Jane Eyre Essay, Research Paper
A Woman of Unknown Strength
There are several themes in the novel Jane Eyre; however, the most recurring theme is that of Jane’s quest for independence, acceptance and love from the people who she encounters in her life. Throughout her life, put into situations beyond her control, she relies upon her inner strength to face these challenges effectively. Anger is the symbol Bront? uses as the catalyst in Jane’s acquirement of inner strength. Although her display of anger overwhelms her and others as a child, it becomes her ally as she matures. The development of Jane’s inner strength is the important element to secure her independence.
Orphaned as a child, Jane resides at Gateshead with her Aunt Reed and cousins. Viewed as a destitute interloper and passionately willful child, she believes she must endure the rejection and mistreatment from the Reed family. After suffering physical abuse inflicted by her cousin John, Jane responds with a passionate anger that is foreign to her. Punished for her angry outburst without regard to the purpose, she is locked in the red-room until she is able to conduct herself in an appropriate manner. While locked in the red-room, Jane contemplates the injustice of her situation, she recalls the promise her Aunt Reed made to her dying husband, that she would care for Jane as her own child. Jane then remembers “what [she] had heard of dead men, troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes, revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the oppressed.” (479) At that moment, Jane observes a ray of light within the red-room that she deems to be the apparition of her deceased Uncle Reed. Frightened, she begs her Aunt Reed to punish her in another way; refusing Jane the mercy she pleads for, the continued rejection of her protector heightens her anger.
Jane desires more than anything to leave Gateshead and be free from the abuse inflicted by the Reed family. Jane’s anger and the assistance of Dr. Lloyd are the catalysts that inspire Aunt Reed to write Lowood Institution to have Jane considered for acceptance. Mr. Brocklehurst, the master of Lowood, brings a ray of hope to Jane by affording her the opportunity to leave Gateshead and enter Lowood Institution. This fleeting feeling is short lived after Aunt Reed informs Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane has “a tendency to deceit”. (490) Consumed with anger, Jane lashes out at her Aunt Reed with verbal assaults after Mr. Brocklehurst leaves. She requests to leave Gateshead for Lowood Institution immediately. Although Jane is feeling euphoric by her passionate display of anger, she begins to feel begins to feel overwhelmed by “the pang of remorse and the chill of reaction”. (493)
Jane leaves Gateshead to enter her new life at Lowood Institution. Upon entering the grounds, she is intrigued by the sign and the scripture she views posted over the door: “LOWOOD INSTITUTION, Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – St. Matt. V.16. (501) Unable to comprehend the meaning of “institution”, she befriends Helen Burns to interpret the meaning. Helen explains, “[Lowood] is partly a charity-school . . . and this is called an institution for educating orphans”. (502)
Jane soon realizes that Lowood Institution is not an improvement over Gateshead. The struggle to accept her new life and the relentless treatment are a challenge for her. Angered by the humiliation Helen endures by one of the teachers, Miss. Scatcherd, Jane expresses this to Helen stating, “if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist her, if she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose.” (506) Helen attempts to explain the virtues of humility while still maintaining one’s pride. Helen tells Jane, “it is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil.” (506) Although Jane admires this quality in Helen, she is not able to affirm herself entirely to this belief. Shortly after their conversation, Jane is subjected to a public humiliation by being condemned as a liar by Mr. Brocklehurst, as reported by her Aunt Reed. Angry, and mentally prepared to fight back at this injustice, Jane understands Helen’s words and accepts the cruel treatment awarded her. Miss Temple later publicly vindicates Jane, thus giving her hope that she may be in God’s favor at last.
Jane’s feeling of euphoria continues until she receives news that her friend Helen is very ill. Filled with despair at the thought of losing her friend, Jane goes to see Helen on what is to be a final time. Not fully able to comprehend the meaning of losing her friend, Jane inquires of Helen where she is going. Helen informs Jane she is dying and going to be with God in heaven. Jane questions Helen’s religious convictions asking, “[y]ou are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven; and that our souls can get to it when we die?” (524) Helen assures Jane there is such a place emphasizing her happiness by clinging to her Christian beliefs. Jane’s own religious beliefs do not seem to be resolved as she ponders, “Where is this [Heaven]? Does it exist?” (525)
Having completed her education and two-year employment as a teacher at Lowood Institution, Jane is full of hope and aspirations in obtaining her freedom and independence. After advertising for employment, Jane accepts the position of governess at Thornfield Hall offered her.
Since Thornfield Hall symbolizes independence for Jane, she is anxious to enter upon her new life and career. Jane’s…
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