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:
‘I had silently feared St John till now, because I had not understood him. He had held me in awe, because he had held me in doubt. How much of him was saint, how much mortal, I could not heretofore tell: but revelations were being made in this conference: the analysis of his nature was proceeding before my eyes. I saw his fallibilities: I comprehended them. I understood that, sitting there where I did, on the bank of heath, and with that handsome form before me, I sat at the feet of a man, erring as I.’
The novel has an explicitly Christian finale teeming with biblical allusions. With Rivers a missionary on the verge of death and Jane married to the widowed Mr Rochester, the narrative concludes: ‘The last letter I received from him (St John) drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my heart with divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown. I know that a stranger’s hand will write to me next, to say that the good and faithful servant has been called at length into the joy of his Lord. And why weep for him? No fear of death will darken St John’s last hour: his mind will be unclouded, his heart will be undaunted, his hope will be sure, his faith steadfast.’
Bronte’s last word is a quotation from the New Testament book of Revelation: ‘Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!’
Bronte’s unashamed Christianity, combined with the beautiful writing, masterly characterisation and compelling portrayal of psychological relations between the sexes, makes Jane Eyre a superb antidote to the utopian Marxism unleashed on the world by The Communist Manifesto.
It is invaluable Christmas reading for those who rebel against the cultural Marxism engulfing the post-Christian West.