This essay was adapted from an assignment from May 2015.

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Image from the Penguin Classics Jane Eyre

Summary

Jane Eyre, according to her unloving Aunt Reed, carried within her uncomely frame a wicked, thankless disposition that would poison her cousins. She endured disdain and abuse at Gateshead Hall until Aunt Reed sent her away to Lowood Institution to cure Jane’s supposed villainy.

At Lowood, the supervisors discovered in Jane a gentle, disciplined spirit so contrary to the accounts of her affiliates. With this heart, Jane transitioned from Lowood Institute, after eight years of both learning and teaching with sincere devotion, to Thornfield estate, where she acted as governess.

Lowood Institution plaque
Photo from Jane Eyre TV miniseries

Love drew her to the estate’s owner, Mr. Rochester, whose plans to marry Jane fell to pieces after the reveal of his living wife, a lunatic hidden in his mansion. By principle – unwillingness to wed a married man – Jane fled from Thornfield and Mr. Rochester, to a town hours away, where she met three cousins she had not known existed.

Despite the pain of separation from Mr. Rochester, Jane pressed forward, seeking usefulness and action in her new life. A year passed with the newfound relatives before a peculiar cry of her name one summer night beckoned her to return to Thornfield. Jane rediscovered Mr. Rochester, blind and crippled from a fire his wife started that ruined the estate and led to her death, and revived their abandoned romance.

“Reader,” Jane concludes, “I married him.”

Jane Eyre and Rochester
Photo from Jane Eyre (2011)

Analysis

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, teaches about perseverance through life’s struggles, patience with others, and discovery of one’s identity. Since entering Aunt Reed’s family, Jane has had to struggle against life. Her aunt regarded her as nothing more than a wretched girl of whom she had the burden of raising. Jane’s cousin John and his sisters Eliza and Georgiana adopted their mother’s opinion of her, and quite often did John take advantage of his obvious superiority over her.

At Lowood, Jane discovered why humans persevered so. Helens Burns, a strange girl full of otherworldly thoughts, told her, “We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world; but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies” (Brontë 71). Not to continue life in this life but to look forward to the next life must we persevere.

Helen Burns Jane Eyre
Helen Burns (Photo from Jane Eyre (1996))

In leaving Lowood, Jane left with more than an education; she left with a will to struggle through everything life threw at her in order to fulfill her duties on Earth before continuing on. She resolved, as she entered an unknown world, to “struggle on; strive to live and bend to toil like the rest” (Brontë 378).

Mr. Rochester described Jane as having an “inward treasure…which can keep [her] alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give” (Brontë 238). Her cousin, Mr. St. John, expressed similar sentiments: “Jane is not such a weakling as you would make her…she can bear a mountain blast, or a shower, or a few flakes of snow, as well as any of us” (Brontë 460).

Jane learned that, when life bore down upon her, she could always depend on one higher that her equals for strength and solace (Brontë 257). To God she cried out in her heart, “Be not far from me, for trouble is near; there is none to help” (Brontë 346).

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Jane Eyre (Photo from Jane Eyre (2011))

Patience, too, Jane always needed. Given her status in household and society, she constantly faced prejudgments. From Helen Burns, Jane also learned of true patience. After receiving a punishment that Jane perceived as unfair, Helen neither wept nor blushed (Brontë 63). In time, she comes to realize that one cannot judge other beings as harshly as she had before. Like herself, all others were flawed and often failed. If she could not expect constant tolerance in herself, how could she expect it in others?

In these regions, too, Jane turned heavenward. Though disaster may strike her from all people, she could always rely on “that still small voice which interprets the dictates of conscience” (Brontë 238).

Constantly judged through her life, Jane sought to create her own identity. Although she had been deemed by the Reeds incapable of loving, Jane sought to love something. During her days at Gateshead Hall, she, lacking any other object of affection, loved and cherished a tattered doll. Breaking away from Gateshead to attend Lowood, Jane felt as if an “invisible bond had burst, and that [she] had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty” (Brontë 40). No chains could hold her down.

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Jane Eyre (Photo from Jane Eyre (2011))

Much later, she remarked to Mr. Rochester, “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will” (Brontë 297). As Jane progressed in the world, she realized her worth, the worth that the Reeds had smothered.

According to 19th century England, women belonged at home. Jane hoped for adventure and activity, feeling a need, as men did, to explore her talents and utilize them (Brontë 130). She despised the female life of passiveness. While appropriately submissive, Jane spirit rebelled within her. In conversation with Mr. St. John while at the Moor House, she often slipped into a speech uncalled-for in women. In such conversation Jane, restless in discreet, refined talk, enjoyed (Brontë 434).

In a few ways, like skill and humility, she fulfilled womanly expectations. In others, like restlessness and adventurousness, she deviated. Mr. Rochester tells Jane that when he met her, she “entered the room with a look and air at once shy and independent” (Brontë 365).

Jane Eyre 2011 ending scene
Ending scene of Jane Eyre (2011) movie

These three lessons – perseverance through life’s struggles, patience with others, and discovery of one’s identity – in a way, intertwine with one another. In life, often the people with whom we interact are those with whom we struggle, or whose actions cause turmoil for us. The struggle and turmoil makes it hard to persevere, but patience with those who transgress us is a first step to perseverance through life’s struggles. By judging how we react to the faults of others and our outlook on life, we discover precious qualities of ourselves.

(Citations from the Barnes & Noble Classics Series Jane Eyre.)