Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

providence Invoked: Dogmatic Form
in Jane Eyre and Robinson Crusoe

Barbara Hardy

There must be many novels where Providence is invoked to mark the successful resolution of difficulties, as in the conclusion of Smollett 's Roderick Random and Peregrine Pickle, for instance, but Defoe, both in Robinson Crusoe and other novels, uses Providence not as a convenient deus ex machina in a story of little religious interest, but as an informing principle. When we come to the nineteenth century the concept of Providence is plainly outworn and discredited, and we find Dickens, George Eliot, and Meredith defining the egocentric or mercenary character by evoking just that faith in a special Providence which is taken for granted in Defoe.Podsnap, Casaubon, and Harry Richmond are examples of faith in discredited Providence, and this devaluation has an interesting place in novels which explore the responsibility and conflict of individuals and social relations. But in one of the most interesting early Victorian novels, Jane Eyre, Providence is still very much alive. The dubious moral implication of egocentricity and material profit are gone but the formal implications remain much the same. Providence is not a dead word when used by Charlotte Brontë, and it is no accident that she wrote that Providence had decreed her marriage with Arthur Nicholls and wrote a novel which is structurally very like Robinson Crusoe. There is the same rising intonation of optimistic faith, the same pattern of prayer and answer, and a very similar intercession of dreams, portents, and

____________________
From The Appropriate Form: An Essay on the Novel. © 1964, 1970 by Barbara Hardy. Northwestern University Press, 1971.

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Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Modern Critical Interpretations *
  • Modern Critical Interpretations *
  • Modern Critical Interpretations *
  • Contents *
  • Editor's Note vii
  • Introduction 1
  • The Shape of the Novel 7
  • Providence Invoked: Dogmatic Form in Jane Eyre and Robinson Crusoe 21
  • Jane Eyre: A Marxist Study 29
  • The End of Jane Eyre and the Creation of a Feminist Myth 47
  • A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane's Progress 63
  • Jane Eyre in Search of Her Story 97
  • Dreaming of Children: Literalization in Jane Eyre 113
  • Chronology 133
  • Contributors 137
  • Bibliography 139
  • Acknowledgments 143
  • Index 145
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