Imagination is a concept that is used in almost all forms of literature. It is held especially in high regard by the writers of the Romantic era. The writers from this era, such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats, have greatly influenced those in successive periods, such as the Victorian period. This can be seen, for instance, in the novel Jane Eyre; even though it was written and heavily based in the ideals of the Victorian writers, it still holds influences from the Romantics, especially the power of imagination.
William Wordsworth’s view on imagination can easily be seen in the two poems Expostulation & Reply and The Tables Turned. In these two short poems Wordsworth gives respect to the sciences; he does not look down on them. However, he does argue that ignoring nature, and by extension, imagination, would be to ignore part of what it means to be human. Another poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud, shows Wordsworth’s appreciation for imagination, as he ...view middle of the document...
John Keats, in comparison, blends the nature and creativity of Wordsworth and Coleridge. However, Keats sees the slightly more somber aspect of imagination, in that it is not a replacement to reality. This is easily evidenced in his poem Ode to a Nightingale, where he describes the joy he would have in being able to fly off with a nightingale, both literally and figuratively. In the end, he realizes that cannot have his wish and accepts this fact. Keats seems to have a more pragmatic view of imagination, that it should be used to supplement reality and enhance it; it should not be an escape.
Using the beliefs of the three described romantic poets, there are scenes in Jane Eyre that reflect the romantic period and the use of imagination. The first is the “red room” in which Jane is sent as punishment for attacking her older cousin John. Since she is a young child, she lets her fear control her imagination and, because of the stigma of her uncle’s death in the same room and the subsequent abandonment of the room by the family, begins to imagine that his ghost is haunting the room. While this is more supernatural in nature, it is reminiscent of Coleridge’s poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner in the use of the spiritual aspects of nature.
Another scene that has imaginative influences for Jane is her first encounter with Rochester as he approaches Thornfield on horseback. She recalls the fable of Gytrash that was told to her by Bessie and she holds the imagery close, choosing to recall it standing on the bridge later. This is similar to which the way Wordsworth treats imagination in I wandered lonely as a cloud.
The third example of imagination in the novel could be considered regarding Jane’s fascination and later infatuation with Rochester, as compared to St. John. This would seem to come more from Brontë as the author than from Jane herself. Rochester seems to be the adventurous and dark man that a woman may have imagined meeting and/or being with. However, similar to Keat’s view of imagination, not all dreams should be reality; given the views of society at the time, this would have most likely have been looked down upon.
These examples show that while Jane Eyre is dominated by Victorian ideals, it is still influenced by the writings of the Romantic poets.