House Heart And Humanity English Literature Essay

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According to the Oxford English dictionary, word imprison is to put somebody in a prison or another place from which they cannot escape. Even the planet we live is a kind of prison. Imprisonment may be something you can see or touch like buildings; or maybe something you cannot see or touch like social morality. It can be something you can control or something beyond your control. It's inside of you or outside of you. It's everywhere or nowhere.

This paper will discuss two kinds of imprisonment in novels, physical imprisonment and mental imprisonment. Frankenstein sees human beings trying to control life and death and Victor Frankenstein's changing fate. Jane Eyre tells a woman's story, from childhood to marry, from Gateshead to Thornfield. And Bleak House never gets "bleak", which many people are indicted to win in Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.

Imprisonment can easily happen in buildings, which can separate "prisoners" from the outside, like the attic for Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, the ex-wife of Mr. Rochester, or the garden of Lowood where Jane have education, "surrounded with walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of prospect." [3] These buildings give "prisoners" a smaller and limited world. However, it would make the "prisoners" to calm down and reflect, such as cloisters for Christians, and caves for Buddhists.

Many physical imprisonments in novels are of this type. Mrs. Reed, Jane's aunt, shuts up Jane in the red room for she pushes down the little master John. She wants Jane to self-examine and see her fault. And it works de facto. Jane becomes scared to stay in the red room and begs her aunt, "O aunt! Have pity! Forgive me! ..." [4] This kind of physical imprisonment here represents an action of suppression. It forces the "prisoners" to surrender.

But, it is different for Bertha. She is shut up in an attic for her husband says she is mad. In the dialogues with Jane, Mr. Rochester thinks his wife is mad, "That was my Indian Messalina's attribute: rooted disgust at it and her restrained me much, even in pleasure." [5] Is it true? Is that mad for a woman? Actually, after her imprisonment in the attic, Bertha becomes aggressive. Which comes first, the imprisonment or the madness? Obviously, the attic doesn't do any good to Bertha. It cannot make Bertha to surrender to masculinism, but drives her to rebel, time and again.

On the other hand, buildings can also be used as a kind of cover from truth. The wall of Lowood Institution is very high and the children are not allowed to go out freely. It separates the little world from the outside. Outsiders don't know this, "the unhealthy nature of the site; the quantity and quality of the children's food; the brackish, fetid water used in its preparation; the pupils' wretched clothing and accommodations." [6] Till the typhus fever strikes and many children die, all those things are discovered.

It is the same for the attic. It is covered and secret. Mr. Rochester uses it to imprison his wife. Few people know there is a "mad" woman and Mr. Rochester has already married. That is why Jane is cheated in the first marrying with Mr. Rochester.

Jane is good at dealing with the relationship between herself and the physical imprisonment. In her life, she changes her living places on and on, from Gateshead to Lowood, from Thornfield to Morton School. She does not want to be imprisoned in one place and she keeps self-examining. She can make decisions for herself, of herself and by herself. When she wants to leave Lowood Institution, she talks to herself,

"What do I want? A new place, in a new house, amongst new faces, under new circumstances: I want this because it is of no use wanting anything better … There are many others who have no friends, who must look about for themselves and be their own helpers." [7] 

This shows the early feminism in the Victorian era, specifically in regard to Jane's independence and ability to make decisions for herself. As a young woman, small and of relatively low social standing, Jane encounters men during her life, of good, bad, and morally debatable character, like John Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, Mr. Rochester and St John. However, many of them, no matter their ultimate intentions, attempt to establish some kind of power and control over Jane. Jane doesn't give in. She pushes down John Reed. In Lowood, Jane rebuilds her reputation as she is said as a liar by Mr. Brocklehurst publicly. To leave Mr. Rochester and not to marry St John, Jane all decides independently.

Imprisonment in buildings can bring about reflection and self-examination, helping "prisoners" to find goodness. But too much of it can do harm as well. Whether goodness or harm, it depends on "prisoners" themselves. Richard Stone, one of the wards of Jarndyce in Beak House, is imprisoned by the big house since his first step into the house. He wants to win Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce by hook or by crook and pays the price for it.

Mental imprisonment includes the imprisonment of ego and the imprisonment of institution. Ego mediates among different sides in the psyche while institutionalization bridges individual with society.

According to Freud, the human psyche can be divided into three parts, Id, ego and super-ego. [8] In the structure, ego attempts to exact a balance between the impractical hedonism of the Id and the equally impractical social morality of the super-ego. It usually reflects most directly in a person's actions. If the Id plays more in the psyche, one may be much closer to one's desires. If the super-ego prevails, many of their moods will have to sink down.

In Frankenstein, the creature possesses a very weak super-ego because he never lives or fit in a society. He's alone in the world, and could not understand morality, customs and other things although it tries to. So in the psyche of the creature, the ego works under the Id most times. He cannot accept his appearance, body and loneliness, which develops into hatred finally. The Id drives him to kill Victor's brother, friend and wife. He does not get rid of his Id until death.

Jane cannot control her Id well either when she is young. In Lowood, after meeting Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane steps back to quarrel with her aunt. She thinks,

"Speak I must: I had been trodden on severely, and must turn: but how?" [9] 

And just after the quarrel, Jane starts to reflect,

"A child cannot quarrel with its elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled play, as I had given mine, without experiencing afterwards the pang remorse and the chill of reaction." [10] 

Before the shouting, Jane's psyche is filled with Id impulsions. After the shouting, impulses retreat and super-ego rises. So she realizes she should not do that. However, as Jane grows up, she becomes more and more skilled at dealing with this. Returning from Thornfield, Jane goes to see her sick aunt. In front of her aunt, she says,

"Love me, then, or hate me, as you will, you have my full and free forgiveness." [11] 

This is totally different comparing with Jane's words before as she quarrels with her aunt in Gateshead,

"I will never call you aunt again so long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty." [12] 

Growing up, in other words, one becomes more socialized. The super-ego becomes strong and powerful, which can control the Id effectively according to situation. The Id is natural, original and real self. Too much of it, one would be led to a journey that can never leave. Too little and it would cause one to be lost and never find passage back.

Society and culture have already existed before an individual's birth. For the newcomers, society always wants them to accept it. To survive, individuals also hope to fit into the society. Kindergartens, schools, institutions, organizations, prisons, mental hospitals and the media attempt to prepare you for it. These organizations serve as cultures and psychic prisons. [13] 

"Send me to school soon, Mrs. Reed, for I hate to live here." [14] Jane thinks school may be a better place for her than Gateshead. But in Mr. Brocklehurst's eyes, school has different meaning,

"I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and sobriety." [15] 

In the Victorian era, Britain starts its industrialization and urbanization. More labors are demanded in factories. Children ask less pay and are accepted by factory bosses. In poor families, children are often sent to work as trainees in factories by their parents. In some schools, many children even work without any pay. In the time, laboring is thought one of necessary subjects children must learn. From this kind of expectation, school aims to teach children to labor and become used and proper to labor. [16] 

As Mr. Brocklehurst says, another purpose of education in Lowood Institution is to mortify the lusts of flesh in the girls, to teach them shame-facedness and sobriety. In the time, the Enlightenment was going on. According to Kant, Enlightenment is man's leaving his self-caused immaturity; immaturity is the incapacity to use one's intelligence without the guidance of another. However, education in Lowood, de facto, is putting a kind of immaturity on these girls. Mr. Brocklehurst tries to make the girls tell right from wrong. But, is the right right? Is the wrong wrong?

These girls would go out to work as governess, maid, etc. Their occupations decide what they have to be. They should be "fair ladies" and "hard-working" as they learn in school. These girls would be wives, too. Then they are taught to mortify their lusts. However, occupations and roles are produced by the society. School education is served as a tool of society to produce members according to its demand.

The girls are taught to be real girls in the Lowood Institution according to the expectations of contemporary British society. Jane learns religion, house work skills, etiquettes, French, drawing and some other knowledge and practices. This really helps in her psyche. After the regeneration of Lowood Institution, new regulations and more benefactors, Jane admits that "I bear my testimony to its (Lowood Institution) values and importance." [17] 

Compared with Jane, Helen has a heavy institutionalization, especially in religion, such as "I believe God is good…god is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me." [18] Under strong institutional influence, Helen's Id is suppressed. So she always blames herself, "I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault." [19] 

Victor in Frankenstein goes to University of Indolstadt. There, he meets professors and "reads with adour those works … attended the lectures and cultivated the acquaintance of the men of science of the university…" [20] All these arouses Victor's ambitions, "chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose … I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation." [21] But Victor never knows, he is imprisoned by this over his life and unable to return.

In addition, judicial system is also a kind of institution, in which people play games according to certain rules. Dickens has made it so clear in Bleak House. Mr. Tulkinghorn tries to extort money from Mrs. Dedlock and pays his life finally. The litigation, consuming years and lots in court costs, is emblematic of the failure of Chancery. A good institution may promote welfare and development of individuals. On the contrary, it may bring evil, misfortune, suffering and grief.

In life, one could not escape from imprisonment, no matter physical or mental. Physical imprisonment forces "prisoners" to rethink and self-examine and sometimes it can also cover truth. Mental imprisonment comes from the psyche, institutionalization and socialization. Here in Jane Eyre, Jane's struggle from the imprisonment sees the start of feminism, to use one's intelligence without the guidance of another.