Themes of Desire in Victorian Literature

The representation of desire and the repression of desire is an essential form and convention in Victorian Literature. Contrary to the popular notion of ‘prudish Victorians’ the following texts represent symbols and ideas of desire and its repression. Accordingly, I will be examining the following texts; Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847); Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) and Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market (1862). Throughout this essay, I will be discussing the representation of desire and the repression of desire within these fictional texts. Throughout I will be considering the various social, religious and gender influences on the Victorian texts.

Firstly, the representation of desire in Jane Eyre contrasts various degrees of sexualities in both genders, but mainly female desire and sexuality. There is an explicit juxtapose between the figure of composed, strong-willed Jane, and the feral and undomesticated nature of Bertha Mason. Bertha is the image of ‘untamed’ condemned sexuality. Bertha is described as being ‘like some strange wild animal () grizzled hair, wild as a mane’ (Bronte, 290) with ‘virile force’ (Bronte, 290). An image of a deranged, licentious femme fatale.However, there are many who contradict this stated difference in sexuality between Jane and Bertha. Bertha Mason being an embodiment of Jane’s repressed anger, fear, and sexuality. This explaining Jane’s lack of condemnation for Bertha, unlike Mr. Rochester. Critics Gilbert and Gubar in, The Madwoman in the Attic, suggest that Bertha is Jane’s ‘truest and darkest double,’ which provokes gothic images of a doppelganger. There are distinct counterparts between a young, angry Jane trapped in the red room, and the unhinged wife restrained in the attic.

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It should be noted that Jane, is represented as a heroine with potent desire. Whether it’s repressed or channeled into anger, there is a strong depiction of …