Parallels Essay, Research Paper
In Charlotte Bronte s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, of the Victorian period and the Romance of Tristan and Iseult, as retold by Joseph Bedier, the couples that find themselves in love are Jane Eyre with Edward Rochester, and Tristan with Iseult. Both couples face major obstacles that jeopardize or destroy their relationship. Some of the characteristics of romantic love used in these two works are suffering for one another in a variety of ways, constant thought of one another, and most vital to these particular tales, the overcoming of obstacles. The parallels between the two novels extend beyond these, but there are some obvious differences.
In both novels, the love of the two protaganists is forbidden by social obstacles, all very important. In the case of Tristan and Iseult, it is the marriage of Iseult to King Mark, and in Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester s instance, it is Edward s marriage to Bertha, his insane wife who is contained in the attic. Iseult and Mark could never be divorced, as that was not an option in feudal times. Edward and Bertha also could not be divorced, for several reasons. The only truly acceptable cause for divorce in Victorian times was infidelity. Bertha was always faithful, she only later became insane. Edward highly resents Bertha, and makes it clear. He calls her a hideous demon, a filthy burden, and a maniac, (336, 342, ch. 27) when Jane learns of his secret hiding in the attic. If Iseult resents her marriage to Mark, or Tristan resent his to Iseult of the White hands, they do not make it clear. In their case, they don t feel comtempt for their spouse s, only desire for one another outside of their marriages.
A major difference between the two is the conditions of their love. Tristan and Iseult have no choice. They consumed a potion intended for Iseult and Mark to drink together, without knowledge of its magical implications. They drank together out of thirst, but instead found Passion and Joy most sharp, and Anguish without end, and Death. (43) In the case of Jane and Rochester, it is purely by their choice that they love each other. They meet each other, learn about each other, and make the choice that they care for each other.
A parallel of small detail is an action that both men make. They both disguise themselves to serve their own purposes. In Tristan and Iseult, Iseult needs to clear her name of infidelity and to prove herself innocent, she must hold a burning hot iron and not be burned by it. Before the test, she sends for Tristan to come disguised as a pilgrim. She asked her husband Mark to have King Arthur present, so that none would doubt the validity of the exam. Arthur s camp is across a stream, and she asks to be carried, and chooses the pilgrim, actually Tristan in disguise, to carry her across the river as not to soil her gowns. Before grasping the hot iron, she declares:
Kings of Logres and of Cornwall; my lords Gawain, and Kay and Girflet, and all of you that are my warrantors, by these holy things and all the holy things of earth, I swear that no man born of woman has held me in his arms saving King Mark, my lord, and that poor pilgrim who only now took a fall, as you saw.(127)
This statement saved her from the heat of the iron, as the pilgrim was Tristan. No one
discovers him, so her exam is thought to be valid. Rochester also disguises himself. He chooses the form of a gypsy, and his purpose is not quite as important and is merely for self gain. Disguised as a gypsy, he reads the fortune of Blanche Ingram. He tells her things that she does not desire to hear about Rochester, things that imply that their love is superficial, and merely financially driven:
He must love suck a handsome, noble, witty, accomplished lady; and probably she loves him, or, if not his person, at least his purse. I know she considers the Rochester estate eligible to the last degree I would advise her blackadvised suitor to look out: if another comes, with a longer or clearer rent-roll – he s dished. (229; ch 19)
This proves to Rochester that money actually was her main purpose, and does not desire to pursue another marriage like his marriage to Bertha. That marriage was financially convenient, as Rochester was the younger son, and would not inherit the family fortune, as was Victorian marriage. There is a difference. The deception by Tristan and Iseult is necessary, as infidelity would be reason for her to be put to death. The deception by Rochester is for personal gain, as he already feels for his governess, Jane Eyre.
Another parallel is the treatment of Iseult and Jane. They both are treated as objects. Iseult s desires are of no interest to Mark, as she is a woman, and in feudal times, they were never considered important. In Jane s case, Jane feels that Rochester is playing games with her. She feels that they are equal, and, unlike Iseult confronts him:
I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had
passes through the grave, and we stood at God s feet, equal – as we are!
(281; ch. 23)
This separates Jane and Iseult in a enormous way. Jane expresses her feelings instead of hiding them. This was not normal in Victorian times, either though. Another related difference is that Jane receives an inheritance from her uncle, which turns the tables. She has no need for Rochester as provider, however, he needs her. His estate is destroyed in a fire and it leaves him blind and poor, needing Jane Eyre to look after him. He is maimed and she is not considered to be a catch. Their love for their personalities, not for their money. The two works differ by this condition also. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester find happiness. Tristan and Iseult never achieve happiness. They die in the end longing for each other. Both married to one that is not their true love, and deception by Tristan s spouse keeps them from meeting for one last time in the end.
The two works both convey characteristics of Romantic love. Tristan and Iseult both overcome many obstacles as do Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. The obstacles are not only of society, but of one another in the instance of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester, while Tristan and Iseults obstacles are mainly of society. The two couples suffer from all this for one another. The normal conclusion of romantic love is death without happiness as seen in the Romance of Tristan and Iseult. Jane and Edward, however, do find happiness with one another in the end.