Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre depends upon the carefully constructed development of its protagonist to forward themes of self-reliance, morality, and freedom. Because the novel’s protagonist, Jane Eyre, is depicted as being a person of moral fortitude and integrity, the abuse she suffers during the early part of the novel at the hands of her adoptive family instills within her a deep desire for independence, escape and personal freedom.
The abuse that Jane suffers from her Aunt Reed begins within her, a feeling of separation and alienation. Jane begins to dream of finding a place where she can be accepted and where she really and truly belongs. As the novel progresses, the reader finds that Jane’s sense of alienation and her sense of solitude prove to bolster her inner-sense of integrity and morality. This fact becomes crucial when she makes the decision not to become Rochester’s mistress, even though she loves him.
She understands that although her sexual liberation may be bound up with Rochester’s own desire to make her his mistress, her need to find a firm community and society where she feels respected and comfortable over-rules her desire for mere sexual liberation. The fact that, in the end, Jane is able to accept Rochester as her husband indicates that through the trial tribulation of the novel’s events, Jane retained her sense of morality and integrity which is rooted in her simultaneous need to belong to society and to be a free individual.
In the long run, it is Rochester, and not Jane who has his moral weaknesses exposed, and who begins to regret his past life. Jane’s development of inner-strength and self-determination is rooted in the abusive experiences of her past and her character development in the novel establishes that, without a doubt, she has not only triumphed over the sense of alienation and loneliness which impacted her childhood, but she has become a moral example to others, and in doing so, achieved her persistent dream of finding a meaningful connection to a meaningful social collective or family.
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