Subject Jane Eyre's Trauma
Posted by AllyChang
Posted on Sun Jun 18 08:08:59 2000
From IP  

With the interest in her childhood, I found that Jane Eyre's choice of Rochester has some intriguing reasons, and these reasons should be traced back to her miserable years of childhood with the Reeds. I believe that Jane Eyre has a new identity by marrying to Rochester because she needs Rochester to be a tyrant figure for fulfilling her habitual abused needs, masochist like. Because I think Jane Eyre continues to act out her repetition-compulsion not for recovering from her traumatic experiences with John Reed but for meeting with her needs to be repressed that will bring her pleasure no longer pains or trauma. Jane Eyre unconsciously looks for a man and falls in love with the man who is similar with John Reed, so that she would feel secured through the repetition of her traumatic experience. After she meets Rochester, Jane immediately falls in love with him. It cannot be denied that she falls in love with him because of his "friendly frankness" when both of them still are strangers to each other. However, it is more confirmed to hear Jane tell her readers that the more she gets along with Rochester, the more she loves him because of his tyrannical characteristic.
Rochester indeed serves as a tyrant figure for Jane Eyre. Perhaps she is a blind lover and self-deceiving, Jane never interprets Rochester's treatments as verbal and physical violence; on the contrary, she enjoys much the love, the security, and the pleasure that Rochester brings her through the slight violence. It is surprising to see Jane choose to be so obedient to him when I, as a reader, believe so much that she must have become an independent woman after she received education and became a teacher. In the scene when both of them commit to the confirmation of their marriage, Jane explains more about how she can be quiet and talking rationally whenever he wants her to. Meanwhile, through her relationship with Rochester, Jane is willingly to receive violence rather than gentle words and behaviors. Jane needs Rochester to give her not only verbal violence but also physical abuse. To have someone with tyrannical disposition with her becomes an ineffaceable need for her. Indulged in her sweet dream, Jane loves Rochester to bring her these violent treatments. It should be understandable and not to mistakenly assume that Jane would have transformed into a dominant figure for her life.
With Jane's recollection, it must not be forgotten that "silence" and "order" are the only lessons that she could and should learn spending these years in Lowood Institution. It should not be expected that Jane would be recovered from her traumatic experiences in her childhood after she is given more lessons to teach her to be an obedient woman in school, even though she believes that "school would be a complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life." Pathetically speaking, Jane's compulsion of repression should be traced back to the earlier stage of her life--her childhood.
Jane Eyre narrates her story beginning with her miserable childhood when she is living under a frequent threat of violence from John Reed. John Reed is a "tyrant" and a "murderer" figure for Jane. She tries to characterize John Reed as a tyrant by emphasizing how often John Reed punishes her in her introduction. She recalls her memory: "He bullied and punished me: not two or three times in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually." Jane is always alert and afraid under the terror that John Reed would bring her at any moment. She tells us how helpless she is, and she has no solution to save her from the threat because her Aunt, Mrs. Reed, does not know her son is always abusing her for his own pleasure. Consequently, Jane never has a chance and permission to defense herself when John Reed makes fun on her. In order to prevent herself from more punishment, Jane Eyre had better be "habitually obedient to John Reed" and keep silence. She remembers, "Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult." In the example that Jane gives us, John Reed is a tyrant who always commands and curses her in verbal violence, and he is almost a murderer to attack Jane in physical violence. Both types of violence accompanying psychological violence impel Jane to repress herself more and more for keeping her from the danger to her life. Even she still once tries to fight back, these injuries, insult, and abuse have been transformed into her unconscious traumatic experiences implanted in her.
In this regard, Jane Eyre inevitably needs to repeat this traumatic experience transferring into a sense of pleasure according to Freud. In his "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," Freud explains that patients who have traumatic experience will be "obliged to repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience . . . remembering it as something belonging to the past." Because Freud claims that patients who have the repetition-compulsion usually would forget their traumatic event in the past, one of the purposes of psychoanalytic therapies is to break the circle of the repetition in order to let the patients remember what once exactly happened in their past. From the first person voice narratives, Jane Eyre might have forgotten to tell her readers what else more had happened before her age of ten, in the duration she might had confronted more abuse that readers can never know. I should conclude that Jane is untrustworthy for her readers because she is always aware of what she chooses to tell, but we, readers, cannot seize these stories hidden in Jane's mind either consciously or unconsciously. Nevertheless, her habitual desire for a frequent tyrannical treatment becomes crystal to be seen.

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