Essay, Research Paper
In Charlotte Bronte?s novel, Jane Eyre, the battle between free will and fate is predominant throughout. As with all aspects of life, decisions must be made; there is often a fine line between a choice made by free will versus a choice influenced by fate. Fate is defined as ?the principle or determining cause or will by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do? by the Merriam Webster Dictionary; this can also be taken to imply that all lifelong events are predestined. In Jane Eyre, fateful interventions that occur in Jane?s life are seen to disrupt the ideologies of her free will, thus filling her search for happiness with struggles.
It is obvious that Jane Eyre is a strong-willed individual who is capable of making rational decisions. An orphaned child with nobody to fend for her except herself, Jane?s strive for a respectable position in life, fairness, and independence are what keeps her alive and allows her to does eventually become the success she desires to be. By the end of the novel, Jane appears to have achieved everything she sought out to achieve in life, and more. However, the underlying question of whether her decisions in life were due to her own free will and strength of character or due to fate continues to exist. One can easily acknowledge that many of Jane?s decisions in the novel were due to her own strength of character, but it can also be argued that fate is the reason behind every action in the novel.
The first instance of fate acting on Jane?s life was the death of her parents. This led to the necessity of Jane being adopted by her Uncle Reed, whose untimely death left Jane to the care of her Aunt, a Nanny and three selfish cousins. These are both the consequences of fate acting against Jane?s behalf, but it is ultimately Jane?s own free will that allows her to fight for herself, and survive the abuse and maltreatment at Gateshead. By her own free will, Jane stands up for herself, and is consequently sent away to Lowood school, where she is faced with a completely new set of challenges. At Lowood, Jane appears to settle in nicely with the rest of the school community, but fate intervenes to create yet another life challenge for her. Upon accidentally dropping her slate during Mr. Brocklehurst?s visit to Lowood, he openly admonishes her in front of the entire school, telling them they ?should be on guard against her; you must shun her example ? necessary, avoid her company? Teachers, you must watch her? punish her body to save her soul, if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for? this girl is a liar!? (98). This is undoubtedly a mortifying experience for a new student at any school, and Jane is plagued with the need to redeem herself to all her new schoolmates and teachers; fate has not worked to her benefit in this matter. However, this situation is soon rectified after an inquiry into the matter, and Jane is liberated from all Brocklehurst?s accusations. From then on Jane continues to be the astute student, eventually rising to the rank of teacher at Lowood, sound in both mind and body.
By her own free will, Jane makes the decision to leave Lowood. It is fate that Mrs. Fairfax responds to her advertisement as a governess, which opens an new chapter of Jane?s life. If Jane had not accepted the position at Thornfield as governess to Adele Varens she would never have met Edward Rochester, the man with whom she falls in love. It is also fate that allows Jane to first meet Rochester, after he and his horse have an accident and he is left with a sprained ankle. Jane subsequently saves Rochester?s life though, for she is the one who douses the fire in his bed, set by his estranged wife, while he is sound asleep. Could this finally be fate acting to Jane?s benefit? Falling in love can be considered an act of Jane?s free will, but it is still undoubtedly fate that brought her and Rochester together, for they make an unlikely pair; one has been brought up in a life of riches, while the other has led a life of simplicity.
The uniting of Jane and Rochester in marriage would have been an act of free will, and would have led to unimaginable happiness for both parties, yet fate once again decides to intervene to cause Jane anguish. At the alter, Jane and Rochester?s wedding vows are fatefully interrupted by the brother of Bertha Mason, Rochester?s estranged wife. The wedding is called off due to Rochester already being a married man; to wed an already married man was by no means Jane?s desire so it was fate, not free will, which caused this uncomfortable situation. It is by her own free will that Jane decides to leave Thornfield, and she flees in the night with the little money she has, and all her worldly possessions on her back.
As fate would have it, the doorstep upon which Jane collapses is that of Moor House, a home inhabited by St John, Mary and Diana Rivers. These three strangers are kind to Jane, providing her with food and nursing her back to health. The three soon become like family to Jane, and it is ironic how fate interacts on Jane?s behalf for the better this occasion. When news arrives about the death of the Rivers? uncle, John Eyre of Madeira, it is soon discovered that the benefactress of John Eyre?s fortune is in fact Jane Eyre. Since her arrival at Moor House, Jane has been going under the pseudonym of Jane Elliot, so it is solely fate that has managed to unite relatives without their knowing. Of all the houses for Jane to collapse at, it was the Rivers? home, the only kind relatives Jane has ever known. So with this new twist of fate, Jane finds herself with a new family to satisfy her ?craving [she] has for fraternal and sisterly love. [She] never had a home, [she] never had brothers and sisters; [she] must and will have them now? (413), a new occupation, and newfound wealth, which she happily divides between St. John, Mary, Diana and herself.
One last instance of fate acting on Jane?s behalf is relates back to Rochester, the man whom Jane loves but left behind to a ?past life? by her own free will, in order not to become a married man?s harlot. Her word reveal her desire to be with Rochester, but Jane?s sense of morals do not allow her to be with a married man; ?Perhaps you think [she] had forgotten Mr Rochester, reader, amidst these changes of place and fortune. Not for a moment. His idea was still with [her], because it was not a vapor sunshine could disperse, nor a sand-traced effigy storms could wash away; it was a name graven on a tablet, fated to last as long as the marble it inscribed. The craving to know what had become of him followed me everywhere?? (424).
It is fate that reunites Jane and Rochester by the novel?s end. One night, before Jane leaves for India with St. John, Jane ?saw nothing, but [she] heard a voice somewhere cry ? ?Jane! Jane! Jane!? ? nothing more? (444). Soon afterwards, Jane returns to Thornfield Hall, only to find it has been burned down by Bertha Mason. Jane eventually finds her beloved Rochester, blind and missing a hand, in a small house in the woods, isolated from the rest of the world except for his servants. After a life of fate interrupting negatively towards Jane Eyre, fate has finally intervened positively in her life, and ?Reader, [she] married him? (474). This final decision, from which years of happiness sprung, was made out of Jane?s free will and out of her love for Rochester. She willingly binds her life to his forever, although he is no longer physically whole, and this shows that she has rectified all the unhappy struggles caused by fate in her life. Jane has now deservingly entered the realm of happiness and fulfillment and her destiny is no longer controlled only by fate, but equally by free will.