Jane Eyre, a classic Victorian novel by Charlotte Bront, is regarded as one of the finest novels in English literature. The main character, Jane Eyre, demonstrates a strong need to be herself, a young girl trying to retain all the individuality possible for a dependent of her time. Although this effort guides her to a passionate and impulsive nature, Jane is still willing to accept change in her life knowing it may not always seem the most pleasant. Her tolerance of change begins very early in the novel and helps her in developing a strong sense of independence.
The first two primary changes in Jane’s life, dealing mainly with setting, are when she leaves Gateshead Hall, the hateful environment containing Mrs. Reed and her children, and when she leaves Lowood, a rigorous Christian boarding school. These two instances are important in the development of her self-assured character and resiliently intense resolve, which will help determine the path of her life. Jane’s leaving Gateshead and Jane’s leaving Lowood may be compared on the basis of Jane’s desire for change, and may be contrasted on the bases of the reasons for Jane’s leaving and her anticipations for leaving.
In each instance of Jane’s departure, whether from Gateshead or from Lowood, she desires change: something new to experience. Before Jane leaves Gateshead, she is even more shut out by the Reeds’ due to the holiday season of Christmas. Because of this extreme separation between her and the ever hardening Reeds, Jane is expecting not to be tolerated among them for much longer (20-22). This prospect elevating her spirits, she narrates, “I gathered enough of hope to suffice as a motive for wishing to get well: a change seemed near—I desired and waited it in silence” (20).
When Jane finally waits long enough, the day of her departure arrives (33-34). She is somewhat exited about leaving and cannot help but looking forward to the journey ahead: “Few children can eat when excited with the thoughts of a journey; nor could I” (34). With regards to these documentations, Jane is indeed craving variation in her monotonous, melancholy life and is delighted when it presents itself. When Jane leaves Lowood she is not only leaving her security, but also a paid position and a trouble free life.
In order for her to commit these actions, she would have to possess a desire to leave. After Miss Temple, a considerably close mentor and friend of Jane’s, marries and leaves, this urge for departure is tremendously magnified in her mind and even more importantly in her heart (76). While contemplating in her room alone, she happens to walk to her window and, when looking out, recounts: My eye passed all other objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks. It was those I longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath seemed prison-ground, exile limits.
I traced the white road winding round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between two. How I longed to follow it farther! (77) In Jane’s mind, she already feels that she needs change before this moment, and after it her heart is truly drawn into the concept as well. Noting the exclamation point at the end of this statement, her intense desire for something new is distinctly apparent. Shortly after this life-changing insight, not forgetting her penitential surroundings, she narrates, “I desired liberty; for liberty I grasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer… For change, stimulus” (77).
An enthused young woman caught up in the spirit of the moment, Jane later understands that because of her social status this freedom will most likely remain non-existent. However, she does still crave something new and fresh to taste: something in a new setting to experience (77). In addition to Jane’s desire of leaving Gateshead and Lowood, the question still remains of why she actually leaves; what were the reasons for Jane’s departures? With regard to Jane’s leaving Gateshead, the answer to this question is deeply rooted in the story.
It all begins when Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary hired by Mrs. Reed to examine the servants and now Jane, starts asking a series of questions directed towards Jane (16-17). The very last of these, last but absolutely not least, is the inquiry, “Would you like to go to school? ” (18). After Jane hears and reflects upon this statement, she realizes what a wonderful opportunity it is for a new and changed life, saying, “I should indeed like to go to school” (18). Later on, Jane, upon listening to a conversation between the apothecary and Mrs.
Reed, finds that Mr. Lloyd recommends this concept of education to Mrs. Reed, who readily accepts and takes on this notion (19). This is what raises Jane’s spirits into hoping to get well as mentioned previously. This furthermore displays how Jane did have an effect, indirect at least, upon her leaving Gateshead. The next account towards Jane’s going to school comes when Mr. Brocklehurst, the manager and treasurer of Lowood School, comes to Gateshead to speak with Mrs. Reed and Jane about the possibility of Jane’s going to Lowood (23-28).
Mr. Brocklehurst, knowing that another student means more money in terms of tuition, condemns Jane and makes her appear as if she needs Lowood: ”you[Jane] have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to change it” (26). Mrs. Reed, perfectly fine with the thought of getting rid of Jane, allows Mr. Brocklehurst’s assessments and supports his arguments. Mrs. Reed arranges this whole event, which suggests her concurrence with Mr. Lloyd’s idea of sending Jane to school, which never would have surfaced without Jane’s encouragement of the idea.
So, granted that Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst do play an important role in the reason Jane leaves Gateshead, Jane herself is the chief reason for her own departure. While it is true Jane needs a desire in order to leave a trouble-free, paid position at Lowood, she also must require a reason to leave. The urge for change is always present in people but they need something to light their fuse. For Jane, this ignition comes when Miss Temple, a friend, tutor, mother, and companion to Jane marries and leaves Lowood to never come back (76).
Jane considers this a great loss and recounts: From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in some degree a home to me. (76) Once Miss Temple is gone, Jane feels that she is truly herself; that she is not influenced by anything or anyone (76-77). She feels, “as if a motive had gone… the reason for tranquility was no more” (77). Miss Temple is Jane’s reason for staying, and her departure, consequently, is Jane’s reason for leaving. A desire to change always has anticipation.
It is clear Jane desires to leave Gateshead and Lowood, and there are reasons for her departure, but what is she looking forward to doing; what are her anticipations? When at Gateshead Jane is definitely not happy, and, after being asked by Mr. Lloyd if she likes staying at Gateshead, she responds, “If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave” (17). After Jane’s meeting with Mr. Brocklehurst and Mrs. Reed, Jane forms a new anticipation; she decides if asked how treated at Gateshead, she would reveal her miserable life. Jane displays this by saying to Mrs.
Reed: f anyone asks me how I like you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty… and I’ll let everyone at Lowood know what you are, and what you have done (30) Although this intention is meant more as a threat to Mrs. Reed, Jane still thinks of it to be very worthy of carrying out. The greatest anticipation for Jane, however, is just the plain and simple exodus from her horrible life. Greatly hating living with the Reeds, she considers anything but their company something that she can look forward to.
After Jane realizes she cannot stay at Lowood any longer, her anticipations towards her future grow. She recognizes the opportunity that lies in front of her, only beginning to grasp the possibilities of the world. However, Jane considers the reality of her surroundings and forms a simpler plan (76-78). She decides she would still enjoy performing the same position, just somewhere else; she wants “A new servitude” (78). Jane’s occupation pleases her and yet she still wants change. She cannot think of a better solution than that of doing the same thing, just somewhere else, thinking to herself, “all I want is to serve elsewhere” (78).
Her realizations, which make her become more determined than ever, help her acquire her aspiration. Her durable willpower guides her determination and she does obtain her desire. Jane is prepared to embark on a ”new life in the unknown” (85). Jane’s leaving Gateshead and her departure from Lowood are the most important two events in her life playing a role in the shaping of her personality. This personality, one of strength, resilience, and spirit, can be regarded as one of the best developed in literature.
Jane’s desire, in both cases, leads to the reasons for her departure. Once she knows she is departing, her anticipations, always of something better than the present, guide her and help her survive. After everything, she undoubtedly has a better life with a true sense of satisfaction and gratification. Understanding these two changes in her life can lead to a better explanation of the rest of her life: the path she chooses, decisions she makes, how she interacts with her surroundings, and how she finds happiness ever after: the best part of all.