Jane Eyre is the typical works of Charlotte Bronte. It has high appraisal in literature history. The novel narrates Jane Eyre’s life experiences from an orphan to an independent woman. She was unfortunate when she was born, because she lost her parents and was sent to her aunt’s family, where she was heartlessly treated. Jane Eyre is little, ugly, timid, and is a “little thing” having no clear identity. All the power presses her, strangles her personality. But Jane Eyre is not destroyed by the ugly fact, and she is not over-whelmed by difficulties. On the contrary, she learns how to live and how to be strong. And she has the courage to struggle with the pressure. Jane Eyre cuts a completely new woman image. She represents those middle-class working women who are struggling for recognition of their basic right and equality as a human being.
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Jane Eyre’s love is the other aspect this paper will talk about. She is very poor, so she has nothing except the power of individual spirit. In her view, love must be based on mutual understanding and equality. Love is not only acquaintance, but also it needs equality. She cannot accept the kindness of martial. It is the shame for her and blasphemy to her self-respect. It is necessary that it have self-respect for love. Jane Eyre’s departure doesn’t deny her sincere love, but deny the inequality of marriage, and the dependence after marriage. In addition to love, Jane Eyre pursues the equality on economy, personality and social status. She believes in equality between men and women.
This paper, firstly, talks about the author and the general idea about Jane Eyre briefly. Secondly, the most important part in this thesis, it mainly analyzes the character of Jane Eyre from the following aspects: (1) self-respect and confidence of Jane Eyre; (2) Jane Eyre’s love and her view on love; (3) the independence of Jane Eyre; (4) Jane Eyre’s view on equality between man and woman. It will make the image of Jane Eyre much more vivid and bright. Finally, it is the conclusion of this paper.
I. The Introduction to Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is written by Charlotte Bronte, one of the most famous female workers in Britain. It is an autobiography novel and it has high appraisal in literature.
A. The Introduction to Its Author
Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) was one of the most famous female workers in English literature. In this period of tense class struggle appeared a new literary trend-critical realism. English critical realism of the 19th century flourished in the forties and in the early fifties. The critical realists described with much vividness and great artistic skill the chief traits of the England society and criticized the capitalist system from a democratic viewpoint. She created several works, such as Shirley (1849), Villette (1853), The Professor (1857). Her works are all about the struggle of an individual consciousness toward self-realization, about some lonely and neglected young women with a longing for love. Jane Eyre is her typical works. It is an autobiography novel. It was written in the year 1846.
B. The Brief Introduction to Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre, as a plain orphan, is cruelly treated in childhood by her aunt, Mrs. Reed, a harsh and unsympathetic woman on whom she is depend. Because Jane reacts strongly against the unliable aunt’s bad treatment, she is sent away to a charity school, Lowood Charity. There she suffers a lot both physically and mentally, only consoled by a kind teacher, Miss Temple. Jane Eyre stays at the school for 8 years, and then becomes governess at Thorn field Hall. Mr. Rochester, the master of the house, is fascinated by her wit and courageous spirit and falls in love with her. This is the same with her. But their marriage is prevented by the revelation that he has had a wife, a raving mad woman, still alive. Shocks and deeply hurt, Jane makes up her mind to leave him and flees to the Moor House. There Rivers family takes her in. St. John Rivers, a very handsome clergyman who is determined to devote himself to God, almost succeeds in making her agree to marry him. But she refuses and finally goes back to Rochester, who is a blind and free man. Then they marry and live a content life.
II. A Detailed Analysis of the Character of Jane Eyre
In this novel, the author makes a female image that is against social pressure. Jane Eyre is an orphan child with a fiery spirit and a longing to love and be loved. She is plain and poor. On her way to seeking the ideal life of happiness, she encounters many hardships and frustrations, and takes a series of unyielding fights. She is brave, enthusiastic enough to change her tragic fate through her own strong unyielding rebellious character. All appraise her fiery spirit, her hatred of self-righteousness, her love of truth, and her yearning independence and equality.
A. Self-Respect and Self-Confidence of Jane Eyre
As a young girl, she is ill treated by her aunt, however, Jane Eyre finds her boundless confidence and tough spirit, and a kind of inner power cannot be defeated. Her self-respect is related to her life environment. She is poor but aspiring, small in body but huge in soul. In her opinion, everyone is the same at God’s feet. Though there are differences in status, in property and also in appearance, all the human beings are equal in personality. She never feels herself inferior to Rochester though she is a humble family teacher. On the contrary, she thinks they are fair. Everybody should respect each other. In fact, her uprightness, loftiness and sincerity, shakes Rochester and makes him think she is a very woman who can talk fairly in spirit. The heroine is moved by his whole-hearted. They fall in love deeply. At the time of marrying, she finds the fact that Rochester has had a wife. She tells herself she must leave. She says to Rochester like this:
I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will h-old to the principles received by men when I was sane, and not mad-as I am now, laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth. Preconceived opinions, foregone deter-minations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.
(Charlotte Bronte, 2003)
From the short passage, it can be seen Jane Eyre finds she is deceived; her self-respect is made fun of, because she loves Mr. Rochester sincerely. No one can bear this by his closest lover. But Jane Eyre can. What’s more, she makes a very rational decision. Under so beautiful love, the temptation with rich life, she persists in her self-respect. At the end of this novel, though Thorn field is destroyed and Rochester himself is disabled, in this circumstance, Jane Eyre is in a dilemma no longer between love and self-respect. At the same time, she feels satisfied: she gets love and respect when they get marry.
That is Jane Eyre, a strong woman, a short and small woman, having strong self-respect. She pursues a kind of bright, sincere and beautiful life unswerving. Actually, she isn’t pretty; the ordinary appearance doesn’t make others feel good to her of course, even her own aunt feels disgusted with her. But she is obviously prettier than the plain and ugly governess. As she says:
Do you think, because I’m 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 through the medium of custom, conversation, nor even of mortal flesh: -it is my spirit that addressed your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet-equal, -as we are!”
(Charlotte Bronte, 2003)
This is the idea of equality in Jane Eyre’s mind. God does not give her beauty and wealth, but instead, God gives her a kind mind and a thinking brain. Her idea of equality and self-respect impresses us so much and lets us feel the power inside her body.
Though one’s beauty on the face can make others feel that one is attractive and charming, if his or her mind isn’t the same beautiful as the appearance, for example, beauty cannot last forever, when others find that the beauty which has charmed them is only a falsity; it’s not true, they will like the person no more. For a long time, only a person’s great virtue, noble soul, beautiful heart can be called as an everlasting beauty, just as William Shakespeare said that beauty lived with kindness (You Ruiyun, 1999). We cannot distinguish whether a man is of nobleness or humbleness, but as there are great differences in our souls, and from that we can know that whether a man is noble or ordinary, and even obscure, that is, whether he is beautiful or not.
B. Jane Eyre’s Love and Her View on Love
Love is the most beautiful characteristic of human beings’ life. And love cannot be measured by status, power or property. To most people, they like to seek a meaningful, romantic relationship resulting in love, commitment, companionship and happiness. For people, it is most important that a man and a woman have heart and feelings that find a perfect response, and also have mutual affinity. Everyone is eager to get a beautiful, romantic, happy and everlasting love. This novel is not an ordinary love story. Jane Eyre and Rochester get true love after a lot of sufferings. After acquaintance, then attracting each other, and falling in love deeply, they meet many obstacles. From Jane Eyre’s experiences, it was obvious that her relatives did not love her when she was a child. But it is just her childhood experiences that affect her character and later life. In fact, she is a kind girl who brings love to people around her. Mr. Rochester is an unfortunate man who has tied to a mad woman for fifteen years. He spends ten years traveling all over Europe, looking for a good and intelligent woman to love. When he finally meets Jane Eyre who appears and insists on helping him when his horse slips and falls on the ice, he begins to depend on this little figure for his happiness and new interest in life. But God plays joke on him. His wedding is ruined and Jane Eyre leaves him. He is alone again. Jane Eyre loves Rochester deeply from the beginning to the end. There should be no distinction of property, rank or age in true love. Mr. Rochester, who has rich experiences and wisdom, is softhearted, wealthy and in high rank as well as having pride and rudeness. He is older than Jane Eyre by nearly 20 years and can be her father. Jane Eyre loves him, not because his wealth and high rank, but because he treats her equally and in a friendly manner, although she is very poor and in low position. She is such an excellent girl, good, intelligent, considerate, that Rochester is attracted. It is Jane Eyre but not anyone else who Rochester loves. After his travel around Europe, and his life with his mistresses, he finds Jane Eyre. Mr. Rochester says:
After a youth and man-hood passed half in unutterable misery and half in dreary solitude, I have for the first time found what I can may love-I have found you. You are my sympathy-my better self-my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong at-tachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wraps my existence about you-and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.
(Charlotte Bronte, 2003)
It is obvious that Rochester loves Jane Eyre deeply.
Perhaps there is a question: now that Rochester loves Jane whole-hearted, he should not deceive her. He should tell her the truth that he had a legal wife. But in the social background, people pay too much attention to property, rank and status. If the disparity is great, a pair of lovers would suffer disagreements from their families and their friends. Such as Mrs. Fairfax, one of Rochester’s servants is very surprised and feels puzzled that her master is madly clinging to Jane. But both of them don’t care about the difference of status and property or others’ opinion. They pursue true love. They overcome the obstacles. In theory they are happy to be married, but their marriage is destroyed by a mad woman. His wife is alive. Rochester tells the fact to her, and he is full of regret about it. He tells Jane what he has done and confesses all his past history. Mr. Rochester tries to conceal that he has had a mad wife, because he loves Jane. He is worried that she cannot endure the fact and will leave him if he tells her the truth. At last, he exposes his secret to her, which also proves his sincere love for Jane. Jane forgives him, but she doesn’t want to be his mistress, she wants to be his real wife, so she leaves. It is impossible for her to hate him. On the day she runs away, passing the door of Rochester, she cannot keep the tears from raining down her face.
Although Jane Eyre leaves, she misses Rochester every day. Wherever she goes, she remembers him every moment. She often dreams of him like that she is embraced by him, hearing his voice, meeting his eyes, touching his hand and face. She loves him, and is loved as well, and wants to spend all her life with him. After her departure, she loses her aim. She is hungry and cold until St. John saves her and he wants to marry Jane. But Jane refuses. Although St. John is a little merciful and handsome man, he is also very harsh and arbitrary. He doesn’t respect her or give her selfless love. Jane says if she joins St. John, she will abandon half herself and if she goes to India, she will go to premature death. Jane Eyre insists that true love should be based on equality, mutual understanding and respect. So she refuses John’s proposal. She seems to hear the voice of Rochester in her mind, and then she comes back to Thorn field Garden. In most people’s eyes, nobody would like to marry a man who loses his sight and most of his wealth. Like today, in a pair of lovers or a couple if one of them becomes disabled, maybe the other will leave him or her. But as to Jane, she is different. In her mind, true love is the meeting of hearts and minds of two people.
People must love the bad as well as the good. The premise of genuine love is mutual respect and independence.
In this novel, Rochester is much older than Jane Eyre, even can be her father. No matter what society it is, age is an important obstacle between lovers. At the beginning, Rochester is very proud, sardonic and harsh that makes Jane feels puzzled. Then they spend many hours on conversation. Jane becomes alive in his attention, is stimulated by the challenges he offers and is comfortable in arguing against his opinions. Life experiences, maturity, and some points about the life are different. Rochester often refers to Jane’s youthfulness, limited experiences and calls her his little friend “I envy you, your peace of mind, your clean conscience, and your
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unpolluted memory little girl.” (Charlotte Bronte, 2003). From her childhood experiences, it is known that Jane does not have parents and does not get love from her parents. Rochester is the first man she meets that gives her love and makes her feel very happy, so she falls in love with him who has rich experience and is very mature. To some extent, it can be said that she regards Rochester as her father because of her lack of love from father.
C. Jane Eyre’s Independence
The independent spirit is another most important aspect attracting readers. Jane Eyre is exposed to a hostile environment but continuously and fearlessly struggling for her ideal life. To some degree, the novel can be interpreted as a symbol of the independent spirit. In Jane Eyre, mistreatment and unfairness force Jane to struggle for self-respect, while knowledge and worthwhile work provide her with enough economic supply to gain independence. Jane, casting alone on the world and fighting a solitary battle, shows her determination in pursuing her self-esteem and independence at every stage of her life, both in struggling with social pressure and resisting the temptation of passion and love. In every relationship, Jane rises from inferiority to superior, and finally gains full independence through continuous rebellion.
a. Jane Eyre’s Consciousness of the Importance of Independence
The struggle begins for the despised, outcast, unprotected child at Reeds. She
bravely stands up for her rights and fights for the life of success she deserves. At this stage Jane’s instinct for self-assertion can only express itself in rebellion. An orphan since early childhood, Jane Eyre has no parents or friends, no wealth or possession, misunderstood, mistreated by the relatives she has. All alone in the world, she seems doomed to a life of failure. The cruel treatment she receives from her Aunt Reed and her cousins only exacerbates her feeling of alienation, and deepens her determination of rebellion. She realizes that she will never find a true sense of home or community and feel the need for belonging, to find “kin,” or at least “kindred spirits.” And the “red-room” life only deepens her courage in resisting her aunt’s unfair punishment, which foreshadows Jane’s independence or rebelliousness. The poor experience at Gatehead tempers her equally intense need for autonomy and freedom. The Reed family is a demonstration of Jane’s power to overcome the circumstance. The dramatic presentation of Jane’s struggle at Gatehead demonstrates that she should begin to realize it is not necessary to fear authority.
b. Gaining Strength from Her Teacher and Schoolmates
Since Jane Eyre’s education in Lowwood Orphanage, she doesn’t get what she has been expecting—simply being regards as a common person, just the same as any other girl around. Jane continues to be socially ostracized, financially trapped, and excluded from love; her sense of independence and her freedom of self-expression are constantly threatened. The cruel treatment from Mr. Brocklehurst and the poor condition there only inspires Jane to gain independence. Helen Burns’s martylike attitude toward the school’s miseries is helpful to Jane. She learns from Helen the ability of endurance. Though Helen suffers from shame and anger when punished, she tries to endure her punishment socially. But Helen’s death makes Jane angrily believe her own words once more “strike back very hard, resist in justice, return dislike to dislike.”(Charlotte Bronte, 2003). That is the typical rebelliousness. It is hard for people to imagine or believe that such a short, plain and weak girl contains a never yielding soul and feelings as warm as raging flames not only because of the bad conditions but the indifferent human relationships there.
At Lowood, Jane’s independence rises to a higher level. She learns to be self-restrained from Helen and she finds the way to be independent from Miss Temple. In fact, Miss Temple and Helen are in some sense mothers for Jane. From Miss Temple,
the girl learns to achieve more humorous thoughts. Her way of confronting the world is still the Promethean way of fiery rebellion, nor miss Temple’s way of ladylike repression, nor Helen’s way of sanity renunciation. She learns from her two teachers at least superficially to compromise.
c. Showing Her Independence and Self-Control Fully
As a reward of revolting the ruthless oppression, Jane Eyre gets a chance to be a tutor in Thorn field Hall. She makes an acquaintance of lovely Adele and its owner, Rochester, a man with warm heart despite a cold face outside. From then on, the fate on Jane changes a lot. But when she knows Rochester has had a legal wife, she chooses to leave. She chooses poverty between richness and poverty. Someone says that life is a box of chocolates; you never know what you will get. It is reflected in Jane’s life. The novel doesn’t end when Jane Eyre leaves Thorn field. For Jane, there should be somewhere to realize her great ideal of being independent. As a governess, Jane gains financial independence so that she can support herself. Jane now has a social as well as a personal position. Moreover, Jane’s vision enlarges and goes farther on the way to be independent. When Jane feels deeply attached to Mr. Rochester, she clearly realizes that there is an impossible chasm between them. Mr. Rochester, born in a notable family, is part of upper class while Jane herself, sprints from low extraction, and is just an ordinary governess not more than a servant. However, she doesn’t lose her heart and withdraw or even belittle herself. Jane acknowledges her inward feelings before Mr. Rochester. She conducts herself in this battle for love with a great disparity in social status; Jane attaches importance to friendship and frankness but not Mr. Rochester’s countless property and his celebrated family status. Jane is not willing to give up her independence and equality to Rochester. When Mr. Rochester proposes to her, Jane accepts because Jane feels Mr. Rochester regards her at equal levels. But just on the wedding day, Mr. Mason cries out that Rochester already has had a wife. Angering at Mr. Rochester’s deed, Jane speaks out these words angrily: “Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automation, a machine without feeling, and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water?” (Marian Allotte, 1973). At this time, her feeling of preserving independence becomes obvious. She just wants to preserve her self-respect by scarifying her marriage.
d. The Pleasure of Self-Sufficiency Independently
The flight from Thorn field following the interrupted marriage ceremony makes the turning point of Jane, and she undergoes a trial on the moors, which brings her face to face with the real meaning of the personal worth and independence. At Moor House, Jane enjoys economic independence and engages in worthwhile and useful work, and she finds work as a schoolmistress, and does some real good to her pupils. But she lacks emotional sustenance. Although St. John proposes marriage, Jane knows their marriage will remain loveless. He admires Jane because she is self-respect and diligent. St. John offers Jane another kind of freedom: the freedom to act unreservedly on her principles. He opens to Jane the possibility of exercising her talents fully by working and living with him in India. Jane eventually realizes, though, that this freedom will also constitute a form of imprisonment, because she will be forced to keep her true feelings and her true passions always in check. She defaces what she wants is real and equal, not as his worthy too. Once again Jane shows her courage in preserving her independence. Nonetheless, the events of Jane is staying at Moor House are necessary tests of Jane’s autonomy. Only after proving her self-sufficiency to herself can she marry Rochester and not be asymmetrically dependent upon him as her “master”. The marriage can be one between equals.
Life is ceaselessly changing, but living principles remain. Firmly persisting for the rights of being independent gives people enough confidence and courage.
D. Jane Eyre’s View on Equality between Man and Woman
It is known that men are superior to women. Men are everything. They goes to good school; they can be officer; they can be businessmen as well; and they also have right to do everything. Women are only the affiliate of men. Women have no status. The reason why Jane Eyre gets highly apprises is due to it portrays an image out of ordinary. Jane Eyre is not reconciled to play the role that the society appointed. She maintains her respect by her hard working, wisdom, and the strong individualism. She believes that human is equal at God’s feet. The relationship between Jane Eyre and Rochester changes from host and servant to equal couple.
Jane Eyre struggles continually to achieve equality and to overcome oppression. In addition to class hierarchy, she must fight against those who believe women are inferior to men. Three central male figures threaten her desire for equality and dignity: Mr. Brocklehurst, Edward Rochester, and St. John Rivers, each try to keep Jane in a
submissive position, where she is unable to express her own thoughts and feelings. In her quest for independence and self-knowledge, she must escape Brocklehurst, reject St. John and come to Rochester only after ensuring that they may marry as equals. She will not depend solely on Rochester for love and she can be financially independent. Furthermore, Rochester is blind at the end and dependent on Jane to be his wife. In Chapter 12, Jane articulates what is for her time a radically feminist philosophy 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 brothers do; they suffers from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men will 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 bays. After experiencing a lot, Jane develops from an angry, rebellious, 10-year-old orphan into a sensitive, artistic, maternal, and independent young woman. Jane rejects marriages to Rochester and St. John because she understands she will have to forfeit her independence in the unions, and marry Rochester only when she has attained the financial independence and self-respect to maintain a marriage of equality.
It is known that the most famous works of Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, is very popular all over the world. The image of Jane Eyre is deeply planted in our mind. Jane Eyre starts her life with an orphan and no money, inferior position and terrible family environment. She is not pretty but she is brave and tough. She might be only a little figure but she is the master of her own life. Whatever condition it is, she insists on her view. Her common looking and poverty don’t prevail over her struggling spirit and ideal. Jane Eyre’s strong self-respect and confidence leave a deep impression on every reader. She struggles for equality on economy, marriage, personality and social status. It is the most important aspect that attracts readers.
From the paper it is seen that Jane Eyre is worthy to love and to be loved. Her love is based on equality and independence, having nothing to do with status, power or property. She is not tempted with money and doesn’t want to be mistress of Rochester for money. Her love is loyal and steadfast. Jane Eye needs true love, and she overcomes the obstacles in the process of pursing true love. At last, she succeeds and lives a happy life with her lover.
Through the detailed analysis of Jane Eyre’s character, it is known that whatever difficulties one encounters in his life, facing them bravely is the only way that one can do. Everybody has the rights to pursue happiness, to pursue the true spirit of life, which can be seen from Jane Eyre’s independence and toughness.
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