English Literature
Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: A Revolutionary Novel of Equality and Faith

When Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre was published in 1847, it was met with both shock and awe for its boldness in challenging the deeply-rooted belief that men and women were not equals. The novel sparked controversy with its proposition that "women feel just as men feel" and should not be confined to traditional gender roles. In Victorian society, this unconventional idea earned Jane Eyre the reputation of a "naughty book" for defying the patriarchal norms of the 1800s.As a gothic romance, Jane Eyre breaks the barriers of traditional genre conventions. Its dark and mysterious imagery adds depth to the captivating love story, creating a narrative that is both intricate and multifaceted. Brontë presents a strong, devout, and moral protagonist, defying the expectations of women in her time.Let's delve deeper into the underlying message of this groundbreaking novel, examining the roles of each character and analyzing key quotes to gain a deeper understanding of this captivating work.

An Overview of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Before we explore the themes and characters of the novel, let's first take a look at the overall plot.The title page of the original publication of Jane Eyre, using Brontë's pseudonym Currer Bell. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

What is the Message of Jane Eyre?

There are two main perspectives through which we can discern the message of this novel: the feminist perspective and the religious perspective.

The Feminist Perspective

One of the central messages of Jane Eyre is the idea of gender equality. Brontë challenges the notion that women should be subservient and emotionally repressed beings who exist solely to please men. She presents strong female characters, such as Diana and Mary, who find fulfillment and joy outside of marriage and the expectations of men. Through her writing, Brontë asserts that women have the capability to lead fulfilling lives independent of the influence of men.

The Religious Perspective

Another significant theme in the novel is that of faith and trust in God. The protagonist, Jane, is a prime example of a selfless, kind, and devout Christian woman who uses her rational thinking to guide her actions. Jane's childhood friend, Helen Burns, who tragically passes away, instills in her the value of trusting in God's plan and using faith to overcome adversity. The novel also portrays the consequences of unfaithfulness and selfishness through characters like John and Aunt Reed, who ultimately suffer for their actions. Brontë's aim is to illustrate the benefits of leading a kind and faithful life, guided by religious beliefs.

A Summary of Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a young orphan who is mistreated and abused by her cruel Aunt Reed and cousins. Her only solace is her friendship with Helen Burns, who tragically dies. Eventually, Jane leaves her abusive living situation and becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where the majority of the novel takes place. Here she meets the enigmatic Mr. Rochester, a classic Byronic hero, characterized by brooding and inner conflict resulting from a past misdeed. Jane's job is to educate Rochester's ward, Adèle Varens, the daughter of his former lover, the opera singer Celine Varens.Despite finding happiness at Thornfield, Jane is unsettled by the eerie atmosphere of the manor, which mirrors Rochester's mercurial mood. On the day of their wedding, she discovers that Rochester is already married to Bertha Mason, who has been living in the attic the entire time Jane has been at Thornfield.Heartbroken, Jane flees Thornfield and nearly dies of starvation in the woods. She is rescued by three siblings, Mary and Diana Rivers, and their brother St. John Rivers. They offer her shelter, food, and companionship. After a turn of events, it is revealed that they are long-lost cousins, and Jane finally finds a sense of belonging with her blood relatives, a stark contrast to her turbulent upbringing with the Reeds. With her newfound wealth and family, Jane can stand on equal footing with Rochester.Jane eventually hears Rochester's faint voice in the distance and follows it, convinced that he is calling out to her. Upon her return to Thornfield, she discovers the manor in ruins due to a fire that Bertha caused. Rochester has sustained severe injuries while trying to save the people in his household, leaving him blind and without a hand. Jane also learns that Bertha has committed suicide by jumping off the roof, with Rochester trying to save her.In conclusion, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that challenges societal norms and promotes the ideas of equality and faith. Its complex characters and captivating plot make it a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of these timeless themes.

The Impactful Ending of Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë's novel, Jane Eyre, is a captivating and unconventional tale that boldly challenges societal norms and expectations. Through the themes of gender equality, faith, and identity, Brontë tells the story of a resilient and morally upright protagonist who defies all odds to find her happiness.

A Summary of Jane Eyre's Ending

As the tragic fire claims the life of Rochester’s first wife, he is finally free to marry Jane, the protagonist. The novel concludes with their joyous marriage and the birth of their baby boy. Miraculously, Rochester regains his sight, allowing him to finally see his son.

Is Jane Eyre Based on Charlotte Brontë's Life?

While the novel does draw on some aspects of Brontë's own experiences, it is not a direct autobiography. Jane, the main character, shares similarities with the author, but the story is not a retelling of Brontë's life. Interestingly, famous writer George Elliot once described Brontë using similar terms to those used to describe Jane: "a little plain, provincial, sickly-looking old maid. Yet what passion, what fire in her!" (The George Eliot Letters, edited by Gordon S. Haight, 1968).

Fun Fact: The 1943 film adaptation of Jane Eyre, based on the novel, is available on Wikimedia Commons.

The Characters in Jane Eyre

The following is a breakdown of the significant characters in the novel, organized by their importance and place within the story.

Characters at Thornfield Hall

These are the main characters encountered at Thornfield Hall.

Jane Eyre: The protagonist and narrator of the story, Jane is heavily influenced by Brontë’s own life and experiences. She is described as plain, intelligent, and sensible. Throughout the novel, Jane deals with emotional turmoil and uses her strong moral compass to navigate through abuse and deceit. She refuses to accept her inferiority to men, asserting her equality and independence despite societal expectations.

Edward Fairfax Rochester: Jane’s employer and eventual husband, Rochester is a wealthy and enigmatic figure who disregards social class in his relationship with Jane. He is well-traveled and has a taste for recklessness, making him a mysterious and alluring character. It is no surprise that Jane quickly falls for him.

Mrs. Fairfax: The housekeeper at Thornfield Hall, Mrs. Fairfax is a traditional and conservative woman with a traditional outlook on life. She initially disapproves of Jane and Rochester’s relationship due to their age and class differences. However, she is kind and treats Jane with respect. Interestingly, Jane had assumed that Mrs. Fairfax was the owner of Thornfield, showcasing her belief in the capabilities of women.

Adèle: Rochester’s daughter, Adèle, is a lively and bold child who initially does not receive much affection from Jane. She represents Rochester’s cosmopolitan lifestyle as she speaks French. Jane's initial dislike towards her could be attributed to Adèle representing Rochester’s past, which Jane may slightly resent.

Bertha Mason: Rochester’s first wife, Bertha is a creole woman of Caribbean descent. Forced by his family to marry her for her inheritance, Rochester's marriage to Bertha quickly deteriorated. After he locks her in the attic, she begins exhibiting erratic behavior, leading to her escape.

Fun Fact: Some feminist scholars view Bertha's behavior as a result of Rochester's repression, symbolizing Jane's own repressed emotions as a victim of the patriarchy.

Grace: The caretaker of Bertha, Grace is responsible for keeping her confined in the attic. However, her drinking problem leads to mistakes, resulting in Bertha's escape. She is blamed for the mysterious laughter heard from the attic.

Richard: Bertha’s brother, Richard, is badly injured by her when he visits Thornfield Hall and tries to stop Jane and Rochester's wedding, fearing for anyone who becomes involved with Rochester.

Blanche: A socialite who looks down on Jane for her lower social status, Blanche aims to marry Rochester solely for his wealth.

During Rochester's attempt to uncover Jane's true feelings for him disguised as a fortune teller, a crucial moment takes place in the novel. Below is a summary of each character's defining traits, adding depth and complexity to the story.

  • Jane Eyre: Plain, intelligent, and independent. Her journey towards self-acceptance and true love is at the heart of the novel.
  • Edward Fairfax Rochester: Wealthy, enigmatic, and rebellious. His unconventional ways and past mistakes add intrigue to the story.
  • Mrs. Fairfax: Traditional, kind, and respectful. She represents the stability and tradition in the novel.
  • Adèle: Bold, boisterous, and representative of Rochester's past. Her presence serves as a reminder of Rochester's past mistakes.
  • Bertha Mason: Creole, erratic, and possibly a victim of repression. The mystery surrounding her character adds tension and depth to the plot.
  • Grace: Caretaker, unreliable, and responsible for the attic noises. Her actions and secrets add an intriguing layer to the story.
  • Richard: Injured by Bertha, tries to stop Jane and Rochester's wedding. His character serves as a reminder of the consequences of past actions.
  • Blanche: Socialite, snobbish, and interested in Rochester's wealth. Her presence adds tension and conflict to Jane and Rochester's relationship.

Lowood School Characters

At Lowood school, Jane encounters a variety of characters that leave a lasting impact on her life and shape her into the woman she becomes.

Her best friend, Helen, demonstrates resilience and grace in the face of adversity. Her death deeply impacts Jane and serves as a source of inspiration throughout the novel. In a touching moment, Helen passes away in Jane's arms, with the two anticipating a reunion in heaven.

Mr. Brocklehurst, the headteacher, is a cruel and hypocritical figure. His actions reveal the hypocrisy of Christianity and its effects on the students at Lowood.

In contrast, Miss Temple serves as one of Jane's first female role models, showing kindness and compassion towards her students. Along with Bessie, the kind and nurturing housekeeper, Miss Temple helps make Jane's difficult experience at Lowood more bearable.

However, Miss Scatcherd stands out as a harsh and cruel teacher who takes pleasure in belittling and humiliating students like Helen Burns, without reason or remorse.

Moor House Characters

The characters at Moor House, Jane's long-lost cousins, also play a significant role in her life and personal growth.

Mary, Jane's independent and intelligent cousin, serves as a role model and friend, showing Jane that there is more to life than marriage. Diana, also independent and kind, encourages Jane to follow her own path and not succumb to societal pressures. Both women form strong bonds with Jane, offering support and guidance.

However, Jane's cousin, St. John, reveals his true character as a power-hungry and callous individual, despite offering her assistance when she becomes lost in the woods. His desire for control and manipulation threaten to overshadow the good he has done for Jane.

Gateshead Characters

In her childhood, Jane's encounters with the characters at Gateshead greatly impact her character development and relationships in the novel.

Mrs. Reed, Jane's cold and unloving aunt, raises her until she is ten years old. Despite her mistreatment, Jane attempts to reconcile with her aunt, but Mrs. Reed refuses, causing a rift between them. This could possibly stem from resentment towards Jane due to her late uncle's favoritism towards her.

Jane's late uncle, Uncle Reed, serves as the only source of love and kindness in her childhood, but he passes away before the events of the novel. He had asked Mrs. Reed to treat Jane as her own, a request that was not fulfilled.

Jane's cousins, John, Eliza, and Georgiana, are far from friendly towards her. John's character is marred by addiction and ultimately ends in tragedy, serving as a cautionary tale about the importance of upholding Christian values.

Eliza, who is jealous of her sister's beauty, pretends to be a Christian for personal gain, but her character is far from genuine. She causes turmoil in the family, while Georgiana takes responsibility for her actions and apologizes to Jane, forming a closer bond between them.

Lastly, Bessie, the housekeeper, is the first character to show Jane kindness and respect, leaving a lasting impact on her life.

Jane Eyre: A Powerful Portrayal of Women in the 1800s

Jane Eyre, the protagonist of Charlotte Brontë's novel, is an exemplar of a resolute and moral character who is ultimately rewarded for her unwavering Christian values. In this article, we will delve into some of the significant quotes from the book that showcase the revolutionary depiction of women in the 19th century.

The Characters

Before examining the quotes, let us first understand the traits of the various characters in the story. While Jane is depicted as an independent, strong-willed, and morally righteous woman, her love interest, Mr. Rochester, is portrayed as a complex and troubled man. Other significant characters include Jane's cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed, and Bertha, Rochester's mentally unstable secret wife.

Jane's Memorable Quotes

  • "I am no bird and no net ensnares me."

Jane uses the metaphor of a caged bird to symbolize the societal limitations placed on women in the 1800s as mere objects and possessions of men. She boldly rejects this notion and declares her independence by asserting that she will not allow herself to be trapped by the patriarchal norms of society. With this quote, she proclaims that she has the freedom to make her own choices and assert her will, just like any man can.

  • "Reader, I married him."

This iconic line marks the pivotal moment when Jane takes control of her fate and chooses to marry Rochester despite the challenges they have faced. The use of the phrase "I married him" is significant as it emphasizes Jane's independent will and goes against the traditional expectation of women passively waiting for a man to propose. Instead, she takes the initiative and makes the conscious decision to be with Rochester.

  • "I am not an angel," I asserted, "and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me - for you will not get it..."

This quote portrays Jane's unwavering principles while maintaining a dignified tone. Brontë uses this powerful quote to comment on the unrealistic expectations placed on women to be perfect and angelic for men's satisfaction. Jane bravely states that she is not an angel and refuses to change herself to fit into the societal norms. She firmly believes that women are complete and exceptional individuals on their own and do not need to conform to men's expectations.

Food for Thought

It is intriguing to note that even in contemporary society, there are still those who believe in the inequality of men and women. Brontë's views on women's independence and equality were revolutionary and controversial in the 19th century, challenging the traditional roles assigned to each gender.

  • "...you are inexorable for that unfortunate lady: you speak of her with hate - with vindictive antipathy. It is cruel - she cannot help being mad."

This quote showcases Jane's composure and moral compass, even when faced with a shocking revelation. When she discovers that Rochester has been keeping his secret wife locked in the attic, she remains respectful towards the woman and empathizes with her situation. Brontë uses this quote to shed light on how the mistreatment of women by men and society often resulted in their mental instability. Jane's observation challenges the conventional belief that women were inherently unstable and instead highlights the impact of societal oppression.

  • "I do love you," I said, "more than ever: but I must not show or indulge the feeling: and this is the last time I must express it."

This quote captures a heart-wrenching moment when Jane must bid farewell to Rochester, even though she is deeply in love with him. Brontë showcases Jane's strength of character and self-discipline as she acknowledges that she must do what is best for herself in the long run, even if it causes her pain in the moment. This quote exemplifies Jane's resilience and determination to prioritize her own needs.

  • "We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.

As a conclusion, this quote from the novel serves as a reminder of the magnificent and all-encompassing nature of God, who reveals Himself to us through His marvelous creations. Amidst a society that often tries to limit and suppress women, Jane Eyre stands as a revolutionary depiction of a strong, independent, and virtuous woman who ultimately leads a fulfilling life with her loved ones.


The Influence of Faith and Gender Roles in Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë's classic novel, Jane Eyre, delves into the complex themes of love, class, and gender roles in Victorian England. The story follows the evolving relationship between Jane and Rochester, which serves as a reflection of the societal norms of the time and challenges traditional gender stereotypes. In this article, we will explore key quotes that illustrate the significance of faith and its role in shaping the characters and their understanding of gender roles.

A Testament of Faith

Throughout the novel, Jane's unwavering faith in God serves as a source of strength and guidance for her. As she states, "My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created," we see her reliance on her faith and her recognition of God's presence in her life. Brontë's Christian upbringing is evident through Jane's character, portraying her as a strong and faithful woman who looks to God for guidance, especially in trying times.

This quote also highlights the belief that God created all beings as equals, regardless of their gender. It challenges the traditional notion that men are superior to women and showcases Jane's defiance against societal expectations for women to be submissive and unequal to men.

An Unconventional Beginning

When Rochester confesses, "I never met your likeness," it marks the beginning of their love affair. It is worth noting that his early admission of being "conquered" and willing to be "mastered" by Jane is highly unusual for a man of this time. Instead of asserting his dominance, Rochester positions himself as a subordinate, viewing them as equals despite their differences in age and social status.

However, the latter part of the quote, where Rochester claims he can "win" Jane's heart like a "trophy," reflects the societal expectations of women as objects to be won. This contrast with the initial dynamic between them, where Rochester saw Jane as an individual and appreciated her for who she was.

Challenging Gender Norms

Throughout the novel, there are several notable quotes that highlight the influence of societal norms on gender roles. From Helen Burns' unwavering faith in God to Mrs. Fairfax's disapproval of Jane and Rochester's union, these quotes shed light on the societal expectations for women. Brontë challenges these norms by portraying Jane as an independent and strong-willed woman who does not conform to traditional gender roles.

For instance, when Mrs. Fairfax disapproves of Jane's relationship with Rochester due to their different social status, Jane retorts, "Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?" This quote showcases Jane's refusal to be defined by societal expectations of what a woman should be, as she asserts her own worth and value as an individual.

In Conclusion

Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre is a timeless classic that challenges traditional gender roles and highlights the strength and independence of women. Through the key quotes discussed in this article, we get a glimpse of the complex characters and the revolutionary themes that the novel presents. It remains a must-read for its portrayal of a woman who defies societal expectations and stands strong in her faith and sense of self.

Jane Eyre: A Radical Challenge to Traditional Gender Roles and Expectations

Written by Charlotte Brontë under the pseudonym Currer Bell in 1847, Jane Eyre is a classic novel that boldly challenges male entitlement and promotes gender equality. Follow protagonist Jane's personal growth from childhood to adulthood as she defies societal norms and expectations.

Brontë's own experiences heavily influenced the novel, including her unwavering faith in God. In the words of Jane, "I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness: I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to Him, reveal Him to me."

During the Victorian era, Jane Eyre was considered radical for its portrayal of women as complex individuals equal to men. Instead of being mere objects for men to possess, the female characters in the novel have their own agency and emotions. This was a groundbreaking concept, as women were expected to conform to societal norms and prioritize the needs and desires of men.

The novel also features a progressive love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester, who despite their class and age differences, push aside societal barriers and fall in love. This further emphasizes the novel's message of equality between men and women. As Mrs. Fairfax states, "Equality of position and fortune is advisable in most cases; and there is twenty years of difference in your ages. He might almost be your father."

But Jane Eyre goes beyond simply challenging traditional gender roles. It also promotes the idea that women have the same rights and capabilities as men. They should not be confined to society's expectations of being pure, selfless beings solely existing to serve men. As St. John declares, "A missionary's wife you must-shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you-not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign's service."

Despite being published over 170 years ago, Jane Eyre remains a relevant and influential piece of literature. Its universal themes of gender roles, the power of love, and Christian morality continue to resonate with readers today. Through key quotes, Brontë challenges societal norms and pushes for equality and agency for women, making Jane Eyre a timeless and revolutionary novel.

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