JANE EYRE AND ROCHESTER: SOUL- MATES IN SEARCH OF THEIR ESSENTIAL
by Orah Rosenblatt
"Come Baby find me,
Come Baby remind me
Of where I once begun;
Come Baby show me,
Show me you know me,
Tell me you're the one....
It's like my whole life never happened
When I'm with you, as if I've never had a thought;
I know this dream It might be crazy,
But it's the only one I've got...."
(Bob Dylan, "Emotionally Yours")
Each of us carries within us the seed
of a unique plant. When circumstances conspire to caringly nourish
that seed in the manner most appropriate to its true nature--
circumstances which, sadly, are as rare as they are fortunate--the
germ of our original selves is likely to flourish. When, however,
this tender seed receives attention which is insufficient or
antithetical to its essential inclination, growth is inevitably
blighted in some way. Weaker or more sensitive seedlings may
wither outright; others will be irreparably stunted. Stronger
plants may yet grow to imposing heights, but they will be bent
and twisted at the places where their needs were unmet, and
may well feel eternally compelled to somehow loosen the knot
of those deforming deprivations, so as to come closer to their
originally intended shapes: Jane Eyre and Rochester are two
such plants; driven by an indomitable will to find and follow
their essential selves, they discover in each other a vital
key to the realization of that end.
As every conscientious parent knows,
a child needs both roots--love and security--and wings--belief
in, and encouragement of, his autonomy--in order to mature.
While gifted with the latter--the drive for self-realization
previously mentioned--Jane and Rochester have been severely
deprived of the foundation of the former. They are both outsiders.
The identities they have succeeded in forging for themselves
thus have a quality of rare integrity, for they primarily have
come from within, not from the outer prompting to please and
emulate others. At the same time, these characters lack the
sense of security and connectedness which is the vital prop
of such gifts. When the two meet, that "mysterious chemistry
[which] usually links partners who are virtually psychological
twins" (Napier and Whitaker, The Family Crucible, p.
116) enables them to quickly recognize their kinship, the great
strength and intense neediness both share. The bond forged between
them serves as a dual link for both--back to the sense of belonging
which both lacked In their most impressionable years, and forward
to the recognition and realization of their individual true
That one must frequently go back in
order to move ahead is a principle well known in both religion
and psychology. In Judaism, the word teshavah means both
repentance and return. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, an early nineteenth
century sage, stresses the theme of "descents" and "ascents":
Each time one wishes to rise to a new stage of spiritual development,
one is generally forced to descend first, in order to reclaim
the "lost sparks" of potential holiness buried in the "excrement"
of prior confusion and misdeeds (Nachman of Breslov, M'Shivath
Hefesh). The radical psychotherapist R. D. Laing calls this
process "regression" and "progression": If the schizophrenic
wishes to spend hours staring at a blank wall, well, then he
should be encouraged to do so; he will eventually break through;
after all, when Zen monks do it it's called the search for enlightenment
(R. D, Laing, The Voice of Experience).
In many ways, Jane appears to be further
advanced than Rochester in this inner work of regression/progression.
In part, this may be due to the early spiritual guidance of
the saintly Helen Burns. We see evidence of Jane's increased
maturity and compassion in the objective, forgiving way she
re-encounters, and masters, those demons of her childhood, the
Reeds. Jane has apparently come far in healing the wounds of
her old bitterness and anger; this letting go of old grievances
is essential if she is to move on and grow. Other events and
characters in this novel similarly test Jane's ability to confront
situations reminiscent of childhood conflicts, where she must
weather a threatened loss of self in order to emerge with that
self chastened, strengthened and renewed. During the three days
she spends homeless and hungry after fleeing from Rochester,
she re-experiences the utter aloneness and rootlessness of her
early years yet retains her faith in G-d's will; rescued by
the Rivers family, she is rewarded by Providence with the elevating
discovery of a true kinship--in blood as well as spirit such
as she has always longed for but never before known.
Her relationships with both Rochester
and St. John Rivers involve Jane in the regression of sexual
self- surrender, threatening the immersion of her hard-won identity
in theirs. Her refusal to be Rochester's pseudo-wife constitutes
Jane's triumph in her most crucial spiritual test, as she makes
the wrenching choice between her idolatrous love for him and
her belief in G-d. Though her bond with Rochester provides her
hardest trial, it also gives her the clarity and strength to
successfully avoid what would have been another, probably fatal,
snare to her self development--the marriage proposal of St.
John Rivers. St. John, too, is stamped with an inviolate integrity
of self, but he sees Jane solely as an instrument for his own
ends and acknowledges only those parts of her nature which dovetail
with his own designs. It is because she has experienced Rochester's
sincere, if flawed, love and appreciation, that Jane is able
to recognize the inadequacy and destructiveness of this proffered
Rochester, while yearning for what
is good, honest and pure, and attracted to those redemptive
qualities in Jane, must overcome the hubris and narcissistic
self-indulgence which has goaded him into self-idolatry, placing
the gratification of his own desires above the will of G-d.
In his regressive flirtation with Blanche Ingram, reminiscent
of his initial attraction to Bertha and his various mistresses,
he re-confirms his preference for inner, rather than outer,
beauty in a mate. His desertion by Jane and the subsequent loss
of his arm and eyesight return Rochester to a state of alienation
and despair from which only humility and belief in G-d can redeem
him. In the end, by placing G-d first in their lives and accepting
His chastisement, both Jane and Rochester are rewarded by reunion
with one another, their separate salvations of self crowned
by the redemption of re- unification on a higher level. The
sense of acceptance and belonging which they experience with
one another, and the recognition each feels for long-denied
facets of the other's true nature--Rochester for Jane's passion,
Jane for Rochester's yearning for honesty and goodness--has
helped both to re-connect with their original essential selves.
Because the love between Jane and Rochester--despite
its darker, inevitable element of power struggle--is rooted
in this recognition of, and respect for, each other's true selves.
I found the final felicitous resolution of their relationship
to be satisfying and acceptable, and was even able to wink and
overlook the improbable and melodramatic route that resolution
took (though I do wish it could have been reached without the
taint of Rochester's disempowerment). There is something moving
and beautiful about these two people, indefatigably reaching
for love: like two trees in a dense, dark forest, bending, twisting
and inter-twining to reach an aperture of warm, bright sunlight,
more beautiful to my mind than their unblemished brothers.
CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS IN WUTHERING HEIGHTS
By Marsha Beitchman
Our view of nature as a force
in need of taming goes hack to prehistoric times when our ancestors
recognized the need, for their own survival and the continuation
of the species, to gain some control over themselves and their
environment. Paleolithic man was but a small figure in a vast
landscape and surely felt a strong sense of vulnerability in
regards to the overwhelming odds he faced. Artifacts dating
back to this period indicate man's efforts to understand, placate
and hopefully subdue the often hostile yet profoundly awe inspiring
forces of nature. From these attempts evolved a system of alliances
and codes for interaction that we know as civilization.
Civilization is based on cooperation.
Its success depends on individuals working together for the
welfare of the group. It requires a balance between our instinctual
needs and desires and the demands placed on us by society. But
not all individuals perform in ways that promote the general
welfare, nor do all of us share equally in the benefits that
civilization claims to offer.
The powerful forces that reside
within us are related to the elemental forces of nature. Civilization
does not transcend or eliminate the underlying violence within
each of us, it sublimates it and attempts to direct it into
socially acceptable outlets. Unfortunately, in the name of justice
and self preservation, civilized man has been known to commit
Wuthering Heights is an
attempt to understand and reconcile those natural forces within
us with the expectations of society. Heathcliff is an example
of the effects of cruelty, deprivation and alienation that are
the by products of civilization. His brutality is a direct result
of his having been denied the fundamental need for nurturing
that children thrive on. Abandoned as a child, uncared for and
unloved, he was left to fend for himself in what must have seemed
a hostile and frightening world. Constant rejection and humiliation
stimulated his desire for revenge. Having been rejected he in
turn rejects the system that spawned him and he sets out to
destroy it. He attempts to turn the cruelty he experienced back
on those whom he feels have wronged him and thereby relieve
his own suffering. He substitutes hate for love, violence for
peace, and disorder for harmony. He brutally separates those
whom he considers his enemies from their comforts and security,
their honor, and finally from those for whom they care. Unable
to accept the need to control and modify his passions as a means
of partaking in the love and acceptance he craves, his efforts
leave him lonely and tormented. He finds himself no closer to
the retribution for the love he lost nor the peace of mind for
which he desperately longed.
Heathcliff was an exile and an
outsider from the first. On his arrival at Wuthering Heights,
Nelly describes him as dirty and ragged, of unknown origins
and speaking gibberish. He is immediately regarded as a source
of discord. Catherine's reaction is to spit in his face and
Nelly leaves him in the hall overnight in the hope that he will
disappear. Hindley loses no time in expressing his disdain for
Heathcliff; bitterly resenting his father's alienation of affection
in favor of his "imp of Satan," he persecutes Heathcliff relentlessly.
Hindley's treatment of Heathcliff, in Nelly's opinion, was "enough
to make a fiend of a saint." In spite of this adversity Nelly
remembers Heathcliff as "the gentlest child that was ever watched
over... as uncomplaining as a lamb."
Heathcliff's relation with Catherine
was the only comfort he had. They formed a bond that enabled
them to endure the harsh treatment they were subjected to by
Hindley after the death of old Earnshaw, when Hindley became
master of Wuthering Heights and vindictively reduced Heathcliff
to the status of a servant. Turning to each other, Heathcliff
and Catherine found acceptance and understanding and they became
inseparable until the incident at Thrushcross Grange. It is
here that they get their first taste of the beauty and luxury
of cultured life. Catherine is immediately accepted but Heathcliff
horrifies the Lintons by his appearance and his manners. They
call him a thief and a gypsy, "a wicked boy at all events and
quite unfit for a decent house," and Isabella wants the "frightful
thing" to be put in the cellar.
Heathcliff returns alone to Wuthering
Heights and spends five lonely weeks there while he awaits Catherine's
return. However, on her arrival he perceives an alteration in
her attitude toward him. When the young Lintons visit the following
day, already feeling a sense of rejection for his untamed ways
in favor of the civilized life at the Grange, Heathcliff takes
offense at a condescending remark of Edgar's and he sets off
a crisis that concludes with Heathcliff's banishment from the
festivities. He feels frustration at his inability to compete
with Edgar, and he is furious at Hindley's humiliating treatment,
so he begins to plot his revenge. His anger is further aroused
when he overhears Catherine's plans to marry Edgar and, overwhelmed
by what he interprets as her abandonment of him, he impetuously
flees the moors.
On his return, several years
later, Heathcliff discovers that Catherine has in fact married
Edgar Linton. He grows more vindictive and morose. The more
pain he feels, the more sinister he becomes. He marries Isabella
only to torment Edgar, his rival. He destroys what little there
is left of Hindley and he takes on the `education' of young
Hareton. With Catherine's death Heathcliff's anger and frustration
peak and his behavior verges on madness. He is unable to consider
a life without his beloved. He is incapable of being consoled
and he turns before Nelly into a savage beast. He is consumed
with an unspeakable sadness and in desperation he retreats from
reality. He is driven on by the desire to revenge his loss and
alleviate his pain. In this state of mind Heathcliff forces
the marriage of his son Linton and young Cathy and in doing
so his efforts to destroy Edgar are finally achieved. Shortly
after young Linton succumbs to the brutal treatment he found
at his father's hand. But Heathcliff's obsession with Catherine
never ceases. For the eighteen years that followed her death
he saw her image everywhere, just out of his reach. He confides
to Nelly that "the entire world is a dreadful collection of
memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her." Her
physical appearance is reflected in the faces of young Cathy
and Hareton, who eventually find consolation in each other.
Their love is so painful a reminder to Heathcliff he can longer
abide their presence and he withdraws into his own world. Close
to death he makes a final desperate but unanswered plea for
compassion and with this last rejection he dies a broken hearted
and tormented soul. With Heathcliff's death order returns to
Wuthering Heights, and with the union of Cathy and Hareton comes
a rebirth of the ideals of peace and harmony on which civilization
There can be no doubt as to Heathcliff's
inhuman brutality and the deliberate pain and destruction he
causes to those he despises. He is not alone, however, in his
cruelty. As old Joseph says, there is something of the other
in all of us, and with few exceptions the characters in this
novel share to some extent a degree of self absorbing pride
and a disdain for what they consider to be threats to their
own security and happiness that proves to be destructive.
It is interesting to note one
of the cruelest scenes in the novel is Lockwood's dream, in
which he savagely drags the arm of Catherine's ghost over the
broken window pane as she pleads for help. Lockwood has been
treated rudely by his hosts earlier in the evening and his suppression
of the fear and anger aroused by his humiliation is brutally
awakened in his dream. Beneath Lockwood's civilized demeanor
lies the brutality that Heathcliff is unable or unwilling to
In Edgar Linton we find a sheltered,
pampered and indulged youngster who grows into a rather self
satisfied man, dependent on others for his own protection. His
wealth, education and position bring him security, comfort and
respect, but his seclusion gives him a limited understanding
of the feelings and needs of those less fortunate than he. Edgar
has mastered the superficial graces of civilized life but he
is snobbish and often insensitive to those he feels threatened
by, and his claims to superiority are offensive and cruel. Edgar's
hatred and jealousy of Heathcliff are at first subdued by Catherine.
But the knowledge that the "low ruffian," whose "presence is
a moral poison that would contaminate the most virtuous," has
a hold on his wife, leads Edgar to strike Heathcliff with the
violence and brutality that Nelly says would have leveled a
slighter man. Hastily retreating from the scene he leaves his
armed servants to eject the "offensive blackguard." Neither
his education nor his civilized upbringing could restrain his
passion and in his effort to separate Heathcliff and Catherine
he deals the blow that leads to her illness and finally to her
Edgar's condemnation of Isabella
is equally tyrannical. He regards his sister's marriage to Heathcliff
as the act of a traitor and he selfishly abandons her without
a second thought. She is even excluded from Catherine's funeral
and is forced to live out her days separated from her family
and he friends. Only on her death does Edgar show her any compassion.
In young Linton Heathcliff we
also see signs of self indulgence and insensitivity to others.
He whines and complains at the merest provocation. Frail and
timid he is unable to withstand Heathcliff's onslaught and the
harshness of the Heights itself. He selfishly and cowardly entraps
Cathy in his father's scheme and unsympathetically sides with
Heathcliff, who torments her. He looks forward to his uncle's
death when he would become master of Thrushcross Grange, a dream
that would never be fulfilled.
Ironically it is young Cathy
that remains at young Linton's side until his death. She and
Hareton are the sole survivors of Heathcliff's rage. They alone
are able to accept and transcend their differences. They grow
to love and respect one another and thereby find the balance
needed to reestablish the peace and harmony that eluded their
Civilization exacts a price from
its members. Some individuals, for reasons intrinsic to society
itself, pay more dearly than others. They become unwilling or
unable to abide by its rules! They allow themselves to be governed
by their fears and their passions and commit acts that lead
to a breakdown in the social system. Students of psychology
recognize that those who are made miserable tend to make others
miserable. Heathcliff represents the anger and cruelty that
can be produced by a system that claims superiority over untamed
nature but can often be just as brutal and inhumane.
HUCK FINN'S HERO JOURNEY
by Janet House
In his book The Hero With
a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell sets forth his theory
that there is a monomyth which underlies all folk tales, myths,
legends and even dreams.* Reflected in the tales of all cultures,
including Chinese, Hindu, American Indian, Irish and Eskimo,
this monomyth takes the form of a physical journey which the
protagonist (or hero) must undergo in order to get to a new
emotional, spiritual and psychological place. The monomyth is
a guide which integrates all of the forces of life and provides
a map for living.
Campbell breaks down the cycle
into three main stages: departure, initiation and return. Within
these three stages are five to six steps through which the hero
moves. First, the hero must leave his world and undertake a
journey into an unknown world, in effect losing himself and
descending into death. Next, he undergoes a series of tests,
assisted by various helpers, which can be very dangerous and
threatening. These tests serve as guideposts in his journey,
and from each the hero learns something which helps to move
him along. Finally, the hero reaches the apex of his journey,
where there*is an apotheosis or transcendence. The hero, having
evolved and emerged into his best possible self, must return
home carrying with him his new found knowledge or boon to restore
First, Huck as the hero is not
of noble birth whereas most of Campbell's protagonists are princes,
princesses or divinely chosen in some way. While Huck Finn is
special, he is, nevertheless, an ordinary American boy which
other American boys can identify with. Secondly, magic and the
supernatural play an important role in the tales Campbell uses
to illustrate the hero cycle. In The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn, however, there is no magic. There is luck, coincidence
(at times highly unlikely coincidence), but there is no magic
or supernatural. This again brings the story to a level that
Americans can identify with. Finally, Huck's return is of a
different nature than the traditional journey which reflects
a particularly American ideal.
Huck Finn's adventure begins
when he sees his father's footprint in the snow. Up to this
point, Huck describes his daily, routine life, but the footprint
signals a change. Huck's father functions, therefore, as the
herald signaling the call to adventure by "the crisis of his
appearance" (Campbell, 51). As Campbell states:
The herald or announcer of the adventure is often
dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the world; yet
if one could follow, the way would be opened through the walls
of day into the dark where the jewels glow (Campbell, 53).
Huck's father is portrayed as dark (morally, not physically),
loathly, terrifying and he is indeed judged evil by the world,
but it also he who precipitates Huck's journey.
When Huck's father moves him into
the woods, Huck is in the first stages of his journey. He is away
from all that is familiar to him and the longer Huck remains in
the woods, the more he adjusts to the ways of life there. He cannot
imagine going back to civilization, wearing stiff clothes, minding
his manners and all the other ways he has acquired living with
the Widow Douglas. According to Campbell, this alienation from
his previous life is part of the cycle:
The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old
concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the
time for the passing of a threshold is at hand (Campbell, 51).
Huck's next step in his journey
is what Campbell calls "The Belly of the Whale": "The hero . .
. is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died"
(Campbell, 90 ). In order to proceed, the hero must leave his
world totally and die into himself in order to be reborn again.
He must relinquish his ties with this world in order to attain
a higher level of existence, which is the purpose of his journey.
Because Huck fears for his safety,
he realizes that he must leave the woods. Yet he does not want
to return to his previous life. Therefore, he elaborately stages
his own death, planning every detail carefully so that everyone
will think he is dead and will not, therefore, look for him and
bring him back to the existence he has outgrown. This "self-annihilation"
is absolutely crucial for the journey.
After his "death," Huck floats
down to Jackson's Island and spends three days and three nights
by himself (reinforcing the theme of death and rebirth) before
the next stage of his journey. Here, Huck meets up with Jim who
is what Campbell refers to as "Supernatural Aid":
The first encounter of the hero-journey is with a
protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who
provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces
he is about to pass (Campbell, 69).
The fact that the aid often comes
from a little old crone or an old man suggests that it comes from
someone whom society does not value. To have someone whom society
does not value provide essential elements to the journey is ironic.
As the provider of "supernatural aid" to Huck, Jim, a 19th century
black man, is not valued in human terms by his society. Indeed,
he is not even thought of as human, which further heightens this
While Jim does not literally provide
Huck with amulets against the dragon forces, figuratively, he
does. As Campbell states: "what such a figure represents is the
benign, protecting power of destiny" (Campbell, 71). Jim cares
for and protects Huck, nurtures him and loves him, both mothers
and fathers him, calling him "honey" and watching out for his
safety. Most importantly, however, Jim provides Huck with a belief
in humanity, where all along the river Huck sees evidence of man's
corruption and cruelty. This belief is the amulet with which with
Huck will fight off the "dragon forces," those forces being man's
inhumanity to man.
The Crossing of the First Threshold
comes after Huck has learned that two men are on their way to
the island. Up to this point, Jim and Huck exist in a kind of
limbo, both having escaped their previous lives, but not going
forward. At this point, they must move. Jim risks being captured
and sold; Huck risks a return to the life he has outgrown. They
must cross the threshold into the region of the unknown. Although
this crossing is dangerous, the hero must move beyond it in order
to enter a "new zone of experience" (Campbell, 82).
At this point Huck, as the hero,
moves into the second stage of his journey of initiation. It is here
where he encounters the Road of Trials:
Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves
in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where
he must survive a succession of trials . . . . The hero is covertly
aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural
helper whom he met before his entrance into this region.
These trials are tests for the hero which he must overcome in
order to move forward in his journey. They serve as guideposts
along the way, reflecting his progress and growth. By surviving
these trials, the hero moves to a point of transcendence. The
purpose of the trials is to gain some kind of knowledge or insight
which the hero needs in order to complete his journey. This leads
to the question: what is the purpose of Huck's journey? Every
episode along the river in some way illustrates man's inhumanity
to man. Meeting every walk of life, Huck's confrontation with
this world illustrates cruelty and corruption of some kind. While
some characters are obviously corrupt (the king and the duke,
for example), all characters are tainted somehow. Even the most
charitable characters--the woman Huck meets while dressed as a
girl, the Grangerfords, the Phelps, Mary Jane--are tainted by
their attitudes toward blacks or towards other people in general.
However, Huck's exposure to society's corruption is balanced by
the kindness he receives from certain people and by the humanity
he learns from Jim.
As a product of his society, Huck
believes in slavery and also believes he is doing wrong by protecting
Jim. But Huck comes to see Jim's own humanity through their friendship.
Jim tells Huck that he is the best and only friend he has, the
only white man who has kept his promise to him. Jim's belief in
Huck's goodness is essential to Huck's physical as well as psychological
journey. This relationship teaches Huck about caring for another
human being in the face of ubiquitous cruelty. This is the more
elevated purpose of Huck's journey. Huck learns the techniques
for humane survival--how to exist in the cruel world and not be
corrupted by it.
Huck's trials finally come to a
crisis when the king and the duke are attempting to swindle the
Wilks girls out of their inheritance. Up until this point, Huck
has remained rather passive with regard to their antics. Disgusted
by their behavior, however, Huck exclaims: "It was enough to make
a body ashamed of the human race" (Twain, 285). He decides that
he must take some action and his dilemma is over how to help the
girls. Previously, Huck has lied to survive but here he realizes
that his best option may be to tell the truth. This is a moment
of transcendence for Huck as he rises above his experience of
the past and takes a chance in telling the truth: "here's a case
where I'm blest if it don't look to me like the truth is better,
and actually safer, than a lie" (Twain, 299).
This test also melds with what
Campbell calls "The meeting With the Goddess." Because Huck is
only a boy, there will be no "mystical marriage" with the "Universal
Mother," the "incarnation of the promise of perfection." This
is not to be a part of Huck's journey. Yet Mary Jane does inspire
Huck. He finds her beautiful and it is because of her that he
risks telling the truth and, consequently, he reaches a new level.
It is obvious that she has a positive effect on him which propels
him in his journey. Huck's description as he flees the cemetery
and passes her house reveals this:
[M]y heart swelled up sudden, like to bust; and the
same second the house and all was behind me in the dark, and
wasn't ever going to be before me no more in this world. She
was the best girl I ever see and had the most sand (Twain, 309).
For Campbell, the Apotheosis occurs
when the hero is raised to the level of the gods. It is a divine
state which the hero attains after proving himself through his
trials. Because this story is not about gods or mythic figures,
Huck's apotheosis is reflected through his transcendence over
his dilemma about Jim. Huck really believes he is doing wrong
by helping Jim because of what he has learned in society. He even
writes a letter to Miss Watson, revealing Jim's location. But
Huck begins to think about Jim and his kindness, loyalty and friendship.
He must choose between listening to the voice of society or his
inner voice, which values Jim. He cannot violate the connection
he has with Jim. However, because Huck really believes he is doing
wrong by society's standards, it is a true moment of transcendence
for him when he declares: "All right, then, I'll go to hell" (Twain,
309). Rising above the conventions and the level of society around
him, Huck has attained a higher moral consciousness.
The next stage in Huck's journey
is The Return. After deciding to help Jim, Huck finds himself
at the Phelps' farm, where they mistake him for their nephew,
Tom Sawyer. This is the beginning of the "Crossing of the Return
Threshold" because Huck is now back in a world which directly
connects to the world he left behind.
Tom and Huck's attempt to rescue
Jim is "The Magic Flight." This is the last test, one of the purposes
of Huck's journey being to free Jim. Campbell states that the
Magic Flight can often become a "lively, often comical, pursuit
. . . complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion"
(Campbell, 197). Again, the story does not involve magic, but
the attempt to rescue Jim otherwise fits Campbell's description
(even if the obstructions are for the most part created by Tom).
Something interesting happens with
the appearance of Tom. Huck has always looked up to Tom as the
standard by which he measures himself. Yet Huck has been on a
journey which has raised him above that standard. Curiously, when
Tom reappears, Huck recedes, becoming passive. On the first reading,
this section comes across as digressive from the normal hero cycle
(and somewhat disjointed). It seems out of place with Huck's progression.
But it can be reevaluated as a part of Huck's journey in that
it serves to heighten the disparity between the two boys and,
in doing so, we see Huck's growth.
Huck still looks up to Tom, but
he is not like Tom and does not use Tom as his model. He even
calls Tom ridiculous and foolish, which is very different from
his attitude towards Tom in the opening pages of the book where
Tom is someone admired and respected. In this section, we see
by comparison to Huck how conventional, ordinary, unimaginative
and even cruel Tom is. All of Tom's ideas come from books; Huck
develops his ideas himself. Tom's idea of style is to make his
plans as complicated as possible and take as long as possible;
Huck's solutions are always straight forward, simple and reveal
his common sense. Tom even plays a trick on the slave who serves
Jim which is reminiscent of the trick that Huck plays on Jim after
the fog episode. However, at this point in his journey, Huck would
never do this.
Sometimes the hero is unable to
return on his own. At this point, the "Rescue From Without" occurs:
The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural
adventure by assistance from without. That is to say, the world
may have to come and get him (Campbell, 207).
Huck is indeed rescued from without by the Phelps, Tom and Aunt
Polly. In an unlikely coincidence, they all appear as a deus ex
machina whose appearance isn't logical but serves to bring Huck
Huck's return is complete when
the Phelps discover his identity and Huck learns that Jim is free.
Huck also learns that his father is dead (releasing him from that
legacy) and he still has his $6,000. There is a resurrection of
his old self. Here, however, Huck's return digresses from the
normal cycle. Campbell states: "the returning hero, to complete
his adventure, must survive the impact of the world" (Campbell,
226). It is hard to say whether Huck accomplishes this.
The monomythic hero, after attaining
the Ultimate Boon, returns to his community and bestows his wisdom
and knowledge for the good the "kingdom of humanity." Huck will
not return to the Widow Douglas and he will not stay with the
Phelps. He rejects their world and he doesn't want to be civilized.
It seems as if he can't survive the impact of the world.
But rather than a failed hero journey,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reflects a particularly
American hero quest, the individualistic man going west, with
all the inherent dangers involved, a pioneer taming and settling
the land. Rather than returning for his old world, Huck's quest
is to explore new territories.
* Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1973). All further references to
this work appear in parentheses in the text.
** Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in
The American Tradition in Literature, ed. George Perkins,
et al. (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990). All
further references to this work appear in parentheses in the
THE VERLOCS AT THEIR FINAL ENCOUNTER
The Verloc murder scene depicts
the reactions of two people to a crisis situation. It is a significant
scene in terms of revealing basic personality traits and in
terms of highlighting the fragmentation that exists in the Verloc
marriage. Conrad makes obvious that the Verlocs perceive their
marital roles in fundamentally different ways and that they
are really strangers to each other. The black veil covering
Winnie's face is merely the outward symbol of the secrecy and
mystery pervading the Verloc household. Significantly, when
Verloc pulls the veil away, he doesn't succeed in "unmasking
a still unreadable face" (p. 211).
As this scene of betrayal and
retribution unfolds, we see a husband and wife who are totally
out of tune with each other's emotions and thoughts. Verloc
is thoroughly enveloped in domestic considerations at precisely
the time that Winnie psychologically disengages herself from
any commitment to him. In progressive stages, Winnie perceives
herself as being "a free woman" (p. 209), fears that Verloc
will "want to keep her for nothing" (p. 211), and finally resolves
that "the bargain" is "at an end" (p. 215). Verloc, on the other
hand, strives to "make it up with her" (p. 215) and can't begin
to imagine "that his wife could give him up" (p. 211). The height
of irony is achieved when Verloc seeks to "woo" Winnie as she
moves toward him with the carving knife.
It becomes clear that Winnie
has looked upon the marriage as a transaction, and that Stevie's
welfare has been the basis for that transaction. In return for
Verloc's support of Stevie, Winnie has been a dutiful wife.
Verloc, however, genuinely believes that he is and has been
"loved for himself" (p. 214). Given his superficial notion of
marriage, he just assumes that any woman who married him must
love him and that nothing could change that fact. Therefore,
although the "bargain" has been brutally terminated for Winnie,
Verloc has no conception of this and his main concern remains
the maintenance of his domestic tranquility.
Indeed, Verloc's thorough domesticity
is prevalent throughout this scene. His response to what he
considers to be Winnie's "sulking in that dreadful overcharged
silence" (p. 213) is that she's "a master in that domestic art"
(p. 213). Conrad describes Verloc as being "tired" and "resigned
in a truly marital spirit" (p. 213) and even refers to his voice
as a "domestic voice" (p. 212). Also, it is implicit that Verloc
perceives his situation as being comparable to that of "peaceful
men in domestic tiffs" (p. 212). His total domesticity leads
him to draw simplistic, familiar conclusions and colors his
reading of Winnie's response. Beyond that, however, his preoccupation
with his domestic self-image is so strongly stressed here, that
we have to assume that it has colored much of his activity in
general and that it is very central to his personality structure.
(Thus, it is a final irony that he should be murdered by his
wife and with a domestic knife.)
Verloc is so totally preoccupied
with his own concerns and is so shallow and insensitive, that
he doesn't begin to comprehend the horror of his action or the
shattering effect it has had on Winnie. Verloc is portrayed
as being emotionally flat in this scene. He undergoes no inner
or outer turmoil and there's no sense of vitality about him.
Here is a man who faces his wife after causing her brother to
be blown to bits, and we get no sense of any intensity of feeling
from him. He manifests no remorse--just regret that things didn't
work out according to plan--and instead concentrates on self-justifications.
His main sensation seems to be fatigue and we get a sense of
his indolence as his lies sprawled across the couch. Conrad
adds his usual ironic touch by having Verloc meet his death
lying motionlessly: he dies, as he has lived, in a state of
Winnie, on the other hand, is
described as one "whose moral nature had been subjected to a
shock of which, in the physical order, the most violent earthquake
of history could only be a faint and languid rendering" (p.
210). That analogy describes the magnitude of her emotional
upheaval, and lies in sharp contrast to Verloc's unfeeling and
inert state. A dichotomy exists, however, between Winnie's internal
turmoil and her quiet exterior. The two are fragmented and out
of tune with each other. She doesn't scream or get hysterical.
All the activity is internal. Outwardly she remains inscrutable
and uncommunicative and she retains tight control on any show
of emotion. We get a picture here of a woman who has a very
intense emotional capacity, but who, characteristically, keeps
her feelings locked tightly within her.
For a short while, Winnie does
attain a harmonious state. A change comes over her appearance
as she moves toward Verloc with the carving knife in her hand.
She takes on Stevie's facial expressions and Conrad writes that
"the resemblance of her face with that of her brother grew at
every step, even to the droop of the lower lip, even to the
slight divergence of the eyes" (p. 215). This may reflect the
strong hold that Stevie still has over his sister. But more
significantly, I think, it unmasks the cold, dispassionate facade
that Winnie has learned to present. As she commits the murder,
Winnie becomes a total creature of passion and the fragmentation
between her interior and exterior states disappears. She becomes
like Stevie who has an instinctive emotional reaction to an
injustice and who must move to correct it. For a few moments,
her veil of restraint falls away.
Conrad describes Winnie as being
"capable of a bargain the mere suspicion of which would have
been infinitely shocking to Mr. Verloc's idea of love" (p. 213).
This description reflects the different expectations the Verlocs
have from marriage and how little they know about each other.
They live in their separate worlds, are guided by different
and unspoken motivations, and seek to have their own needs fulfilled
through their marriage. Neither seems concerned or even aware
that the other has needs and priorities too. Each seems to view
marriage through a tunnel vision--only aware of his or her own
The Verlocs remain isolated from
each other and unable to communicate until the very end. Even
when the truth stares them in the face, the Verlocs remain oblivious
to it. Winnie gives no sign of comprehension when Verloc tells
her that she shares responsibility for what's happened. Verloc
never shows the slightest understanding of Winnie or the reason
for her violent response. Even when the knife is upon him, the
only explanation this man can conjure up is that his wife has
"gone raving mad" (p. 216). The Verloc marriage is enveloped
in secrecy and misunderstandings. Using progressive strokes
of irony, Conrad depicts the destructive nature and tragic consequences
of a relationship based on hidden motives and cross-purposes.