Love in Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea
In the passages presented below, both narrators are soliciting affection and love. For Jane, in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, her mother figure, Aunt Reed, shows absolutely no affection towards her niece. Coldly, Ms. Reed regards Jane only as a bothersome child she was left to raise. Similarly, Antoinette, in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, is raised disregarded and unloved by her mother Annette. Although shunned, Jane and Antoinette both have the passion and willingness to love. However, it is the paths their lives took that characterizes the way they chose to deal with life's uncertainties.
"My disposition is not so bad as you think: I am passionate, but not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been glad to love you if you would have let me; and I long earnestly to be reconciled to you know; kiss me, aunt."
I approached my cheek to her lips; she would not touch it. She said I oppressed her by leaning over the bed; and again demanded water. As I laid her down--for I raised her and supported her on my arm while she drank--I covered her ice-cold and clammy hand with mine; the feeble fingers shrank form my touch-the glazing eyes shunted my gaze...
Poor, suffering woman! It was too late for her to make now the effort to change her habitual frame of mind: living, she had ever hated me-dying, she must hate me still."
-Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
"A frown came between her black eyebrows, deep - it might t have been cut with a knife. I hated this frown and once I touched her forehead, trying to smooth it. But she pushed me away, not roughly but calmly, coldly, without a word, as if she had decided once and for all that I was useless to her. She wanted to sit with Pierre or walk where she pleased without being pestered, she wanted peace and quiet. I was old enough to look after myself. 'Oh, let me alone,' she would say, 'let me alone,' and after I knew that she talked aloud to herself I was a little afraid of her."
-Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys (p. 20)
As the first passage shows, Jane expresses to Ms. Reed, who is dying in her bed, that she had always been willing to love her. However, her Aunt allowed her little, if any, room to express it. Bronte's use of diction, words such as passionate (which she is), and vindictive (which she is not), helps clarify Jane's emotions, and her Aunt's reaction to what she is so confidently revealing to her. Ms. Reed remains emotionally cold as Jane embraces her "ice-cold and clammy hand." It is Jane's passion that allows her to experience life to the fullest extent. At this point, when she wishes for reconciliation, Jane realizes that her Aunt has not changed, rather that she has herself. She has allowed herself to accept her Aunt's adamant unwillingness to love her: "living, she had ever hated me- dying, she must hate me still." And Jane never sheds a tear.