Explore the presentation of obsession in men in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

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Explore the presentation of obsession in men in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

        Both Jane Eyre by Bronte and Enduring Love by McEwan present the theme of obsession in men. Jane is successively controlled by men, the critics, Gilbert and Gubar (The Madwoman in the Attic) said, “Rochester’s loving tyranny recalls John Reed’s unloving despotism… recalls Brocklehurst’s  hypocrisy” which indicates that Jane never escapes the oppression of the men around her. The control that Rochester and St John try to impose upon her is part of the patriarchal society of the day, causing Bronte to be widely criticised when Jane Eyre was first published.

        Rochester’s love for Jane which is featured in the third part of the novel is one of heated passion and love from both sides. Traits of Rochester’s obsessional love of Jane can be seen developing throughout the book, but it is most obvious when Rochester proposes to her, “I summon you as my wife”. Rochester’s desperation to marry Jane and the control he wants to impose on her is particularly evident when he “summons” her to marry him. This also reflects the patriarchal society in which men were expected to control women and for them to be subservient. The use of the word ‘my’ indicated that Rochester is very possessive over Jane and this is continued throughout the novel. He also says, “I love you as my own flesh”, suggesting that Rochester’s love is all consuming and he may well have obsessive tendencies. Also, the use of ‘own’ enforces Rochester’s obsessional love for Jane as it sounds like he is possessive of himself, therefore reflecting how possessive he is of Jane. Furthermore, Rochester says, “I must have you for my own- entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly”. Bronte’s use of ‘must’ and then repetition of ‘my own’ implies that Rochester is anxious to marry Jane, and then the use of ‘quickly’ reinforces this, but also appears to push Jane into giving Rochester the answer he wants. Again, ‘entirely my own’ shows his need to control and possess Jane, although it is unclear whether this is due to Rochester’s obsessive tendencies or the patriarchal society of the day. Later in the novel through her dreams it becomes apparent that Jane is anxious about losing any power she has and being voiceless in their relationship. In general, the proposal is a vital part of the story which clearly indicated that Rochester is obsessed with Jane, as well as his love for her.

        In the month between Rochester proposed and Jane and he marry, Rochester shows his controlling and obsessive nature when he tries to change Jane into more of a ‘lady’, similar to women he has had failed relationships with, such as Celine Varens and Blanche Ingram, “but he would yet see me glittering like a parterre”. Here, Jane is clearly uncomfortable with having her wardrobe changed and she is aware that Rochester is trying to change her into something she is not, as shown by Bronte’s simile of ‘glittering like a parterre’, which likens Jane to an ornamental garden, and she demonstrates how unnatural for her to change in this way. The use of the first person narrative throughout Jane Eyre always gives the reader a better understanding of the effect Rochester is having on Jane. Due to the patriarchal society, Jane would generally find it impossible to voice her opinions and as a result of the first person narrative the reader can properly understand what Jane is enduring as shown by ‘glittering like a parterre’, which she would never voice to Rochester. In fact, she argues that if she accepted his demands, he would soon grow tired of her. As a “performing ape” Jane would be no better than a kept woman, an elegantly clothed object performing for her master. Instead, Jane wants to maintain both her personality and her independence. Similarly, in Enduring Love, Parry attempts to change Joe’s views on religion, “It was torture, Joe, coming face to face with your sad, dry thoughts”. This is in one of Parry’s many letters to Joe, suggesting that Parry wants to change Joe so he is more to his liking, similarly to Rochester’s attempt to change what Jane wears. Therefore, both Rochester and Parry become obsessive in their attempts to change their ‘loved one’, and both times they are entirely rejected.

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        Rochester demonstrates another feature of his obsessive love for Jane in his actions and his desire to protect her when she is at risk from Bertha, “Mr Rochester flung me behind him, the lunatic sprang”. Bronte clearly indicates how protective Rochester feels over Jane, when he puts himself between Jane and the danger which is Bertha. The ‘flung me behind him’ could well be a symbol of Rochester’s physical might but also his power over her as a male and therefore she is not equal in physicality or rights. This related to Parry and Joe’s relationship in Enduring Love. Parry ...

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