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343). This same pious fellow who reports in his letter that he hears God announcing His approach is also the picture of imperial majesty, brave, stern, and exacting, and of course only working for the betterment of those he is bringing into his empire. St. John's rousing finale allows the work to finish as it almost physically completes a conquering of Jane's secular world, as well.
The celebratory nature of Jane's (and apparently Charlotte Bronte's) attitude towards imperialism is off-putting to some scholars, who find Jane Eyre and other "women's texts" to be a feminist re-appropriation of imperial ideals and mechanisms, and it must certainly be acknowledged that Jane is only able to exalt fully in this image of British dominance when she herself has found the freedom she sought and that was so long denied her as a woman (Spivak, p. 243). More important than the timing of Jane's joy, however, is the fact that the joy itself exists at all. It is perhaps easier to conduct a reading of Jane Eyre that finds fault with colonial and imperial tendencies, as the most evident struggle in the novel is Jane's struggle for her own freedom form the patriarchal and imperialistic forces of first her cousin and then Brockhurst, Rochester, and St. John. When it comes to actually spreading British Christendom, though, Jane is in full support and in fact she cannot achieve her full measure of satisfaction until this feat is underway and meeting with success. No longer the "abstraction" of herself that she was when she first encountered St. John, Rochester's love and now St. John's service and extension of her own sentiments into the heart of foreign and savage lands give her completion and concrete identity, with the latter more lasting element eclipsing even the news of her son (Marcus, 206). St. John's imperialist endeavors make Jane real, in a sense, and through his abundance of effort St. John allows her to rest or at least remain stationary in her own life, quietly cared for in England.
Even the marriages of Jane's female cousins, Diana and Mary, hint at the final imperialist bell being joyously tolled at the novel's close. The former is married to a naval officer, and at the time there could hardly be a stauncher symbol of imperialism, while the latter is married to a clergyman said to be a close friend of St. John himself, and thus certainly a friend to the cause. In both cases Jane is happy, and in fact explicitly states that she could not be as truly happy as she is were it not for these success experienced by those she is close to: "My Edward and I, then, are happy: and the more so, because those we most love are happy likewise" (p. 342). There is certainly some pure comradely sentiment here, but there is also detectable joy in the specific matches made, with one being " a gallant officer and a good man" and the other deemed "worthy of the connection" he has to St. John (p. 343). Jane's world with Rochester is a private and contained one, and it is through these larger extensions of religion and imperialism that she is made completely happy.
Jane Eyre tells the story of her own journey, but she does not end it with herself. Instead, she closes with a long remembrance of St. John, a man who represents the cold chastity Jane could not restrain herself to but also the faith and the conquering nature that Jane admires and has some level of affinity with as well. Bronte's message at the end of the novel can still be interpreted in many ways, of course, but that there is a strong sense of approval for religious and imperial progress is certain. Her admiration of St. John and the completion she and her story achieve through his efforts are telling features of the overall message of the novel.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. (1850). Accessed 4 October 2012. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/BroJanI.html
Gilbert, Sandra, & Gubar, Susan. The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.
Marcus, Sharon. "The Profession of the Author: Abstraction, advertising, and Jane Eyre." PMLA 110(2): 206-19.
Meyer, Susan. "Colonialism and the Figurative Strategy of Jane Eyre." Victorian Studies 33(2): 247-68.
Spivak, Gayatri. "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism." Critical Inquiry 12(1): 243-61.
Zonana, Joyce. "The Sultan and the Slave: Feminist Orientalism and the Structure of…[continue]
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