Examine the theme of marriage in Jane Eyre.

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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As in other Victorian novels, marriage, both as an institution and an ideal, come under close scrutiny in Jane Eyre. Marriage with Rochester is Jane's goal and eventual fate. Not only is she finally united to the love of her life, it is a union that is sanctioned by society. However Jane has a long way to go before she can reach this point; there are any number of social obstacles to this union to begin with.

As an institution, marriage is seen to be governed by strict rules in the society of this period. Men and women generally marry according to class, background, wealth. Love and passion seem to have little to do with it. Jane wonders at this state of affairs, more particularly when she thinks that Rochester is about to marry the unpleasant, loveless Blanche Ingram. She reflects that he will be marrying Blanche only for her social position, and realizes most people of his class marry for such reasons, but she is still puzzled.

All their class held these principles: I supposed, then, they had reasons for holding them such as I could not fathom. It seemed to me that, were I a gentleman like him, I would take to my bosom only such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness of the advantages to the husband’s own happiness, offered by this plan, convinced me that there must be arguments against its general adoption of which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all the world would act as I wished to act. 

Jane here puzzles over the fact that so many people marry in the interests of wealth and social propriety, not for love. She feels this is wrong, but concludes that there must be advantages to it that she is unaware of, otherwise everyone would marry for love as she herself wants to do.Bronte thus effectively uses Jane's youthful and innocent perspective on the edge of high society to criticise that society.

Although Jane is bold enough to set her sights on Rochester, as a lowly orphaned servant girl she cannot really hope to marry a man so far above her station. Both admit of their passion and empathy in this relationship, but even the genuine feelings that they have for one another are not quite enough to bring their marriage about. Although their romantic love cuts across social divisions, they do not actually marry until Jane unexpectedly comes into money, thus elevating her social position. By this time, too, Rochester is broken and humbled, and no longer in aristocratic surroundings.Only now does their marriage take place. Ultimately, then, the novel does not breach rigid class boundaries in its depiction of Jane and Rochester's marriage. 

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