How would you compare and contrast the treatment of the ideal of romantic love in "The Dead" and in Jane Eyre?Any different examples?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a fascinating question! I had never thought of comparing these two works of literatue before, but this is an excellent question deserving of serious examination of both works.

The romantic love in "The Dead" ínterestingly doesn´t concern the main protagonist of the short story. Gabriel at the end of the story realises that his relationship with Gretta, his wife, cannot compare to the love that she has already had with Michael Furey. He comments:

It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life.

In fact, Gabriel, having heard the story of Michel Furey, begins to look at his wife "as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife." The romantic love in this story is therefore between his wife, Gretta, and her former lover, Michael Furey, who, according to Gretta, died for her. Note how Gretta relates the death of Michael to Gabriel:

-Oh, the day I heard that, that he was dead!

She stopped, choking with sobs, and overcome by emotion, flung herself face downward on the bed, sobbing in the quilt.

Gabriel feels unable to "intrude on her grief". Thus, although we are not told much of their love, we can infer from Gretta´s limited dialogue and emotion that it was a true romantic love that cannot compare to the relationship between Gabriel and Gretta. Yet the fact that this relationship ended in death adds a more sober, morose tone to this theme of love.

Compare this tone to the love of Rochester and Jane as depicted at the end of Jane Eyre. Note how Jane describes her love in the final chapter:

I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest - blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband´s life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward´s society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together.

And so it continues. Here, obviously, to my mind at least, we have a completely unrealistic "happy ending" with Jane and Rochester engaged on a relationship that is almost claustraphobic by its intensity. Consider such lines as "bone of his bone" and "flesh of his flesh". This is the happy ending that the fairy tale elements of the story have promised all along, and as such represents a far more idealistic treatment of romantic love. "The Dead" might present romantic love in a sadder, graver manner, but at least it is more realistic.