Jane Eyre 3 Essay, Research Paper
In Jane Eyre, the themes of servitude and liberty are brought to life and contrasted with each other in many instances throughout the novel. Inside, Jane at first desires to be a free spirit, but the social class stratification and conditions of the world that she lives in make this dream impossible to truly fulfill. Jane regards the concept of such absolute freedom a fleeting, ethereal, and “hollow” notion, and accepts her servitude; it is a vehicle that helps her learn more about herself and her true desires. From her experiences in servitude, Jane learns what she needs in a relationship and also what she cannot bear; she recognizes the foolishness of class distinctions and realizes the true value of kindliness and being able to forgive and forget. Jane seems to be consistently moving from one type of servitude to another throughout the novel, from her beginnings at Gateshead under Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst at Lowood Academy, to Rochester at Thornfield, and then to St. John at Moor House. She Jane ultimately realizes that attaining true liberty is not only beyond her power, but it is also not really her true desire. She rejects the idea of seeking spiritual liberty alone and accepting a life of solitude like St. John, and chooses instead to remain in a type of servitude as Rochester’s wife. However, she consoles herself with the fact that this is a different type of servitude unlike her others, it is that of a lover caring for another, someone who needs and appreciates her, and someone who treats her with respect. These are the things that she has wanted all of her life, and she is willing to put aside her personal freedom to enjoy them and to for once be loved, accepted, and appreciated.
Throughout the book Jane serves many different masters, and her situation, thoughts, and desires change greatly as she develops, as do her feelings concerning freedom and servitude. The first of her masters is the Reed family, most notably John and Mrs. Reed. These opening characters serve to represent a transformation in her character, as she goes from obedient and unassertive to very opinionated and defiant. While Jane at first obeys their orders because she wants to be included in their social circle, she soon realizes that the Reeds are nothing more than arrogant, elitist slave drivers, and that her submission only serves to reaffirm their power. Her first act of rebellion is against John, who condemns her for reading “his” books, and reminds her that she is not an equal, but a beggar, not worthy of living with “gentlemen’s children.”(27) . After he strikes her with the book, she struggles against him and cries out, “You are like a murderer – you are like a slave-driver – you are like the Roman emperors!”(43). Here she is stating that his rights are not natural at all; he has gained them by oppressing others with his bullying force. In her comparison of John to a tyrant, she threatens his class identity by implying that his authority and power are completely illegitimate. Here, Jane begins to realize the unjust cruelty in the treatment she receives, and refuses to continue being the abused prop to the Reeds’ need to reaffirm their power. This is the type of servitude that becomes unpalatable to Jane; she will not stand for a servitude in which she is unappreciated, abused, and outcast as an inferior. She takes it upon herself to no longer let the Reeds reject her, but rather herself reject the Reeds, and all that they stand for. Later, when Mrs. Reed tells Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane is a liar, Jane again rebels against her aunt’s underhanded move and delivers an impassioned speech, in which she openly rejects Mrs. Reed and states: “You think I have no feelings, and that I cannot do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so People think you are a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!”(45-46). Here, Jane makes clear what she needs as a human being and what she will not tolerate from the Reeds; she needs to be loved, and to be acknowledged as a real person with real feelings. She will not stand for obedient servitude under these conditions, and for the first time is explicit and direct in her open rejection of Mrs. Reed.
Jane is then sent to Lowood, where she is again made an outcast by Mr. Brocklehurst, who one day declares that she is a liar and that no one should speak to her for the rest of the day. Brocklehurst is like the Reeds in his assumption of natural rights, the power of the elite social class, and his attempts to make Jane feel outcast and unwelcome. Lowood, rather than being a vehicle for young, impoverished students to learn and to rise out of their social class, is more like a tool that Brocklehurst uses to reaffirm social class divisions and superiority. The school is “surrounded by walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of prospect,”(80) a visual description that alludes to Jane’s feeling of entrapment in this school. Here, life is regulated by a strict discipline and lifestyle, and it is enforced harshly by authoritarian figures such as Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Scatcherd. It is here that Jane comes to an important realization, as she states,
My eye passed all objects to rest on those most remote, all within their boundary of rock seemed prison-ground, exile limits. I traced the white road vanishing in gorge between the two: how I longed to follow it further! I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon. I desired for liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed faintly scattered on the wind then blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for a change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space; ‘Then,’ I cried, half desperate, ‘grant me at least a new servitude!’ (99)
Jane shows in this passage that she wants to escape the boring routine of Lowood, and she faces this with excitement and no fear. However, her prayer for true liberty seems “faintly scattered on the wind;” she abandons it because it is a dream that she feels cannot ever be fully realized in the world and society that she lives in. She instead turns to the idea of at least a change, which she abandons again, turning to the idea of at least a new form of servitude. To Jane, a new servitude is the only realistic and achievable goal within reach, because “it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is a mere waste of time to listen to them.”(100). Jane abandons the ideas of “Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment” because they are not real to her, they are no more than hollow and fleeting sounds that she considers a waste of time. She realizes that they are ideals which are not realistically attainable, and actually accepts servitude, just as long as it is somewhere else.
At Thornfield, Jane enters a new…
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