How do we interpret the novel, Jane Eyre, with the perspective of the psychoanaltic criticism?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In terms of looking at Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, from a psychoanalytic perspective, it would appear that the best to do so is to look at the specific characters within the story, regarding their conscious and the subconscious actions.

Jane is a woman who has suffered a great deal as a child, first at the hands of her Aunt Reed, and then Mr. Brocklehurst. In psychoanalytic terms, both of these characters are particularly sadistic.

Mrs. Reed is unrealistic about her own children's shortcomings regarding their character, heaping her hate of the unwanted Jane upon the child until Reed sends her away to the Lowood Institution. Here, the sadistic leanings of Brocklehurst in the name of charity and God, teach Jane to bide her time until she is old enough to take the position of a governess and escape.

At Thornfield, Jane works for Mr. Rochester. He is an egomaniac, and does all he can to avoid the restrictions that having a mad wife put on a man's ability to be happy. In fact, he does his best to repress her existence by staying away from his estate for long periods of time, having parties when he is there, and paying someone else (Grace Poole) to care for her. He is also dark and brooding, suffering from a battle between his conscious and subconscious, based upon what is socially and morally acceptable. His desire to repress what he knows to be right shows a level of denial as well.

St. John Rivers, who wants to marry Jane so they can become missionaries, has allowed his super-ego to take precedence in his life. The super-ego:

...plays the critical and moralising role...

...and this seems to describe St. John rather closely. He struggles to develop a relationship within his faith, though he cannot find peace it it.

St. John has 'a reserved, an abstracted, and even . . . a brooding nature'...

Jane refuses to marry him because there is no love in the relationship.

Jane seems to be the one who is most firmly rooted in reality. Based on psychoanalytic theory:

...the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the ego is the organised, realistic part...

...Jane instinctively knows right from wrong, fleeing when she finds Rochester is already married; the need to escape the pain of her broken relationship rests with the id: she is looking for a way to survive, accidentally finding the Rivers family. It is her ability to face reality (with help of the supernatural, it seems) that finally brings her back to Rochester after his wife has died.

Additional Source:

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id,_ego,_and_super-ego

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