Jane Eyre Analytical Essay
In the book Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, Jane changes dramatically throughout her lifein many ways. However, there is one way in which her personality does not waver. That is, her dependence. In Jane Eyre, there are many fluxes of character independence, but as the book nears its extremity, her stance as a dependent does not waver. To whom she is dependent of course changes, as there are not many constants in her life. In this essay, it will be proven thatJane Eyre's position of dependence is not dramatically altered.In the beginning of Bronte’s novel, Jane is dependent, almost pathetically so. She listensto anything and anybody. She does what others want her to do, says what others want her to say,she even thinks what others want her to think, and has almost no mind of her own. She letsothers beat on her, and crush any spirit she has. It's not all her faults. As a child she was pickedon by her elder cousin, and she never knew, or even thought of how to defend herself."Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it: my care was how toendure the blow which would certainly follow the insult." Her aunt was unloving andunforgiving, prohibiting Jane from receiving the care she needed to develop a normal self consciousness. Even when Jane escaped the grip of her horrible kin, and is transferred to asupposedly pious institution, when she seeks aid Jane is cut off and shown she is a burden by Mr.Brockelhurst, her administrator at this institution and is unjustly and rudely shamed for simplyshowing a brief flash of independence and questioning authority. All of these cruelties hurt Jane'syounger self, offsetting Jane's lifelong struggle with independence.Towards the middle-end of the book is the only time when her situations demandindependence. In some of these instances, Jane rises to the occasion. In others, she unfortunatelydoes not. We see this shortly after the Eyre-Rochester nuptials are rudely interrupted. When Janefinds out about Bertha, the insane wife of Mr. Rochester (Jane’s first boss and life love, owner of Thornfield Manor) she could continue her dependence, but instead she takes a brief hiatus,showing a flash of autonomy. Jane flees Thornfield Manor, abandoning every worldly possession, excepting a few measly paraphernalia. She absconds, also leaving behind the onlyfriends, or even acquaintances, she has. "Drearily I wound my way downstairs: I knew what Ihad to do, and I did it mechanically... Through that [the gate] I departed: it, too, I shut; and now Iwas out of Thornfield (Where she first lives as a governess and meets Mr. Rochester).” Thisshows some independence, uncharacteristic of Jane. She breaks out of her shell, and unwillinglyrelies on her own intelligence, even if only to subsist.After this small bout of independence (which was solely for means of survival), Jane returns to
Belonging to a family is a major theme in Jane Eyre. Family was extremely important to a woman in the Victorian period. It provided emotional and financial support to her as a child and an unmarried woman. Later, it defined her as a wife and mother. As an orphan, however, Jane is cast into a Victorian domestic wilderness, without a mother to prepare her for her proper place in society and without a father to care for her until her husband can replace him.
The absence of family creates a mixed effect in Jane. Her painful solitude spurs her to spend much of her young life in search of a family. Many of the characters serve as symbolic mothers for Jane. The harsh mothering of her aunt Mrs. Reed causes Jane to suffer, forcing her to withdraw into a lonely shell for protection. Miss Temple at Lowood is Jane’s first positive mother figure, showing compassion and caring and leading her on the path to self-fulfillment by encouraging her studies in French and literature.
The novel’s structure buttresses the theme of Jane’s search for a family. Beginning with the false, hurtful family of Mrs. Reed and her spoiled children, Jane encounters increasingly more rewarding versions of family coinciding with her personal maturation. At Lowood, Helen Burns and Miss Temple are a caring sister and mother. At Thornfield, Jane becomes a pseudo-mother to the sweet Adele and Mrs. Fairfax is a comforting mother-figure, but Jane is not yet able to be Rochester’s wife.
At Moor House, she encounters an even stronger sense of familial belonging with Diana, Mary, and St. John Rivers, her cousins. She lovingly prepares the house for their Christmas reunion and shares her inheritance with them. Therefore, the strange coincidence of Jane ending up on the doorstep of Moor House should not be seen as a rupture in realism, but a thematic device. She rejects St. John’s proposal of an authoritative, loveless marriage as a warped confusion of brother, husband, and father roles. Finally, Jane returns to a more enlightened Rochester to start a true family.
Jane’s lack of family also has instilled in her a strong sense of self-reliance and independence. Even as a child in Sarah Reed’s house, Jane recognizes the essential injustice of her predicament. She rejects the qualitative judgments that society makes on the basis of class and recognizes her cousins for the shallow, self-indulgent children that they are. Her personal standard of ethics tells her that Reed’s children are not her superiors. She also balks at Mr. Brocklehurst’s estimation of her as dishonest, recognizing his hypocrisy in demanding that his pupils live humbly and poorly, while his wife and daughters are bedecked in plumes and furs. Jane seems most humiliated and angered when her integrity is in question.
Jane’s self-reliance and personal ethics allow her to recognize the unfairness of many societal conventions. She is belittled and ignored as a “mere governess” by Rochester’s upper-class guests, but she recognizes them as arrogant and self-centered. Although she ranks far below Rochester in social rank and wealth, a profound impediment to a marriage in the Victorian era, she feels equal to him in soul, understanding his true nature. Jane finds his courting of the frivolous Blanche Ingram for her political and social connections disturbing because she knows that she herself is more his intellectual and spiritual equal.
Rochester’s courtship of Blanche is particularly ironic in the light of his marriage to the insane Bertha, whom he was tricked into marrying for the sake of monetary and political gain. It is significant that the primary symbol of hypocritical societal propriety, Thornfield Hall, in which Rochester lives a sham life of decorum, must be destroyed by fire before he and Jane can live together happily and truthfully.
The most convincing evidence of Jane’s strength and independence, however, is her narrative voice. From the very beginning of the novel, the reader is struck by the sense of confidence and control in the narrative voice. Brontë cleverly manipulates reader response through the compelling voice of Jane. At times, one is brought close to the narrator in an intimate relationship in which Jane makes the reader a confidant, revealing inner feelings and weaknesses. Yet she never allows herself complete vulnerability as a narrator. Often Jane addresses readers directly, never letting them forget that she is aware of their presence. Readers are not eavesdroppers as in a third-person narrative, but invited guests of Jane, who is in complete control of the narrative. She creates suspense by withholding information from readers, such as the identity of Rochester when he is disguised as an old gypsy, playing with them to heighten their interest. Jane’s voice is so commanding that her reliability and sincerity do not come into doubt.