“Never, never, never quit… ” -Winston Churchill If women on this Earth had given up, they would be where they were in the time of Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, tells the story of a woman on a lifetime journey, progressing on the path of acceptance, in searching of sympathy. Throughout her journey, Jane encounters many obstacles to her intelligence. Jane lives in a world and in a time where society thought women were too fragile to ponder too much at once. Women at the time had barely any rights at all, and women were not allowed prominent positions.
Male dominance proves to be the biggest obstruction at each stop of Jane’s journey through Gateshead Hall, Lowood Institution, Thornfield Manor, Moor House, and Ferndean Manor. As she grows, however, as she is her own shoulder to lean on in her times of need, Jane slowly learns how to understand and control repression. Jane’s journey begins at Gateshead Hall. Mrs. Reed, Jane’s aunt and guardian, serves as the biased arbitrator of the rivalries that constantly occur between Jane and John Reed. John emerges as the dominant male figure at Gateshead.
He insists that Jane concedes to him and serve him at all times, threatening her with mental and physical abuse. Mrs. Reed condones John’s conduct and sees him as the victim. Jane’s rebellion against Mrs. Reed represents a realization that she does not deserve the unjust treatment. Jane refuses to be treated as a subordinate and finally speaks out against her oppressors. Her reactions to Mrs. Reed’s hate appear raw and uncensored, and foreshadow possible future responses to restraints. This rebellion also initiates the next phase of her journey. Lowood Institution represents the next step in Jane’s progression.
Her obstacle here appears in the form of Mr. Brocklehurst, the operator of the “respectable” institution. He made his first appearance at Gateshead Hall in order to examine Jane and verify her evil qualities (according to Mrs. Reed). “I looked up at- a black pillar! ” (24) Jane introduces Mr. Brocklehurst in such a way that we can predict the nature of their relationship, dark. Once Jane and Mr. Brocklehurst go into conversation, he explains to Jane how bad little children go to hell. When asked how to prevent going to hell, Jane gives a roundabout answer. Jane knows Mr.
Brocklehurst wants to hear that she will pray to become a better child, but instead Jane replies: “I must keep in good health, and not die. ” (26). Jane further references his appearance in chapter four: “What a face…! ” thinks Jane, “what a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent teeth! ” This sounds more like the Big, Bad Wolf luring Little Red Ridinghood into his trap. At Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst exemplifies the perfect hypocrite. He constantly preached for the denial of “luxury and indulgence” (55), though his values conflict with these ideas.
His wife and daughters personify the meanings of luxury and indulgence in that “they were splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs” (57). He extends his hypocrisy in quoting bible passages to support his preachings, though these preachings and passages do not apply to his own life. He says, ” I have a master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh, to teach them to clothe themselves with shame and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel… 57).
Although she must learn to deal with Brocklehurst’s complete dominance, Jane changes a lot during her years at Lowood, due mainly to the teachings of Helen Burns and Miss. Temple. Through their instruction, Jane learns how to control her anger over Mr. Brocklehurst’s false accusations and understand her feelings without yielding to a vocal rebellion like the one prompted by Mrs. Reed at Gateshead. Jane’s journey next brings her to Thornfield Manor. Mr. Rochester becomes the dominant male figure at this juncture.
While in residence at Thornfield, Rochester demands undivided attention from the servants, Jane included. He insists on dominance in every aspect of his life, and he needs recognition for his superiority. Jane somehow resolves to accept his control and she concedes to him by calling him “sir,” even after beginning their intimate relationship. She even goes so far as to excuse herself for thinking. She says, “I was thinking, sir (you will excuse the idea; it was involuntary), I was thinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers-” (247).
Jane’s irony suggests displeasure at Rochester’s complete dominance of their relationship. Jane’s reference to religion also becomes associated with the idea of a dominant sex, particularly the male gender. For Jane, Rochester embodies the idea of love which has so long been denied to her. She still must continue her pilgrimage when she finds Rochester’s physical and material love unacceptable. Jane’s next lesson comes at Moor House. Here, she must answer to St. John, her cousin (though in name only). He portrays the ultimate sacrificer, willing to do anything for others, no matter how undesirable.
St. John also expects this of Jane, and she must decide whether to answer to his call. By this point in her journey, Jane understands that her search for sympathy can not be realized without real love. She denies St. John’s marriage proposal by saying, “I have a woman’s heart, but not where you are concerned; for you I only have a comrade’s constancy; a fellow-soldier’s frankness, fidelity, fraternity. . . nothing more. . . ” (390). She knows real love can not be given to her by St. John and she must continue still in her journey.
Ferndean Manor emerges as the final stop in Jane’s journey. Once again, Rochester appears as the dominant figure, although his superior air becomes greatly reduced in light of his ailments and complete dependency on those around him. A new man results in this change, and in him, Jane finds her real, spiritual and physical love. She says, “All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever” (425). Rochester no longer demands a subservient being to boost his ego; he demands an equal partner.
He does not try to contain Jane; he sets her free. He says, “Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me” (424). She does not leave him though. In him, Jane finds her sympathy. Rochester embodies the perfect balance between the physical and the spiritual, the natural and graceful, intellectual and physical beauty, and love and servitude. Rather than being ruled, Jane realizes her true abilities and she finds her balance. Jane Eyre makes many stops on her pilgrimage for happiness and equality. Each stop helps her understand and realize qualities in herself and others.
With each new experience and trial, she learns how to rationally confront the repression, which leads to her progression. At Gateshead, Jane refuses to be treated as a subordinate and finally speaks out against her oppressors. At Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst exemplifies the perfect hypocrite, but a simple letter from Mr. Lloyd gets the best of Mr. Brocklehurst. With Mr. Rochester at Thornfield, Jane somehow resolves to accept his control and she concedes to him by calling him “sir,” even after beginning their intimate relationship, no doubt, she will do anything or change any of her ways for him.
With a bit of a twist at Moor House, Jane begins to understand that her search for sympathy can not be realized without real love, where a man, St. John, treats her as a goddess. Finally at Ferndean Rochester appears as the dominant figure once more, but his superiority waters down in light of his ailments and complete dependency on those around him, primarily Jane. Understanding dominance, though not yielding to it, becomes the key for Jane to achieve success. After all, both Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bront stood up for their rights in a time where society said they couldn’t. Reader, if you have a problem, speak up.
New thang Charlotte Bronte was a strong-willed woman with extreme beliefs in self-awareness and individuality, a viewpoint that was tacitly condemned in those times. Throughout her novels Charlotte never failed to collide the main character with the discovery of her true worth. Jane Eyre was Charlotte’s most popular novels and happens to beautifully demonstrate the main character gradually becoming in touch with her true self through life lessons. The journey of Miss Jane Eyre begins at Gateshead where she is in the care of her cruel aunt who treats her like someone off the streets.
In the words of Maggie Berg, a critic who wrote Jane Eyre: A Companion to the Novel, Jane sees herself as a “rebellious slave” and “hungerstricken”. She is clearly the “scapegoat of the nursery” (pg. 47). In the eyes of her wicked aunt she was a “precocious actress” and was therefor regularly locked up like a dog. According to Berg the effect of these accounts drew attention to her self-dramatization. From the very moment Jane was able to read she was constantly attracted by the disguised portraits that she make for herself in books, ballads, and dolls.
The recurring theme of self-awareness I saw in Jane Eyre started from the first time Jane saw herself in the mirror which consequentially gave her a fresh awareness of her own identity. When John “throws the book” at Jane Charlotte Bronte’s attempt was to both literally and metaphorically symbolize the deprivation he was instigating of any sense of herself and her rights. According to Jacques Lacan, the first identity of oneself in a mirror is the most decisive stage in human development. It provides the “awareness of oneself as an object of knowledge”.
I had to cross before the looking glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessies’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travelers.
Throughout her childhood at Gateshead Jane was treated in the most unjust manner, but never until she was locked up it the notorious “Red Room” had she ever admitted to hating her family. When she finally did get her hatred off her chest it yielded much relief, but was followed by intense guilt because such behavior is one that she was grown up not to condone within herself. Her guilt is what I believe to be her first lesson in her self-awareness. Every time she seemed to release herself, something I’ve always found to be healthy, she suppressed them with her guilt.
Throughout the novel, like Berg commented, Jane projects her emotions of intense resentment that she doesn’t condone in herself and doesn’t like to admit. The crisis in the Red Room was a major lesson of self-awareness for Jane in the sense that it caused her to “fall from childhood innocence into recognition of her own potential evil. ” The Red Room crisis is recounted by Jane four times; each time differently as a result of the unexpected non-sympathetic attitudes she received from the listener of the previous account. The first account was most impassioned.
I shall remember how you thrust me back-roughly and violently thrust me back-into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day, though I was in agony, though I cried out, whole suffocating with distress, “Have mercy! Have mercy Aunt Reed! “I will tell anybody who asks me questions this exact tale. (68-69) The second account was to the apothecary who didn’t yield too much sympathy, but the third, to Helen Burns was one of no tolerance or sympathy in the least bit. Helen firmly says, “Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited?
Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs” (90). This turns out to be a lesson about herself that Jane chooses to take with her for the future progression of her identity. We know that she has progressed by examining the account of the same incident to Mrs. Temple for the fourth time. I resolved in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate-most correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order to arrange coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story of my sad childhood.
Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful of Helen’s warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary. Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me. (102-3) At Gateshead Jane undergoes a physical and spiritual transition away from her inner confinement. She is very strong-willed and decisive from what I’ve seen.
For example when she explored beyond the gates at Thornfield she is unwilling to return to the “gloomy house. the gray hollow” (148). She sees all this through glass doors. The Loowood School is Jane’s greatest transition. She confronts the harsh reality of physical survival and gets a sense of her own worth. The journey to the school begins in cold and darkness before dawn in the first month of the year, which symbolized a new birth for her. She is about to physically change her life, but she will also discover much about herself, helping to mold her self-identification.
At the school she also becomes more adventurous. Her discovery of herself at Loowood begins when Helen Burns tells her that she is too dependent on the approval of others. By always keeping this in mind throughout the story Jane is able to ignore the disapproval of others and live life the way she wants. In that respect she becomes a stronger person. The punishment Jane receives by Mr. Brocklehurst is a major visual presentation of herself. She had a superior position on the stool and all the “ladies” underneath her looked ridiculous.
Berg commented that Jane’s bird eye view alters her perspective psychologically and she surprises herself by being so self-controlled. ” I mastered the rising hysteria, lifted up my head, and took a firm stand on the stool” (99). Jane is metaphorically “propped up” by the sympathetic glances of her fellow pupils. Here Jane learns another valuable lesson from Helen. “If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, whole your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends” (101), says Helen. From this she learns that being dubbed a liar doesn’t make her one.
Berg exclaims that whatever label is pinned on her, her soul remains her own. To me it’s no wonder Helen Burns dies in the story. She seems to me to resemble the martyr in Jane’s life. Helen is Jane’s Jesus. The consequence of being called a liar was being called innocent. Miss Temple believed her as did her fellow pupils. This was a turning point in her life because it gave her self worth having the approval of the majority of the school. Yet Jane was not satisfied with her view. She had expanded her self-awareness to such a great degree that the school was hindering her from expanding.
The first encounter of self-awareness Jane experienced at Thornfield is when the gypsy tells her she has “resigned to a feelingless universe because she won’t admit to her aspirations”. The oracle seems to tell Jane more than she is prepared to acknowledge. She does although declare herself capable of realizing her fantasies and creating her own reality. Jane receives a summons from her dying aunt. Surprisingly, she returns. Berg believes this is because Jane senses that she must go back into her past to go forward into her future. Jane is willing to abide to the “sympathetic communication” that the oracle speaks about.
I realized how much Jane grew in her self-identification by thinking about and contrasting what Jane would’ve done had she not transgressed in the manner that she did. She would have no sympathy and would not give her aunt the time of day had she not learned the life lessons about herself that she did. She learned the art of kindness and sympathy from for example Helen. When Rochester tells Jane that he is to marry Blanch, Jane feels as if her whole world had crumbled. All her self-confidence she had gained and the new foundation she built for herself was torn down.
But her self-awareness lessons through all her doubts away and gave her an even stronger self-confidence: “the vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway and asserting a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last: yes-and to speak” (280-81). What Jane says is an absolute denial of her previous portrait of herself as “disconnected, poor, plain. ” She now recognizes that although she doesn’t have Blanche’s external features, she has something of much greater value “beneath the surface. ” Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?
Do you think I am an automaton? -a machine without feelings? 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. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal-as we are! (281) Jane soon sees herself in great peril.
Her husband was becoming her whole world, everything she new. My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world; almost my hope of heaven. He stood between mea and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol. (302) Jane is even afraid to look herself in the mirror. She no longer knows herself. Again she must become a stronger person and reflect on all that she learned about herself. She must leave Rochester. She needed this break in order to move farther in her addictive quest for her self.
Once she was able to achieve integrity, and a sense of individual status, she realized that she was only truly a full person with Rochester. Charlotte Bronte was a woman of strong beliefs; this cannot be stressed enough for it is too prominent in her novels to ignore. Often she would incorporate the modern view of society towards something and in her own way satirize it through her novels. An example is the oppressed status of women that Charlotte was a victim of in her own time. She declared that “a good woman can’t live without self-respect. ” ‘Who in the world cares for you? Or who will be injured by what you do? leads Rochester. ‘I care for myself’ answers Jane.
‘The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.. ‘ (Ch. 27) It is clear that Charlotte herself must have gone through Jane’s life lessons because the lessons and the form in which they appeared in Jane’s life seem too realistic and justifiable. The depiction of the model of a woman who undergoes self-awareness and identity is Jane Eyre, a woman who goes from believing herself plain and common to a strong-willed female who has her new found integrity, no boundaries, but most significantly, no limitations.
Jane and Nature The role nature played in Jane Eyre’s life parallels itself in many people’s lives. I cannot count the many instances that I was having a terrible day and the weather outside was absolutely dreary. Often, days began as sunny but turned cloudy and my mood coincided along with it. Nature constantly spoke to Jane; it reaffirmed thoughts and feelings for Jane and it also gave an insight to the reader about characters. As a little girl, Jane was treated harshly. Mrs. Reed cared little for Jane and this feeling was often reflected in her actions.
Instead of punishing her own troublesome children, Mrs. Reed cast all punishment on Jane. One day Jane was placed in the red-room, so she curled up with a book. While slowly browsing through Bewick’s History of British Birds Jane took a special notice of “the solitary rocks and promontories. ” (Bronte 2) The reader comprehended Miss Eyre’s feelings of desolation and loneliness. After spending a sleepless night in the room, Jane looked out upon daylight to find “rain still beating continuously on the staircase window.
Her “habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, and forlorn depression” were deepened by such gloomy weather. (Bronte 9-10) Much like the beast’s castle in “Beauty and the Beast”, Gateshead, Jane’s home, appeared to have an evil spell that would not allow the days to be sprinkled with sunshine and happiness. Jane’s horrible, doom filled days at Gateshead came to a halt when Jane was accepted into Lowood Institution. Although Lowood was a more joyous home for Jane, she never considered it home. Jane delighted in one wintery morning when the girls could not wash because the pitchers were frozen.
A change had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen northeast wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned the contents of the ewers to ice. ” (Bronte 45) Even though it was cold, Jane was thankful to have a residence because she, unlike many of the other girls, had no home in which to turn. Spring fever erupted at Lowood and Jane encountered many joyful experiences. “Days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft western or southern gales” allowed the inhabitants to take walks and enjoy all of the flowers.
Bronte 68) During this wonderful spring, typhus ran rampant among half of the girls, weakening them and even bringing death to an unfortunate few. Even though Jane lost friends, her spirits soared because she had found a new sense of self. After eight years at Lowood Institution, six years as a student and two years as a teacher, Jane decided it was time to move on. She advertised for a governess position and after several months of endless waiting, she finally received a reply. Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield Hall wanted Jane to teach Adele, a spirited, young girl from France.
Jane happily accepted the position and quickly set out for Thornfield Hall. “It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. ” (Bronte 91) Jane’s new beginning was sweetened by the beautiful scenery. She saw her life in front of her as nothing but blue skies; she could earn her keep and she was away from Lowood, away from the institutional atmosphere. Even though this was a new beginning for Jane, Thornfield Hall had its problems.
She noticed the “array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty and broad as oaks… quiet and lonely hills and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion” that was not expected. (Bronte 91) The effect of nature in this passage foreshadows dilemmas Jane would encounter while residing there. After residing at Thornfield for several months, Jane finally took a day off and accomplished many errands in town. On her way back home, Jane happened by a stranger on a horse. They spoke and after some discussion, the gentleman discovered she resided at Thornfield.
In pointing out the house to the gentleman, both noticed “the moon cast a hoary gleam [on Thornfield], bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods, that, by contrast with the Western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow. ” (Bronte 105) This picturesque description forecasted trouble at the mansion. Both went on their separate ways and later reunited at Thornfield, only to discover that the stranger was Mr. Rochester, Jane’s employer. Mr. Rochester and Jane spent time together and became friends. One evening, Jane heard noises so she left her room to investigate. She discovered Mr.
Rochester’s room was on fire and he was asleep inside. Jane entered and extinguished the fire. Mr. Rochester was grateful, but made Jane promise to keep the incident a secret. Jane found this peculiar, but brushed the thought aside. At this point Jane started falling in love with Mr. Rochester. The next day, Mr. Rochester left on business and returned weeks later with several guests. They threw parties every night so Jane rarely had the chance to speak with him. Jane also discovered Mr. Rochester was courting one of the ladies and planned to marry her. Jane was saddened by this news.
She was walking one day and noticed “the sky, though far from cloudless was such as promised well for the future: it’s blue where the blue was visible – was mild and settled, and its cloud strata high and thin… ” (Bronte 230). Jane was disheartened by this news because she was at peace living at Thornfield; she had found a home. When walking through the orchard one lovely day, Jane came upon Mr. Rochester. They conversed for a few minutes and their discussion led to a confession of love for each other. Mr. Rochester proposed marriage and Jane joyously accepted.
At that moment Jane looked up and saw that “a livid, vivid spark leapt up out of a cloud at which I was looking, and there was a crack, a crash and a close rattling peal. ” (Bronte 243) The horse chestnut tree split in half. This let the reader know that the marriage was not meant to be. The day of marriage arrived and everything was awkward for Jane and Mr. Rochester. At the altar, two men objected to the marriage, saying Mr. Rochester was already married. As it turned out, he was married to a lunatic that he had locked up in a room upstairs. Mr. Rochester told everyone his story and then they departed.
Jane ran away during the middle of the night. After hitchhiking to a small town she begged for food and work. “I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. ” (Bronte 308) This star was like the one the three wise men sought before they found Jesus. The star represented hope for Jane; it was telling her not to give up. The next residence she approached housed a gentleman that was kind enough to let her stay. As it turned out, these people were long lost cousins of Jane. Her uncle died and she inherited a small fortune and split it with her cousins. Being rich, however, did not change Jane.
She still loved Mr. Rochester and heard him call to her in the middle of the night. She left her new-found family to find him. She returned to Thornfield, but found only rubble of the house. She learned that one evening the wife got out and set the house on fire Everyone exited safely, but Mrs. Rochester went up on the roof. Mr. Rochester followed after her, but when he got there she leaped off the side of the building. Mr. Rochester got caught inside on his way down and suffered injuries. He lost his sight and had his left hand amputated, but he was still alive. Jane traveled to his new residence and reunited with him.
Once again he proposed in a garden like the first time, and Jane accepted. Jane “described to him how brilliantly green [the fields] were; how the flowers and hedges looked refreshed; how sparkling blue was the sky. ” (Bronte 241) Everything was settled and they were married. From this marriage came one son. Eventually Mr. Rochester acquired some sight and was able to enjoy life more. Nature plays a part in the general mood of the book. People today should watch for clues as shown in the novel to guide their lives. God uses many mysterious ways to let you know if something is right or wrong; nature is just one of them.