An Analysis Of Charlotte Brontes Portray Of Jane Eyre
An Analysis of Charlotte Bronte’s Portray of Jane Eyre
The development of Jane Eyre’s character is central to the novel. From the beginning, Jane possesses a sense of her self-worth and dignity, a commitment to justice and principle, a trust in God, and a passionate disposition. Her integrity is continually tested over the course of the novel, and Jane must learn to balance the frequently conflicting aspects of her so as to find contentment. An orphan since early childhood, Jane feels exiled and ostracized at the beginning of the novel, and the cruel treatment she receives from her Aunt Reed and her cousins only exacerbates her feeling of alienation. Afraid that she will never find a true sense of home or community, Jane feels the need to belong somewhere, to find “kin,” or at least “kindred spirits.” This desire tempers her equally intense need for autonomy and freedom. In her search for freedom, Jane also struggles with the question of what type of freedom she wants. While Rochester initially offers Jane a chance to liberate her passions, Jane comes to realize that such freedom could also mean enslavement—by living as Rochester’s mistress, she would be sacrificing her dignity and integrity for the sake of her feelings. St. John Rivers offers Jane another kind of freedom: the freedom to act unreservedly on her principles. He opens to Jane the possibility of exercising her talents fully by working and living with him in India. Jane eventually realizes, though, that this freedom would also constitute a form of imprisonment, because she would be forced to keep her true feelings and her true passions always in check.
II. The Theme of Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is very much the story of a quest to be loved. Jane searches, not just for romantic love, but also for a sense of being valued, of belonging. Thus Jane says to Helen Burns: “to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest”. Yet, over the course of the book, Jane must learn how to gain love without sacrificing and harming herself in the process.
Her fear of losing her autonomy motivates her refusal of Rochester’s marriage proposal. Jane believes that “marrying” Rochester while he remains legally tied to Bertha would mean rendering herself a mistress and sacrificing her own integrity for the sake of emotional gratification. On the other hand, her life at Moor House tests her in the opposite manner. There, she enjoys economic independence and engages in worthwhile and useful work, teaching the poor; yet she lacks emotional sustenance. Although St. John proposes marriage, offering her a partnership built around a common purpose, Jane knows their marriage would remain loveless.
III. Jane Eyre’s Experiences and Spiritual Growth
Jane Eyre is an exquisite and impassioned work of English literature. Set in the nineteenth century, Charlotte Bronte writes of a woman’s continuous journey through life in search of acceptance and inner peace. Each of the physical journeys made by the main character, Jane Eyre, has a significant effect on her emotions and cause her to grow and change into the woman she finally becomes. Her experiences at Lowood School, Thornfield Hall and Moor house ingeniously correspond with each stage of Jane’s inner quest and development from an immature child to an intelligent, rebellious and independent woman.
2.1 Jane Eyre in Gateshead
Jane’s rebellious or independent spirit was inspired in Gateshead. Ten-year-old Jane, orphaned by the death of her parents and uncle, led an unhappy life under the care of her aunt, Mrs. Reed. Due to the cruel treatment she was subject to by both her aunt and cousins, Jane had severe outbursts of revenge, which resulted in her departure from Gateshead, where Jane spends almost ten years of her life, however, these ten years is a nightmare for her. Therefore, reading is one of the ways that Jane can focus on to escape from the reality. Further more, going to school is another way that Jane is hoping for so she could depart from Mrs.Reed. Jane constantly questions herself “why she always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, for ever condemned? By the age of ten, Jane is already a fearless and self-governing little girl. Gateshead is a distasteful place. Afraid that she will never find a true sense of home or community, Jane feels the need to belong somewhere, to find “kin,” or at least “kindred spirits.” This desire tempers her equally intense need for freedom and independence.
2.2 Jane Eyre at Lowood
Jane Eyre was a born resister, whose parents went off when she was very young, and her aunt, the only relative she had treated her as badly as a ragtag. At Lowood, Jane met Helen Burns, a girl who becomes Jane’s friend and first confidant. With her tender qualities, Helen preached to Jane the importance of patience. Because of Helen’s Christian lessons of endurance, forgiveness, Jane accepted her situation at Lowood. Since Jane’s education in Lowood Orphanage began, she didn’t get what she had been expecting, simply being regarded as a common person, just the same as any other girl around. The suffers from being humiliated and devastated teach Jane to be persevering and prize dignity over anything else. She gave up her position in school to apply for the governess because she wanted to find her true sense. As a reward of revolting the ruthless oppression, Jane got a chance to be a tutor in Thornfield Garden.
2.3 Jane Eyre in Thornfield
Jane Eyre’s rebellious spirit was crystallized. Jane expected to change the life from then on, but fate had decided otherwise: After Jane and Rochester fell in love with each other and got down to get marry, she unfortunately came to know in fact Rochester had got a legal wife, who seemed to be the shadow following Rochester and led to his moodiness all the time–Rochester was also a despairing person in need of salvation. Jane’s understanding of the double standard shows completely when she becomes aware of her feelings for Rochester; she is his intellectual, but not his social, equal. In her search for freedom, Jane struggles with the question of what type of freedom she wants. While Rochester initially offers Jane a chance to liberate her passions, Jane comes to realize that such freedom could also mean enslavement—by living as Rochester’s mistress, she would be sacrificing her dignity and integrity for the sake of her feelings. Even though Rochester insists Jane will break his heart if she refuses him. Torn between her love for Rochester and her own integrity, Jane flees Thornfield in the middle of the night, with very little money and nowhere to go.
2.4 Jane Eyre in Moor House
Jane’s long quest to find love and a sense of independence is finally fulfilled. Jane is given a position as village school teacher. She finally leads an independent life in her own little house. Later, St. John learns Jane’s true identity, and, in an incredible coincidence, it transpires that St. John and his sisters are actually Jane’s cousins. Jane also conveniently inherits a large sum of money from an uncle who lived abroad. The cousins are left without inheritance because of an old family feud, but Jane promptly splits the money so that all four of them are now financially secure. This gives St. John the means to pursue his true calling to go to India as a missionary. He asks Jane to marry him and to accompany him to India. Now Jane has the opportunity to choose a husband of high morals, but she knows St. John does not truly love her. This is the opposite of the situation she had with Mr. Rochester. Pressured by St. John, Jane nearly succumbs to his proposal, but at the last minute, she hears Rochester’s voice calling her in the wind, and she feels she must respond to that call. She travels immediately to Thornfield Hall, only to find it abandoned and ruined by a devastating fire. She learns that Mr. Rochester, who lost a hand, an eye, and the sight of the other eye as a result of trying unsuccessfully to save Bertha from the flames, lives nearby at a house called Ferndean. Jane goes to him, they reconcile, and she marries him. She writes in the perspective of ten years after their marriage and tells of their firstborn son. Eventually Mr. Rochester gains part of one eye’s sight back and is able to see the child. Nonetheless, the events of Jane’s stay at Moor House are necessary tests of Jane’s autonomy. Only after proving her self-sufficiency to herself can she marry Rochester and not be asymmetrically dependent upon him as her “master.” The marriage can be one between equals. As Jane says, “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.” To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We are precisely suited in character—perfect concord is the result”. Jane’s long quest to find love and a sense of independence is finally fulfilled.
IV. The Major Factors that Influences Jane Eyre
Throughout the novel, Jane struggles to find the right balance between moral duty and earthly pleasure, between obligation to her spirit and attention to her body. She encounters three main religious figures: Mr. Brocklehurst, Helen Burns, and St. John Rivers. Each represents a model of religion that Jane ultimately rejects as she forms her own ideas about faith and principle, and their practical consequences.
Mr. Brocklehurst illustrates the dangers and hypocrisies that Charlotte BrontÃ« perceived in the nineteenth-century Evangelical movement. Mr. Brocklehurst adopts the rhetoric of Evangelicalism when he claims to be purging his students of pride, but his method of subjecting them to various privations and humiliations, like when he orders that the naturally curly hair of one of Jane’s classmates be cut so as to lie straight, is entirely un-Christian. Of course, Brocklehurst’s proscriptions are difficult to follow, and his hypocritical support of his own luxuriously wealthy family at the expense of the Lowood students shows BrontÃ«’s wariness of the Evangelical movement. Helen Burns’s meek and forbearing mode of Christianity, on the other hand, is too passive for Jane to adopt as her own, although she loves and admires Helen for it. St. John Rivers provides another model of Christian behavior. His is a Christianity of ambition, glory, and extreme self-importance. St. John urges Jane to sacrifice her emotional deeds for the fulfillment of her moral duty, offering her a way of life that would require her to be disloyal to her own self.
Although Jane ends up rejecting all three models of religion, she does not abandon morality, spiritualism, or a belief in a Christian God. When her wedding is interrupted, she prays to God for solace. As she wanders the heath, poor and starving, she puts her survival in the hands of God. She strongly objects to Rochester’s lustful immorality, and she refuses to consider living with him while church and state still deem him married to another woman. Even so, Jane can barely bring herself to leave the only love she has ever known. She credits God with helping her to escape what she knows would have been an immoral life.
Jane ultimately finds a comfortable middle ground. Her spiritual understanding is not hateful and oppressive like Brocklehurst’s, nor does it require retreat from the everyday world as Helen’s and St. John’s religions do. For Jane, religion helps curb immoderate passions, and it spurs one on to worldly efforts and achievements. These achievements include full self-knowledge and complete faith in God.
4.2 Social Class
Jane Eyre is critical of Victorian England’s strict social hierarchy. BrontÃ«’s exploration of the complicated social position of governesses is perhaps the novel’s most important treatment of this theme. Like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, Jane is a figure of ambiguous class standing and, consequently, a source of extreme tension for the characters around her. Jane’s manners, sophistication, and education are those of an aristocrat, because Victorian governesses, who tutored children in etiquette as well as academics, were expected to possess the “culture” of the aristocracy. Yet, as paid employees, they were more or less treated as servants; thus, Jane remains penniless and powerless while at Thornfield. Jane’s understanding of the double standard crystallizes when she becomes aware of her feelings for Rochester; she is his intellectual, but not his social, equal. Even before the crisis surrounding Bertha Mason, Jane is hesitant to marry Rochester because she senses that she would feel indebted to him for “condescending” to marry her. Jane’s distress seems to be BrontÃ«’s critique of Victorian class attitudes.
Jane herself speaks out against class prejudice at certain moments in the book. For example, she chastises Rochester: “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.” However, it is also important to note that nowhere in Jane Eyre are society’s boundaries bent. Ultimately, Jane is only able to marry Rochester as his equal because she has almost magically come into her own inheritance from her uncle.
4.3 Gender Relations
Jane struggles continually to achieve equality and to overcome oppression. In addition to class hierarchy, she must fight against patriarchal domination—against those who believe women to be inferior to men and try to treat them as such. Three central male figures threaten her desire for equality and dignity: Mr. Brocklehurst, Edward Rochester, and St. John Rivers. All three are misogynistic on some level. Each tries to keep Jane in a submissive position, where she is unable to express her own thoughts and feelings. In her quest for independence and self-knowledge, Jane must escape Brocklehurst, reject St. John, and come to Rochester only after ensuring that they may marry as equals. This last condition is met once Jane proves herself able to function, through the time she spends at Moor House, in a community and in a family. She will not depend solely on Rochester for love and she can be financially independent. Furthermore, Rochester is blind at the novel’s end and thus dependent upon Jane to be his “prop and guide.” Jane articulates what was for her time a radically feminist philosophy: Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
4.4 Substitute Mothers
It has been noted that Jane encounters a series of nurturing and strong women on whom she can model herself, or to whom she can look for comfort and guidance: these women serve as mother-figures to the orphaned Jane.
The first such figure that Jane encounters is the servant Bessie, who soothes Jane after her trauma in the red-room and teaches her to find comfort in stories and songs. At Lowood, Jane meets Miss Temple, who has no power in the world at large, but possesses great spiritual strength and charm. Not only does she shelter Jane from pain, she also encourages her intellectual development. Of Miss Temple, Jane writes: “she had stood by me in the stead of mother, governess, and latterly, companion” (Chapter 10). Jane also finds a comforting model in Helen Burns, whose lessons in stamina teach Jane about self-worth and the power of faith.
After Jane and Rochester’s wedding is cancelled, Jane finds comfort in the moon, which appears to her in a dream as a symbol of the matriarchal spirit. Jane sees the moon as “a white human form” shining in the sky, “inclining a glorious brow earthward.” She tells us: “It spoke to my spirit: immeasurably distant was the tone, yet so near, it whispered in my heart—“My daughter, flee temptation.” Jane answers, “Mother, I will”. Waking from the dream, Jane leaves Thornfield.
Jane finds two additional mother-figures in the characters of Diana and Mary Rivers. Rich points out that the sisters bear the names of the pagan and Christian versions of “the Great Goddess”: Diana, the Virgin huntress, and Mary, the Virgin Mother. Unmarried and independent, the Rivers sisters love learning and reciting poetry and live as intellectual equals with their brother St. John.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. The red-room can be viewed as a symbol of what Jane must overcome in her struggles to find freedom, happiness, and a sense of belonging. In the red-room, Jane’s position of exile and imprisonment first becomes clear. Although Jane is eventually freed from the room, she continues to be socially ostracized, financially trapped, and excluded from love; her sense of independence and her freedom of self-expression are constantly threatened.
The red-room’s importance as a symbol continues throughout the novel. It reappears as a memory whenever Jane makes a connection between her current situation and that first feeling of being ridiculed. Thus she recalls the room when she is humiliated at Lowood. She also thinks of the room on the night that she decides to leave Thornfield after Rochester has tried to convince her to become an undignified mistress. Her destitute condition upon her departure from Thornfield also threatens emotional and intellectual imprisonment, as does St. John’s marriage proposal. Only after Jane has asserted herself, gained financial independence, and found a spiritual family—which turns out to be her real family—can she wed Rochester and find freedom in and through marriage.
Jane Eyre was the novel most often cited by women as having the greatest influence on them. Charlotte Bronte may have created the character of Jane Eyre as a means of coming to terms with elements of her own life. Much evidence suggests that Bronte, too, struggled to find a balance between love and freedom and to find others who understood her. At many points in the book, Jane voices the author’s then-radical opinions on religion, social class, and gender.