family ties and a middle-class income.12 Gayatri Spivak similarly argues that the novel ultimately reinscribes the

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supremacist and patriarchal paradigm. This claim is based upon her conclusion that the novel 'assert[s] St. John's heroism'13 and merely replaces the male individualist hero with a female individualist hero: 'It is the unquestioned ideology of imperialist axiomatics ... that set [i.e. the Reeds] to conditions Jane's move fromthe counter-family the family-in-law [as Rochester's wife at the end of the novel].'14 However, conclusions such as Meyer's and Spivak's seem based upon a misreading or misrecognition of the centrality of East Indian colonialism in the novel, a centralitywhich becomes clear when the novel is read typologically. II: Figurative Strategies in Jane Eyre As some critics have suggested, applying typological reading strategies to Jane Eyre proves helpful in illuminating the novel's characterological motifs. George R Landow, in Victorian Types, VictorianShadows, argues thatBronte employs typology 'for creating and defining character . . . First, it places . . . characters] and [their] actions within a clearly defined scheme of values; and, second ... it serves to dramatize [Jane's] new self-awareness.'15Landow and others suggest that this interpretivestrategycan be productively applied to the many biblical allusions in Jane Eyre for insights into the characters who utterthem. It seems very likely,however,thatBronte makes much broader use of this device, and that not only characters but events and themes as well are all typologically interrelated in her novel, as Christians regard them to be in the Bible. Bronte 'nests' characters, events and themes within intra- and intertextual webs that invoke multiple cultural codes in her complex signifyingsystem.Thus, Rochester and St John not only resemble each other in their patriarchal authoritarianism, as many readers have noted. Each is carefully situated within a metaphorical web in which his connection to imperialism is overt: Rochester (and by extension Bertha and West Indian colonialism) is aligned metaphorically with the heathen empires of the Old Testament,and St Johnand India are associated in the novel's scheme with the New Testament,and specifically with the Book of Revelation. Imperialism is then placed within a specifically Evangelical Christian value system. This typological linkage means thatthe imperial theme is not merely echoed at the end of the novel in

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St John'smission to India. Rather,it is placed therein what forBronte was its crucial context, with modern, imperial Britain occupying exactly the place in which the Rome of St Johnthe Divine figuresin the Revelation - that of an unholy, contaminating entitywhich will bring about the destructionof the world, and which was prefiguredby the unholy empires of the Old Testament. Jane and Rochester (who has been saved fromdestructionby a cleansing fire),as all Christians must, repudiate imperial metropolitan society and exile themselves. Ferndean is Jane's Patmos, fromwhich she writes her teaching text.16

Ill: Charlotte Bronte's Teaching Text Jane Eyre's direct and insistentinvocation of the Book of Revelation, especially in association with St John'sproject, would have had nearly inescapable significance for the initiated reader. Leonard L. Thompson demonstrates in The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire that Revelations describes in symbolic language the oppressive and unholy practices of the Roman Empire, under whose domination the early Christians lived: the [0]ne of the major themesin the Apocalypse is unquestionably betweenimperialRome withits divineclaims and the rule of conflict the ChristianGod ... Rome['s] economic and commercialpower,so to the Church,is overcomein a series of eschatological destructive disasters ... [T]he major part of [Revelations] describes in language the threatof Roman political and mythological-symbolic religiouspowers.17 When the centralityof imperialism to the Book of Revelation is considered, it is no longer possible to regard colonialism as 'subsumed' or 'screened out' of the conclusion to Jane Eyre, as critics have argued. Nor is St John's character, and by extension Indian colonialism, given a positive valence, as others maintain. The imperial theme is finallyand decisively displaced fromRochester and the West Indies onto St John and India. Moreover, the apocalyptic established at the beginning of theme linked to imperialism is firmly the novel, both through the alignment of John Reed with imperial Rome and in an early,significant'revelation' of Jane's Bible reading. In her first conversation with Mr Brocklehurst, who is trying to intimidate her into submissiveness, Jane reveals that she likes

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'Revelations . . . Daniel, and Genesis and Samuel, and a little bit of Exodus, and some parts of Kings and Chronicles, and Job and Jonah'.18Barry Quails has pointed out thatall of these texts in Jane's list 'offer correspondences to her feelings of injustice ... As apocalyptic works these Bible stories allow her to discern a patternto experience as well as an end to injustice.' Quails also notes succinctly that 'it is an apocalyptic pattern that the older Jane gives to the narrativeof her life'.19 Bronte goes further: she constructs a critique of the British Empire's past, present and future through the antiimperialist,apocalyptic theme which pervades Jane Eyre. Many critics rightly place Bertha at the centre of the novel's signifying systems, since social, cultural, imperial and religious concerns are encoded in her relationship with Rochester, and these themes ramifyboth forwards and backwards to other characters and themes in the novel. Just as Bertha can be associated with both colonial and patriarchal oppression, the trajectoryof British imperial history can be mapped onto Rochester's career. Rochester himself articulates these parallels in a long conversation with Jane in which he claims a rightto command her: 'Do you agree with me that I have a rightto be a littlemasterful ... on the grounds I stated: namely, that I am old enough to be your father,and that I have battled througha varied experience with many men of many nations, and roamed over half the globe?' (140). Here Rochester's words encode imperial Britain's claim to rule 'primitive' societies by dint of its long standing as an advanced civilisation, with its wide military and economic reach. When Jane asserts that any claim to superiority must rest on the use one makes of time and experience, Rochester acknowledges thathis own use of these has been less than honorable: 'I have a past existence, a series of deeds, a colour of life to contemplate . . . which might well call my sneers and censures from my neighbours to myself. I started ... on to a wrong tack at the age of one and twenty,and have never recovered the rightcourse since' (141). The series of events to which Rochester refersis of course the has been spent appropriation of Bertha's wealth, which furthermore in a series of dissolute adventures in the colonies and on the Continent, perhaps figuring Britain's adventures and wars with its colonial rivals. Parallels between Rochester's career and British imperial history are again discernible in a scene which takes place shortly before Jane learns of Bertha's existence, when he makes a subsequent attemptto rationalise his behaviour:

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Well then, Jane. . . supposeyouwere ... a wild boy . . . imagine yourself commit a capitalerror, in a remote land;conceivethat you there foreign no matterof what nature or fromwhat motives, but one whose lifeand taint all yourexistence. consequencesmustfollowyou through of whatyou The results Mind I don't say a crime... mywordis error. take measures to youutterly havedonebecomeintime you insupportable; to obtainrelief. (228) Not only are the parallels to British colonial history- specifically the slave trade - evident here, but Rochester's oblique mention of 'measures taken to obtain relief' might well be a reference to the abolition movement, which he earlier had directly invoked when he admonished Jane forbeing too restrainedwith 'a man and a brother' (170) the slogan of the Britishanti-slaverymovement was 'Am I not But the novel's signifyingsystemmakes clear a man and a brother?'.20 Bertha's that all British attemptsat expiation have been insufficient. returnto England representsthe returnof the colonial repressed. Bronte not only encodes British imperial history in Rochester's career, she also situates that history in what for her is its larger, ideological context. Throughout the text Rochester is aligned with Biblical, and specifically Old Testament, imperial oppressors. Susan Meyer has pointed out thatJane Eyre is rifewith allusions to Turkish and Persian despots, but concludes that these references invoke 'not British imperial domination but the despotic, oppressive customs of non-whites'.21However, a particular scene to which Meyer refersin this part of her discussion as containing an 'eastern allusion', Jane's and Rochester's extended exchange in which they do indeed link Rochester to various Turkishand Persian despots,22pointedly invokes a very specific imperial figure who possesses a seraglio and many slaves - King Ahasuerus. Keith Jenkins, in referringto the same passage in his essay, points out thatQueen Esther had rebelled against this Persian emperor in order to save her people (Israel, the Old Testament nation with which modern Christians claim identityin the typological scheme of Christian theology), risking death in the process.23 The linking of Rochester to Ahasuerus is not casual, but part of a complex network which extends throughout the novel in which imperial oppressors are linked not with non-white oppressors the Israelites, then Christians. Another so much as oppressors of first and even more telling referenceto Old Testament imperialism occurs shortlyafterthis one, in which Rochester refersto Thornfieldas 'this accursed place - this tent of Achan' (316). He hereby invokes the

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biblical story in which the Israelites sufferalienation from God and military disaster as a result of Achan's expropriation of another people's wealth, which he buries under his tent. Achan's crime and particularlyhis punishmentclearly parallel Rochester's: 'And the one who is taken as having the [spoils of conquered Jericho] shall be burned with fire,togetherwith all he has' (Josh. 7: 15). This equation of British imperialism with Old Testament imperialism belies any imputationof British superiorityto non-white imperial regimes in the colonial motif, as Meyer and others have suggested. As Meyer points out, Britishimperialism is associated with Roman imperialism as well, and the juxtaposition is equally condemnatory of both:24 'The novel draws unflatteringparallels between the British Empire, evoked in Lady Ingram's shawl, and the Roman Empire [evoked in 'Lady Ingram's Roman features and haughty sense of superiority'], whose emperors, the young Jane has implied in comparing John Reed to them, are murderers and slave what seems to be the true import drivers'.25Meyer goes on to identify of the colonial theme in the novel imperialism's threatto Britain's - but discounts Bronte's intentionality in thisregardas tentative: future theBritish withtheRomanBronte hints uneasily Empire By associating with these aristocratic at a possibly tainted, representatives parallelfuture: and slaves of its own, the Britishempiremay be headed forits own decline and fall. The despotismof the Britishupperclasses, Bronte's is one abouttheir to thenon-white races imply, hints similarity mocking in Empire.26 of theBritish involvement effect However, if we do not dismiss the novel's pervasive alignment of the British with other imperial regimes as merely uneasy hints, and moreover situate these references instead in a typological scheme, it becomes apparent thatthe significance of these other imperial figures but in what Bronte regarded as their lies not in their racial alterity, biblical historicity. In other words, the figurative strategy which repeatedly links Rochester with Old Testament imperialism is of central importance not because Bronte displaces despotism onto nonwhites, but because it prefigures the metaphorical and narrative devices which link St JohnRivers with New Testament imperialism. The most obvious point of contact between the two male characters is Jane. Both occupy positions of eithertemporal or spiritualauthority over her fromwhich they tryto manipulate Jane into an exploitative sexual relationship thatwould also place her in a position of financial

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dependency. Rochester's attempt to marry Jane while he is still married to Bertha and his effortsto coerce Jane into becoming his mistress upon the failure of this scheme have received extensive critical comment. But St John's attempts to sexually, morally and emotionally 'colonise' Jane have been overlooked, particularly by commentators who argue that his Indian mission representsBronte's attempt to recuperate British imperialism. However, there are numerous, inescapable signals within the narrative which place St John's colonialism in a negative light. A brief plot summary suffices to debunk any claims thatSt John'scharacteris portrayed'positively'. Before St Johnreveals his plan to go to India, he insists thatJane learn 'Hindoostani'. This disrupts a self-chosen course of studies that she has been happily pursuing, but he dissembles when she asks for a reason. He later reveals his plan and tries to coerce Jane into accompanying him as his wife, a condition (and the only condition) she refuses. He intentionallymisrepresents her conditional refusal, saying she has agreed, and postpones a tripto see friendsin order to browbeat her into submission (391-441); St John's emotional and psychological warfare perhaps encodes British attempts to incorporate India into an equally coercive colonial 'partnership'. The similarities between these and Rochester's earlier attemptsto first trickand later coerce Jane into a sexual relationship are obvious. St John'srelationship with Jane is doubly oppressive because she not only lives under his roof, but in his position as clergyman he is also her spiritual guide (and in this his relationship to Jane parallels that which England hoped to establish with India through evangelising missions such as the one upon which he embarks). Their relationship is thus marked by his outrightlies, misrepresentationsand bullying attemptsto subjugate her. As Susan VanZanten Gallagher points out, St John's 'emotional manipulation and loveless proposal are just as much a perversion of the institution of marriage as Rochester's previous domineering ways are'.27 But, more importantly(and in a way which parallels Bertha's relationship to Rochester), both of these personal, domestic and private relationships may be seen as encoding public, political, religious and social themes.28 St John's intentionto impose Western religion throughoutIndia is conceived as a philanthropisingmission, and this ominously recalls Rochester's assertion, made in the course of his paralleling his own that 'at this moment, I am paving career with British imperial history, Victorian British readers might have been with hell energy' (144).

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reminded thatthe project to colonise the West Indies was also justified in large part by similar attemptsto make Christians of both natives and slaves. Furthermore, St John's mission is predicated not on a desire to alleviate any perceived suffering on the part of India's people, who are rarely even mentioned by him, but rather on his ambition to achieve personal glory for having 'elevated his race'. When Jane suggests he relinquish his plan, St Johnreveals his actual, and unquestionably selfish,motives: in thebandwhohaveall ambitions in My hopes [are]ofbeingnumbered thegloriousone of bettering their race ... I am simply... a cold, hard, ambitiousman ... Reason, not feeling,is my guide: my ambitionis to do morethanothers, insatiable. I unlimited, mydesireto risehigher, honourendurance, talent;because theseare the perseverance, industry, and mount to lofty eminence. things bywhichmenachievegreatthings, (394-95) Here St John's naked ambition also recalls Rochester's attempt,as a younger son who was thus unable to inherithis father'swealth under the laws of primogeniture,to make his mark in the colonies. Just as these two characters are linked in the narrative by their oppressive relationships to Jane, the metaphorical patterns in which they are enmeshed are linked typologically. In other words, just as Rochester is figuratively aligned with Old Testament imperialism, St John is associated with New Testament imperialism. His name not only recalls the author of Revelations, but that of the River of Life which flows out of God's throneofjudgement in thataccount. Bronte makes St John's connection to the Apocalypse most overt in two memorable scenes in the last section of Jane Eyre. The firstis when St John reads aloud to Jane from Revelation Chapter 21, which significantlydescribes the judgement of the world and condemns to the Lake of Fire any one 'unclean or who maketh an abomination' (Rev. 21: 27). Also unmistakably aligning St John with the Apocalypse's prophetic message are the last words of the novel, spoken by him, and taken verbatim fromthe penultimate verse of the Christian Bible: 'My master . . . has forewarnedme . . . "Surely I come quickly," and hourly I more eagerly respond, "Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus'" (477; see Rev. 22: 20). While this concordance would have been obvious to most of Bronte's original readers, even more important from a thematic standpointis something else which also would have been apparent to

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Christian readers familiar with the Revelation: the anti-imperialism metaphorically implicit in the ending of Jane Eyre. The message of Revelation 21 is of such central importance to the metaphorical scheme o Jane Eyre that Bronte incorporates the entire chapter into her own text,when St Johnreads it aloud to Jane and his sisters. The 'uncleanness' and 'making of an abomination' referred to in this passage does not representa vague or undefinedsinfulness,but rather, and specifically,the participation of the early Christians (to whom the Revelation was directed in the form of letters) in the religious, economic, social and political order of the Roman Empire. Leonard Thompson sums up what has been the traditional Christian interpretationof the Book of Revelation since at least the fourth century of the currentera, and it is worth quoting this summary at length, since its relevance to the 'meaning' of the final chapters of Jane Eyre has been overlooked: of theBook of Revelation... is unequivocalin his attitude [T]he author towards Romanurban and theChristians or Jews who in anyway society accommodate to it.In contrast to mostChristians in [theRomanprovince andtheempire as antithetical to Christian of]Asia, he viewsurban society existence and in leaguewithSatan . . . The peace andprosperity ofRoman is . . . not to be entered into faithful Christians . . . The society by political order of Rome is whollycorrupt, to theSatanicrealm... The belonging economicorder realm.29 belongsto thesame corrupt The prominentjuxtaposition of Indian colonialism and the Book of Revelation at the end of a novel in which the colonial theme is acknowledged to be of centralimportance,make the implications quite clear: the political, economic and social order of the BritishEmpire is corrupt and must be repudiated. Moreover, this corrupt realm is conscientiously repudiated by Jane, who exiles herself to Ferndean. have foundJaneand Following Gilbertand Gubar, many commentators Rochester's retirement to Ferndean an affirmation of what are patently modern,Western,middle-class feministvalues. These values are then eithercharacterisedas reinscribing theWesternindividualist/imperialist or as reflectingBronte's final inabilityto face paradigm (see Spivak), the conclusions thather own novel suggests.30 Gilbert and Gubar's argumenthas convinced many readers not only that the romance plot serves the function of removing Jane and Rochester fromhistory,but also of creating an indeterminacywhich 'is finallyunable to rest easily in its figurativestrategy[which reduces

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racially otherpeoples to a metaphor encoding gender inequalities]',31 and thus it is appropriate to quote at length fromit here: in tenuous define... she could embody WhatBronte could notlogically but suggestive imagery and in her last, perhaps most significant Nature... seemsto now be on theside of Jane redefinitions of Bunyan. artifice ... and Rochester. Ferndean,as its name suggests,is without . . . of Beulah and fertilized soft rains and [T]he country [in ferny by green between brideandbridegroom 'sProgress ] . . . where'thecontract Pilgrim . . . [T]his is renewed,' has all alongbeen ... thegoal ofJane's pilgrimage Ferndean this is the of true minds at way.'32 marriage to Ferndean withinthe larger However, if we situate Jane's retirement I have been thematics describing, we might reach anti-imperialist somewhat different conclusions. Firstly,Ferndean is anythingbut an in it is so 'insalubrious' that Rochester had not fact, idyllic retreat; Bertha there lest he add murderto his other crimes: dared to confine Manor. . . where I couldhavelodgedher I possessan old house,Ferndean of thesituation a about the unhealthiness had not scruple safely enough, . . . made my consciencerecoil fromthe arrangement. Probablythose me of her but walls would have soon eased charge, to each villain damp to indirect assassination. hisownvice; andmineis nota tendency (316-7) Indeed, the 'pestilential fogs' which inhabit the 'dank and decaying' house set in a 'desolate spot' recall no other setting in the novel so much as Lowood. Surely such a location must pose more of a threatto the small and weak Jane's health than it would to the robust Bertha's. Why would Bronte choose to end her novel by parodying the traditional marriage plot, with a maimed lover, and a heroine consistently described as plain, 'burying' themselves in such an 'ineligible and insalubrious' (453) site? The answer is suggested by the anti-imperial theme. The long-standing Christian tradition in which of the flesh- usually in and mortification believers seek enlightenment the desert- is relevanthere. St Jeromeand St Johnthe Baptist are two figures who best exemplify this tradition,but there have been many others, including St John the Divine. There are also strong signals within the text that Rochester is now spirituallyready to join Jane. When at the last momenthis marriage to Bertha is revealed,preventing his marriage to Jane, Rochester calls upon himself 'the sternest judgments of God even the quenchless fireand the deathless worm' - and this (305), again invoking the Old Testament (Isa. 66: 24

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formulationis typologicallyechoed in theNew Testamentas well). His repentance is not sincere, however, and he is maimed in the apocalyptic fire at Thornfield. But it should be remembered that he sustained those injuries in that firebecause he returnedto tryto save the one he had so badly wronged - Bertha. Rochester's willing sacrifice of his body - his righthand and righteye, as we learn - in a self-denyingattemptto rescue his colonised wife symbolically enact an effort to obey the Gospel injunction for all sinners seeking redemption: 'And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is betterfor you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell . . . And ifyour eye causes you to stumble,tear it out; it is betterfor you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where the worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched' (Mark 9: 43, 47-48). Rochester's attempt to save Bertha is furthermorecharacterised by the selflessness that Jesus privileged above all othervalues: 'No one has greaterlove thanthis,to when lay down one's life forone's friends'(John 15:13). Significantly, Jane and Rochester are reunited at Ferndean, Rochester no longer invokes the Old Testament, but now expresses an unselfish love for Jane in the words which echo the New Testament,and specifically the Revelation: 'I pleaded, and the alpha and the omega of my heart's wishes broke frommy lips' (47 1; see Rev 1: 8 and 22: 13). Furthermore,to suggest that Jane's progress to Ferndean merely enables a happily-ever-after mingling of two souls in a secluded wood is to graft a secular sentimentality onto Bronte's urgent religiopolitical polemic.33 Jane has gone to Ferndean (significantly, a pre-imperial English settingthathad been in the Rochester familyfor many generations) fora very specific purpose to exile herself,along with Rochester, fromthe corruptpolitical and economic realm of the British Empire. Raymond Williams provides the classical description of how the romance plot in 'social problem' novels not only resolves social and political dislocations, but moreover often removes the lovers to the colonies at the novel's end.34 Both of these are artificial resolutions that Bronte avoids. If Bronte were to remove her English characters to a 'real' desert for this purpose, it would amount to just another colonial appropriation, and furthermoresuch a resolution would directly undermine the project of Jane Eyre. Instead, Jane exiles herself to Ferndean and begins to write her autobiography, whose direct apostrophes to the reader at the end of the novel resemble the letters of St John the Divine addressed to the early

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Christians. Here Bronte aligns Jane with the Puritan tradition of 'bringing the Scripture up to date',35 but also, and more specifically, replicates the writing of the Book of Revelation, the work thematically central to the novel's ending. The most obvious parallel between Jane and the author of Revelations is in theirexile and subsequent monitorywriting.As the narratorof her 'autobiography', Bronte situates Jane as first-person author as hero as well as protagonist of the narrative, and in this invokes another tradition of English literature. Scott, and later Dickens, became the prototypes authors who at the same time were representativesof an idealised British national culture. It would be more accurate to describe Jane as the antithesis of author as hero: small, plain, female and thus culturallypowerless (a status reinforced by her position as governess), since what Bronte was trying to of a 'nation' constructin Jane Eyre was the idealised cultural identity whose 'citizenship is in heaven' (Phil. 3: 20) and which defines itself in opposition to the British Empire. The irony here is no doubt intentional. Traditional Christianity has long been an imagined communityof truebelievers considering themselves a small, despised minorityoutside the cultural pale, opposing the might and power of imperial metropolitanculturefroma position of spiritual,not temporal or physical, superiority.Bronte's attemptto assign Jane this cultural authorityis another way in which Jane's writingmirrorsSt John the Divine's writingof the Revelation. The author of the Apocalypse also claimed authority within the Church, and in so doing came into conflict with other 'prophetic authorities' described symbolically in Revelation 2-3. These figureshave theiranalogues in Brocklehurst,St JohnRivers and others. Moreover, as Quails points out, the prophet's frequentadmonitions to his readers are echoed by Bronte,who feltthat 'the traditionof "sacred romance" was embattled by mid-nineteenth Jane Eyre focuses its attentionthroughoutthe narrativeon century'.36 the unhealthy institutionswhich regulate desire in British imperial society which, like that of imperial Rome, is portrayedas a society thusportrayed whose 'god is in the belly' (Phil. 3: 19). The institutions include the class system (embodied in the Reeds) and the corrupt marriage market which sustains it (Blanche Ingram), educational institutions whose primary motivation is profit (Lowood school), religious hypocrisy(Mr Brocklehurst) and, at the centre of the novel's thematic structure, Empire. Imperial British society is, in Jane Eyre, over every tribeand people and the 'beast' which 'was given authority

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language and nation, and [which] all the inhabitantsof the earth will worship' (Rev. 13: 7). Encoding public and social concerns within private and domestic narratives is a long-standing tradition of the British novel. Recent post-colonial criticism has uncovered Jane Eyre's central concerns, and perhaps inadvertently brought to light the novel's attempt to situate itselfwithin this literary-historical traditionforthe purpose of invoking specific cultural codes. Ironically, however, as our with some of these codes increasinglysecularised society's familiarity has decreased, Jane Eyre's anti-imperialist message has also remained less than fullyappreciated.

Notes 1. AllBible references will inthe text. appear 2. See Firdouz Azim 's TheColonial Riseofthe Novel York: (New 1993), Routledge, 172-2 13,Gayatri 'Three Women's Texts and a ofImperialism', Chakravorty Spivak, Critique 12(1985): Critical and Susan atHome: Race 243-61, Inquiry especially Meyer, Imperialism andVictorian Women s Fiction Cornell I Press, (Ithaca: University 1996). Although challenge some ofMeyer's her work is perhaps themost andprovocative conclusions, illuminating ofJane todate. post-colonial study Eyre 3. Theclassic account ofthe ofEmpire inthe submerged presence nineteenth-century British novel is Edward Said's Culture andImperialism (London: 1994). Vintage, 4. Meyer, atHome , 64. Imperialism 5. Oneofthe most influential studies the ofBunyan's influence asserting importance onBronte is Sandra Gilbert andSusan Gubar's Madwoman inthe Attic Yale (NewHaven: alsoseeKeith 'Jane NewBible,' inApproaches to Press, Jenkins, 1979); University Eyre's Jane York: Modern andBarry 69-76, Association, (New Eyre. 1993), Teaching Language The Secular Fiction: The Novel as Book Quails, Pilgrims ofVictorian ofLife (Cambridge: Press, Cambridge University 1982). 6. Edward in 'On Certain ofArtin Works of Quoted Bulwer-Lytton. Principles in A Caxtoniana: Series on Manners York: and Literature, Imagination,' of (New Essays Life, andBrothers, 1864),317-19. Harper 7. Quails, Secular , ix. Pilgrims 8. Lawrence The RiseandFallofthe British York: StMartins, James, (New Empire 217-24. 1994), 9. SeeAzim, Colonial Rise andGilbert andGubar, Madwoman , 196, , 362. 10. John Kucich. 'Jane andImperialism,' inApproaches toTeaching Jane , Eyre Eyre 109. 11. Meyer, atHome. Imperialism 12. Ibid., 63. '. 13. Spivak, 'Three Women's Texts

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14. Ibid. 15. George P.Landow, Victorian Victorian Shadows (London: Types, 1980). Routledge, 16. Patmos wastheisland where StJohn theDivine Revelation. Nineteenthpenned Christians readtheBookof Revelation modern as a (as do many century Christians) in which the modern nations of the world which were prophecy occupy positions figuratively nations. maintains that Jane's a mere Quails occupied byancient story goesbeyond being taleandbecomes because 'her itdoes because cautionary prophecy past history, precisely tothe traditional shows her readers "God's voice instruction and model, correspond speaking as Bunyan's life had'(Secular doctrine," , 57). Pilgrims 17. Leonard The Book andEmpire York: L.Thompson, ofRevelation: Apocalypse (New Oxford Press, University 1990). 18. Charlotte Jane Oxford 1993), 34.Allfuture Bronte, Press, (Oxford: Eyre University references will inthe text. appear 1 9. Quails, Secular , 55. Pilgrims 20. Kathryn Sutherland hasdetailed the concordances between some ofthe temporal in events Jane's life and and British colonial, significant important literary, European domestic events toargue that the time scheme of Jane enacts a revision Eyre self-consciously 4 ofboth British and the ofwomen: Jane The imperial history history Eyre's Literary History: Casefor 409-40. Park'ELH 59.2(1992): Mansfield 21. Meyer, atHome , 83. Imperialism 22. Jane Turkish 'ruler' is alsocalled a 'bashaw' inthe course of , Chapter 24;the Eyre this which links Rochester to thecontemporary Ottoman conversation, simultaneously as well. Empire 23. Jenkins, 'Jane NewBible', 1: 12. 70;seeEsther Eyre's 24. Meyer doesnot, note that Bronte's stands insharp however, unflattering comparison contrast tomost other ofthe two which were made contemporary linkages empires, usually tocelebrate the ofGreat Britain. Itwasnot until much inthe later that such glory century references were tocriticise made British of Studies Rome as cultural and socioimperialism. include Norman Vance's TheVictorians andAncient Rome political signifier (Oxford: Bondanella's TheEternal Roman inthe Modern Blackwell, 1997)andPeter City: Images World Hill:University ofNorth Carolina 1987- a more Press, (Chapel sweeping study with the and Continental as well as British Renaissance, starting covering appropriations). 25. Meyer, atHome , 80. Imperialism 26. Ibid. 'Jane and 27. Susan VanZanten inApproaches toTeaching Gallagher, Eyre Christianity,' Jane York: Modern 62-68. Association, (New Eyre. 1993), Language 28. These areaffinities Jane with shares the Gothic a genre itresembles in novel, Eyre other as well. ways 29. Thompson, Book ofRevelation. 'Jane 30. Kucich, andImperialism', 104-20. Eyre 31. Meyer, atHome , 94. Imperialism 32. Gilbert andGubar, Madwoman 1. , 370-7 33. Even Secular into this that 'the isnot , falls Quails, Pilgrims trap, concluding quest towards the NewJerusalem butinto theself as a mode ofescape from the of experience andalienation' asserts that the novel is 'Bronte's ofthe despair (51). He further synthesis

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tradition's ofthis world ... andtheRomantic's toward some religious loathing impulse ' within" (69). paradise 34. Raymond Culture and Society: 1780-1950 Columbia Williams, (NewYork: 87-109. Press, 1958), University 35. Quails, Secular , 2. Pilgrims 36. Ibid., 191.

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