Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, was met with great enthusiasm and became one of the best sellers since it was published in October 1847. The story of Jane Eyre takes place in northern England in the early to mid-19th Century. It starts as the ten-year-old Jane, a plain but unyielding child, is excluded by her Aunt Reed from the domestic circle around the hearth and bullied by her handsome but unpleasant cousins. Under the suggestion of Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary that sympathizes Jane, Mrs. Reed sends Jane to Lowood Institution operated by a hypocritical Evangelicalist, Mr. Brocklehurst, who chastises Jane in front of the class and calls her a liar.
At Lowood, Jane befriends a young girl named Helen Burns, whose strong attitude towards the school’s miseries helps Jane a lot. Also, she is taken under the wing of the superintendent, Miss Temple. After spending eight years at Lowood, six as a student and two as a teacher, she accepts a governess position to teach a loverly French girl named Adele at Thornfield, where she falls secretly in love with the garden’s owner, Rochester, a man with a warm heart despite a cold face outside. However, fate decides to play a joke on Jane.
On the wedding day , as Jane and Rochester prepare to exchange their vows, Jane is being told that Rochester has a legal wife, Bertha Mason. Knowing that it is impossible for her to be with Rochester, Jane flees Thornfield. Penniless and hungry, Jane is taken by Rivers siblings Mary, Diana and St. John. , who live in a manor called Moor House. Jane happily accepts the offer of teaching at St. John’s school. She later learns that the Rivers siblings are actually her cousins and that she has inherited from her under a vast fortune, which she divides among her new family.
At that time, St. John is about to go on missionary work in India and repeatedly asks Jane to accompany him as his wife. One night, when she is about to accept St. John, Jane experiences a mystical connection with Rochester, and she decides to seek him out at Thornfield. She discovers that the estate has been burned down by Bertha, who died in the fire, and that Rochester, who was blinded in the incident, lives nearby. Jane goes to him at once, at there they get married. 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 herself 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 worsens her feeling of alienation. Afraid that she will never find a true sense of home or community, Jane feels the need to belong somewhere.
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”. This desire tempers her equally intense need for autonomy and freedom. 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 feelings.
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 realizes their marriage would remain loveless and that this kind of freedom would constitute a form of imprisonment, because she would be forced to keep her true feelings and her true passions would be always in check.
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 dependent upon him as her “master. ” Edward Rochester, despite his stern manner and not particularly handsome appearance, wins Jane’s heart, because he is the first person in the novel to offer Jane lasting love and a real home. Although Rochester is Jane’s social and economic superior, and although men were widely considered to be naturally superior to women in the Victorian period, Jane is Rochester’s intellectual equal.
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”. Rochester regrets his former libertinism and lustfulness, nevertheless, he has proven himself to be weaker in many ways than Jane. St. John Rivers provides the most typical model of Christian behavior.
He 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. But Jane ends up with rejecting to sacrifice passion for principle, which doesn’t mean she abandons a belief in God. Jane ultimately finds a comfortable middle ground. 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.
Mr. Brocklehurst, the cruel, hypocritical master of the Lowood School, illustrates the dangers and hypocrisies that Charlotte Bronte 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 Bronte’s criticism to the Evangelical movement. Helen Burns is Jane’s close friend at the Lowood School. She endures her miserable life there with a passive dignity that Jane cannot understand. she believes that justice will be found in God’s ultimate judgment—God will reward the good and punish the evil. Jane, on the other hand, is unable to have such blind faith.
Her quest is for love and happiness in this world. Nevertheless, she counts on God for support and guidance in her search. Throughout the novel, Charlotte Bronte may have created the character of Jane Eyre to voice her then-radical opinions. Much evidence suggests that Bronte, too, struggled to find the right balance between moral duty and earthly pleasure, between obligation to her spirit and attention to her body. She hold the opinion that every spirit is independent, though there are differences in social class, in property and also in appearance.
Jane Eyre is critical of Victorian England’s strict social system. Bronte’s exploration of personal equalty is perhaps the novel’s most important theme. I would like to use my favorite words that Jane once said to Rochester to end my article: 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.
Courtney from Study Moose
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