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Book Review About Jane Eyre English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3907 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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2. Author and date written: Charlotte Bronte, 1877. 3. Themes and/or purpose of work: Throughout her life, Jane meets three different models of organized religion that she initially rejects, but eventually uses as foundation for her own personal doctrine of faith. Helen Burns exemplifies an all forgiving, tolerant, and benevolent Christianity that is too docile, submissive and fruitless for Jane’s natural temperament. Jane watches Helen suffer a cruel life and die all whilst being a quiet and obedient Christian, and determines her meekness was ultimately useless. Mr. Brocklehurst’s represents the hypocrisy of religion; he preaches the Christian values of poverty and humility while he unjustly deprives and punishes the students of Lowood and enjoys a luxurious lifestyle with his family. St. John represents a Christianity of martyrdom and strictly practices sacrifice and righteousness at the expense of his compassion and human emotion, and is described as “inexorable as death.” Jane denounces this model of religion as too cold and detached, and lacking the love she desires. In addition to Religion, passion (fire) vs. reason (ice) is another prevalent theme Bronte sprinkles throughout the novel. Fire is illustrated as passionate, warm, but sometimes dangerous, while in contrast ice is represented as detached, unfeeling, and metallic. Bronte stresses this contrast by attributing the motifs to certain characters. Particularly cruel, heartless or detached characters, such as Eliza Reed, St. John, and Mrs. Reed are associated with “ice.” Passionate, warm, benevolent and loving characters such as Helen, Jane’s cousins, Miss Temple, Georgiana Reed, and Mr. Rochester, are associated with “fire”. Bronte reveals her personal preference for fire over ice in showing the reader that although both are destructive elements, Fire’s destruction can be positive. For example, Bertha’s setting fire to Mr. Rochesters bed facilitates the intimacy between him and Jane. Her setting fire to and destroying of Thornfield Manner leads to her death, and frees Rochester from his painful past. Despite the fact the second fire was destructive in that it blinds Rochester, it allows Jane to realize his new dependence on her and overlook her past concerns about the inequality of their potential the union. Bronte does not directly say that the characters associated with ice are completely cold, unfeeling, and undesirable; however, she emphasizes the importance of “fiery” passion and love as the way to personal happiness.

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4. Characters (major and minor):

Jane Eyre: The narrator and protagonist of Jane Eyre. Jane begins the novel an impassioned and confused orphan but gradually develops into a sensitive, maternal, and independent young woman. Jane’s self-esteem, sense of self, and character as whole is formed in path through various worlds: Lowood, Thornfield, and particularly Moor House. Jane serves as a heroine to which everyone can relate; she embodies the desire for love, the emotional conflict between passion and reason, the search for independence, and the demand for justice that every individual seeks.

Edward Rochester: The master of Thornfield Manor, where Jane taught as governess. Mr. Rochester embodies and encourages the passionate side of Jane, as well as offers a contrast to her reason. Mr. Rochester is also particularly important to Jane because he provides her with the unconditional love and sense of family that she searches for throughout the novel.

St. John Rivers: The evangelist preacher who takes Jane in at Moor House, brother to Diana and Mary and, it turns out, cousin to Jan. St. John, in contrast to Mr. Rochester, embodies all that is icy and cold, and encourages such qualities in Jane. He is also one of the three major models of religion (Brocklehurst and Helen) that Jane encounters in the course of the novel. However, he is not as positive of a model as Helen, and embodies a religion that is to cold and merciless for Jane.

Helen Burns: Jane’s intimate friend and companion at Lowood. Helen embodies the Christian doctrine of tolerance and forgiveness, Helen serves as a contrast and abatement to both Mr. Brocklehurst, with his lack of Christian compassion and religious hypocrisy, and Jane, with her passionate temperament. Helen reveals a positive Christianity to Jane; in which faithfulness and compassion are rewarded in Heaven. Although Jane originally questions Helen’s brand of religion, she does incorporate it in her life later on.

Mr. Brocklehurst: The manager of Lowood, the school Jane attends. Mr. Brocklehurst attempts to embody Christian morals and then treats the students at Lowood with disgust and cruelty. He represents the hypocrisy in religion in contrast to Helen and St. John.

Mrs. Fairfax: The elderly servant and housekeeper at Thornfield. Although Mrs. Fairfax is not extremely intimate with Jane, she serves as another loving maternal figure for Jane, in addition to Miss Temple.

Bessie Lee: A servant at Gateshead. Bessie is Jane’s only figure of love at Gateshead. Bessie acts as quiet maternal figure for Jane, and believes in Jane throughout her life.

Mrs. Reed: Jane’s aunt. She is the first character that Jane passionately rebels and stands up against. She embodies what is “cold”, and even on her deathbed, doesn’t apologize to Jane, although Jane forgives her.

Mr. Reed: Jane’s other uncle who dies when she is an infant, and makes Mrs. Reed vow to care for her, his most beloved niece. He’s recurrently felt present as a “ghost” to Jane.

John Reed: Jane’s cousin and brother to Eliza and Georgiana. John is the cause of the decay and downfall of the Reed house and family name. He embodies all that is immoral.

Georgiana Reed: Jane’s cousin and Eliza’s sister. Georgiana fully embodies all that is fiery and passionate. In doing so, she reveals to jade the negative aspects of being to passionate and emotional; becoming irrational, vain, vapid, spoiled, and careless. However, Jane reveals that she believes Georgiana is the lesser of two evils.

Eliza Reed: Jane’s cousin and Georgiana’s sister. Eliza is described by Jane as cold, emotionless, and selfish. She eventually converts to devout Christianity, but only espouses the importance of “usefulness” “sacrifice” and “rationality” rather than compassion and empathy.

Adele Varens: The child that Jane is a governess for at Thornfield. Adele is the illegitimate child of Rochesters late romantic interest, Celine Varens and her lover. She is a source of love and purpose for Jane, and acts as a daughter figure. To Rochester, she embodies all that is “French” “flowery” and depthless.

Bertha Mason: Rochester’s insane wife and Richard Mason’s sister. Bertha represents classic Gothic elements and Charlotte Bronte’s negative opinion on gender inequalities and marriage during the Victorian Era.

Grace Poole: Bertha Mason’s keeper at Thornfield.

Blanche Ingram: Jane’s only romantic “rival” for Rochester. She is young, beautiful, and socially educated, but lacks depth and is two dimensional. Blanche’s opinion regarding governesses reflects the popular beliefs about governesses during the Victorian period.

Miss Temple: The superintendent of Lowood. Miss Temple is the contrast to the hypocritical and cruel Mr. Brocklehurst. She represents one of Jane’s surrogate mother figures in the novel, and has the kindly demeanor and inner strength that Jane aspires to have as an adult.

Diana Rivers: Jane’s cousin and the sister of St. John and Mary. Diana, like her sister, is a manifestation of the unjust quality of life for well-bred, educated, but unmarried women in Victorian society. Diana encourages and helps Jane to maintain and discover her independence, and has many of the qualities Jane possesses and esteems.

Mary Rivers: Jane’s cousin and the sister of St. John and Diana Rivers. Mary, as well as Diana, exemplifies the kind of woman Jane desires to become; and transforms into throughout the course of the novel.

Rosamond Oliver: The daughter of the wealthy Mr. Oliver and the benefactress of Jane’s school in the village of Morton. She is described as angelically beautiful and the romantic interest St. John. Rosamond represents profound but depthless beauty, like Adele.

John Eyre: Jane, St. John, Diana, and Mary’s uncle who made his fortune as a merchant in Madeira. He desired to adopt Jane but was told by Mrs. Reed that she was dead, and eventually leaves his vast fortune of 20,000 pounds to Jane. For the majority of the novel he is regarded by Jane as her sole familial connection.

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5. Organization: Jane Eyre is organized as a flashback/memoir in chronological order. Bronte does this to add suspense, so that the reader is just as unknowing as the protagonist; however the option is still open to insert clarification from the future if necessary. The novel can be divided into five separate segments, each representing a main location where Jane has resided. Her stays there reflect her growth emotionally, socially, and spiritually as well as her search for love. These residences are Gateshead, Lowood, Thornfield, Morton and . In her childhood at Gateshead Jane searches for love in a doll and Bessie. She is locked into the “Red Room” for her passionate nature and consequently she is suggested to leave and attend school. Right before her departure Jane speaks out to Mrs. Reed for the first time, showing both the dominance of her passionate side as well has her growth in independence and strength. Lowood is the second residence, and represents Jane’s first introduction to religion. Here Jane acquires her education, spirituality, civility, and endurance. Here Miss Temple and Helen act as the first loving maternal figures for Jane. At Thornfield Jane receives the change her restless nature desires with entirely new scene, and the love she craves through her romance with Mr. Rochester. Here, passion vs. nature conflict aggressively, and Jane develops her moral conscience and sense of self. The next residence is Moor House, in Morton. Here Jane discovers familial ties and the sense of love that accompanies it, she also experiences another major introduction to religion, through St. John. At Ferndean, every type of love Jane has sought throughout the novel- familial, romantic, self, religious, and maternal- all come to a culmination. Her return to the settings Gateshead and Thornfield are used as devices to reveal her personal change.


Charlotte Bronte uses settings to symbolize, foreshadow, characterize, and knit her plot. The setting of Jane Eyre is composed of five different locations that each reveal the emotional progress of Jane as well as other characters, and illustrate the themes of the novel. Jane spends her childhood at Gateshead Hall with the Reeds, her closest relatives. Jane reveals her situation at Gateshead through the gothic and suspenseful description of her banishment to the Red Room in Gateshead. Here the reader first notices Jane’s passionate temperament, as well as the negative associations she has with Gateshead and the isolation she feels from her family there. From Gateshead Jane is sent to Lowood school, where she meets Mr. Brocklehurst, Helen Burns and Miss Temple. Helen and Brocklehurst serve as Jane’s first models of religion, and Miss Temple and Helen serve as her first real maternal figures. The descriptive language applied to Lowood is almost entirely dreary. Words like “cold” and “gray” are scattered throughout. The only positive descriptions of Lowood are attributed to Miss Temples quarters, where Jane uses words such as “warmth” and “comfort,” and the springtime, where Jane’s appreciation for all things vernal contrasts her abhorrence for all things wintery, as well as the death that surrounds her. When Jane leaves Lowood, she advertises and gains employment as governess to Adele at Thornfield. Here, Jane uses imagery of nature to reveal her passionate sentiments. Winter, cold, and stagnation are all prevalent when Mr. Rochester, Jane’s romantic interest is away. Spring-like words and imagery are linked to moments of bliss or emotional connection with Mr. Rochester. Gothic descriptions and elements scatter Thornfield and give it a mysterious element. When she returns to Thornfield at the end of the book, she describes it as “ruined” “black” “deathly quiet” “grimy” which contrast her previously positive associations with the setting as well as the manors’ state without its owner and her love Mr. Rochester. Jane runs away from Thornfield after discovering Rochesters second marriage and is taken into Moor House, which she eventually discovers is the home of her cousins, Diana, Mary and St. John Rivers. Here she finds familial love and uses descriptions such as “plain” “clean” and “quant” to reveal her personal taste for simplicity, as well as her preferences in terms of her ideal home. At the end of the book, Jane and Rochester are reunited when she visits him at his hunting-lodge, Ferndean Manor. The manor is describes as “dreary” “desolate” and “crumbling” to symbolize the current state of Rochester; however, her desire to live there despite its physical appearance reveals her same sentiments for Rochester despite his physical defects. The two settings that Jane revisits are Thornfield and Gateshead, and her return to such places reveal changes in her and the individuals in her past. She returns to the deathbed of Mrs. Reed at Gateshead. There Jane discovers the polarity between her cousins Georgina and Eliza, a contrast that personifies the theme Passion vs. Reason. From Moor House she returns to Thornfield only to discover it as an empty ruin.

7. Plot summary: The novel begins at Gateshead, where 10 year old Jane lives an unjust life under her cold and cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed.  Under the suggestion of an apothecary, Jane is sent by Mrs. Reed to a charity school Lowood.  There she meets the hypocritical Mr. Brocklehurst, and maternal figures Miss Temple and Helen, who dies from typhus. She stays at Lowood until Miss Temple gets married and leaves, leaving Jane feeling restless for a new life. Jane advertises for a Job as a governess and is employed at Thornfield Manor to teach a young French girl named Adele. Jane slowly falls in love with Mr. Rochester, the master of Thornfield, and eventually discovers his sentiments are the same.  On the day they plan to marry, it is publically revealed that Mr. Rochester already has a wife currently living at Thornfield, although Jane learns the wife is insane and Rochester was forced into marrying her.  Heartbroken, Jane flees Thornfield and after days of poverty and destitution is taken in Moor House by St. John Diana and Mary Rivers. While there, St. John employs Jane as a teacher for the town school.  Jane eventually learns that the close relative of the Rivers that died is also her uncle, and she is given his 20 thousand pound fortune that she shares between her and her new found cousins. St. John intends to become a missionary in India and proposes to Jane to be his wife and accompany him because he finds her suitable for the job. Jane refuses and quickly leaves in search of Mr. Rochester, only to discover that Thornfield was burned down by Bertha Mason.  After inquiring, Jane learns that Rochester is blind and crippled from the fire, and living at Ferndean, another of his houses.  When she reunites with him they immediately get married and the novel ends with Rochester regaining his vision, Jane bearing a son, the River sisters happily married, and St. John dying in India.

8. Important Passage + Theme: When Miss Temple leaves Lowood, Jane begins feeling discontent and restless for a new life. In justifying this desire, she voices a profoundly feminist philosophy that was extremely radical during the Victorian period. She declares that “Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.” This social remark, that women are equal to men regardless of socioeconomic differences, is a major theme throughout the novel. From the beginning to the end, Jane strives for equality in the face of several different oppressing forces. Not only must she consistently fight to break the strict social cast system of Victorian society but also the misogynistic beliefs that were universally accepted at the time. She uses choice phrases such as “supposed to” to imply that the generally held belief is a rule, and not necessarily a choice or nature of women. She also refers to men as women’s “brothers”, and woman as men’s “fellow-creatures” to directly highlight her belief that both genders are equal. She declares that domestic tasks such as cooking, knitting, crafting, and entertaining only limit a woman’s full potential and to insist women “confine” themselves to such duties is “narrow-minded.” She appeals to the male audience because she enables them to empathize, specifically in pointing out how a man would naturally react under such oppression. Her final statement, that it is “thoughtless” to condemn women who seek “to do more or learn more” than merely “custom” deems necessary completes her point in draws a distinct contrast between what is negative -thoughtlessness and what is positive- doing and learning more.

9. Symbol: In chapter two Jane is sent to the “red room” for her passionate outburst against John. The room, where Jane’s uncle Mr. Reed spent the last hours of his life, is regarded by the entire family as haunted; therefore making banishment there the most severe punishment. Not only is the red-room a physical imprisonment, but it also serves as a symbol of imprisonment in many ways. Jane is forcibly locked in the room for hours, so the red room transforms into a literal prison. Red, the room’s dominating color palate, is universal symbol for passion. For this reason, the “red room” is a symbol for Jane’s “enslavement” to her passions. In addition, the red room is symbolic for the isolation Jane feels between her and the Reeds, as well as society as a whole. She amongst those of high society, but is not a part of high society herself. The red room actualizes this sense of separation in Jane, which she later feels at Thornfield. Being in the room even reminds Jane of her isolation; especially when she says “I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there.” Overall, the symbol of the red room reveals Jane’s character and personal struggle with her passions, as well as her position in terms of society. Both of these revelations are consistent throughout the novel, so in a sense the red room is also a foreshadowing for Jane’s future.

10. Characteristic Quotes

“It is not violence that best overcomes hate -nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury” -Helen Burns to Jane (Ch. 6)

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will…” -Jane to Mr. Rochester (Ch. 23)

My bride is here… because my equal is here, and my likeness” -Mr. Rochester to Jane (Ch. 23)

“who had a spoiled temper, a very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally indulged. Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for every fault”

Jane on Georgiana Reed

“Very tall, almost as tall as Miss Ingram-very thin too, with a sallow face and severe mien. The extreme plainness of a straight-skirted, black, stuff dress, a starched linen collar, hair combed away from the temples, and the nun-like ornament of a string of ebony beads and a crucifix. This I felt she was Eliza Reed, though I could trace little resemblance to her former self in the elongated and colorless visage.” Jane on Eliza Reed

“Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good … man, Miss Eyre: one of the better end; and you see I am not so. […] Then take my word for it, – I am not a villain: you are not to suppose that – not to attribute to me any such bad eminence; but, owing, I verily believe, rather to circumstances than to my natural bent, I am a trite common-place sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which the rich and worthless try to put on life.” (1.14.61) Rochester on Jane

“So much has religion done for me; turning the original materials to the best account; pruning and training nature. But she could not eradicate nature: nor will it be eradicated ’till this mortal shall put on immortality.” – -St. John

St. John, no doubt, would have given the world to follow, recall, retain her, when she thus left him; but he would not give one chance of heaven, nor relinquish, for the Elysium of her love, one hope of the true, eternal Paradise.

Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with her just now – is she gone? Oh, no! there she is still behind the window-curtain. You pay her, of course: I should think it quite as expensive, – more so; for you have them both to keep in addition…You should hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi – were they not, mama?- spoken by Blanche Ingram

You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example: if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weight well her words, scrutinize her actions, punish her body to saver her soul; if indeed, such salvation be possible for (my tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut – this girl is – a liar! – spoken by Mr. Brocklehurst.


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