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Hanly, M.F. (1993). Sado-Masochism in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: a Ridge of Lighted Heath. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1049-1061.

(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:1049-1061

Sado-Masochism in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: a Ridge of Lighted Heath

Margaret-Ann Fitzpatrick Hanly


Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre contains a paradox of character: Jane Eyre is an assertive successful woman, who marries, after every obstacle is overcome, the man she loves; she is also a traumatised, terrorised child, who later becomes deeply involved, to the point of losing herself, with a moral sadist. In the critical literature on Jane Eyre there is controversy concerning Brontë's aims in the characterisation of her fictional autobiographer. Did Brontë's artistic control of character slip and result in Jane Eyre's irreconciliable attributes? Did she mean to give us an assertive feminine heroine and instead reveal her own castration complex in the marriage to a maimed and near-blind man?

The hypothesis of this paper is that the multiple functions of masochism—adaptive, defensive and gratifying—the multiple defence mechanisms at work in masochismdenial, introjection and projection—and the special layering of masochism at each developmental level—oral, anal, and phallic—are mirrored in Brontë's characterisation. The irreducible complexity of the clinical concept of masochism finds its match in Brontë characterisation of Jane Eyre.

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