A Christmas read: Jane Eyre, the antidote to Marx

Dec 23, 2018 by

by Julian Mann, TCW:

Published in 1847, a year before The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Jane Eyre by clergyman’s daughter Charlotte Bronte is arguably the most explicitly Christian novel in 19th century English literature.

Other novels, such as those by Charles Dickens and William Thackeray, often reflect a biblically Christian worldview, but in Jane Eyre Bronte gives overt Christian instruction.

She describes the spiritual danger of breaking the Second Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image’, teaching the biblical truth that the human heart is capable of making a false god, an idol, even of God’s good gifts such as a husband or wife. Bronte has Jane – the novel’s first-person narrator – looking back on the time before her wedding to Mr Rochester was abruptly cancelled by the revelation that he already had a wife living:

‘My future husband was becoming to me my whole world: and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol.’

Bronte’s brilliant portrayal of the missionary clergyman, St John Rivers, particularly her description of his good and bad motives in the pursuit of his calling, is also highly instructive about the reality of sinful human nature in the life of the Christian. Rivers is determined that Jane Eyre should accompany him on his missionary journey to India as his wife. Bronte has Jane reflecting on her resistance to the force of his personality:

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