Jane Eyre – LoveLonging for Love Charlotte Bronte created the novel “Jane Eyre,” with an overriding theme of love. The emotional agony that the main character experiences throughout the novel stem from the treatment received as a child, loss of loved ones, and economic hardships. To fill these voids, Jane longs for love. Ironically, Jane rejects affection at some point throughout the novel though it is that which she seeks. Her painful childhood experiences create an emotional center derived from this pain.
Thus, she views love as consuming and it is not a high priority in Jane’s life. She accepts the fact that she will probably live her life in loneliness. From the onset of the novel we view the world through the eyes of Jane, a young, penniless, orphan. At the beginning of the story she is under the care of her widowed aunt, Mrs. Reed. At the Reed household, Jane is neglected and mistreated with favoritism being given only to the three obnoxious Reed children.
Jane begins her struggle for love here at Gateshead. Her temper and self-will become apparent there. She stands up for herself not only to her cousins, but to Mrs. Reed as well. “You think I Burkhart 2 have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness, but I cannot live so: and you have no pity” (Bronte, 45). Her early life at Gateshead proved to be a rather traumatic period in Jane’s life. Jane “dared commit no fault: she strove to fulfill every duty; she was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaky, from morning to noon, and from noon to night” (Bronte, 22). Trying to act in accordance with Mrs. Reed and the Reed children, never purposely committing a fault, Jane was continuously “naughty” in Mrs. Reed’s eye. Living a childhood such as Jane’s, one would expect a self-willed and rebellious personality to emerge. “I was a discord at Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody thereIf they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love them” (Bronte 23). Treated with disrespect and lack of love Jane began her journey, her quest for love. Her rebellion towards the family that hated her fueled an inner subconscious conflict dealing with love and trust. Mrs. Reed eventually sends Jane to a boarding school called Lowood Institution. Lowood is a charitable school and has the worst conditions imaginable. It is here, where Jane meets her first true friend Helen Burns. At the orphanage, Jane forms a passionate attachment to Helen. Burkhart 3 Helen assumes a sisterly like role and teaches Jane love in the form of religion. “Read the New Testament,” Helen instructed Jane, “love your enemies” (Bronte 69). “Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless her son John, which is impossible”(Bronte 69). Jane does not comprehend the act of loving thy enemies. Her lack of comprehension stems from her childhood and the lack of love she received. Never in her childhood did she get the attention and love that a child deserves. How could anyone expect someone to be able to love when she has had no example to follow? In Jane’s eyes her self-worth would severely diminish if she were to love someone who did not love her. Helen explains to Jane how Miss Scatcherd dislikes Helen’s “cast of character” (Bronte 65) and the deep impression the injustice of an enemy makes on your heart. Jane is able to gain strength from Helen’s faith. It is this faith that she attains that guides Jane through her life and ultimately leads to her happiness. Another character that has a significant influence in Jane’s life at Lowood is Miss Evans, the superintendent. Miss Evans is primarily the first person in Jane’s life that treats Jane with justice and confidence in her ability to “make good.” In her dealings with Miss Evans and the Burkhart 4 scolding she receives from Miss Evans, Jane puts Helen’s lessons to use. She tries to accept her scolding as if it had some higher purpose, though she is hurt inside when she is scolded. Her experiences at Lowood make her a much stronger self-willed person, though they also contribute to her decrease in rebelliousness. Jane eventually leaves Lowood and ventures to Thornfield Manor where she gains the position of governess under Mr. Edward Rochester, her master. Meeting Mr. Rochester completely changes Jane’s life. The attention she receives, the interest, and the affection all fill voids in Jane’s life. For once a person of the opposite sex cites a level of equality among male and female, he and Jane. He states, “we stood at God’s feet, equal-as we are” showing his dedication to Jane. This was very uncommon in the Victorian era. Despite Mr. Rochester’s somber looks and brusque manner Jane grows to like him and he more than approves of Jane as well. Rochester tries to win Jane’s affection by making her jealous of the beautiful Miss Blanche Ingram with whom Jane believes he is involved. Eventu…..ally Jane and Rochester mutually fall in love and become engaged. The night before Jane’s wedding, the mad woman kept on the Burkhart 5 third floor appears in Jane’s room and tears her wedding veil. When Jane asks Mr. Rochester about the nighttime encounter, he tells her that the woman is Grace Poole, an insane household seamstress. At the church moments before Jane and Mr. Rochester are to be married, it is revealed that Thornfield’s mad woman is Bertha Mason, whom Rochester had married in the West Indies 15 years prior. It seems that shortly after their marriage, Bertha had gone mad. Mr. Rochester pleaded with Jane to stay. However, how could she not live as his seamstress in good moral conscience? Rochester’s dedication devastates Jane when she finds out about Bertha Mason. Marrying Mr. Rochester would mean compromising her faith in God as well as her self-worth. Jane is not willing to love without marriage and become his mistress. Her rejection poses a moral victory; a good woman could not survive a loss of virtue nor live without self-respect. She never thought that love would be a part of her life, but rather loneliness and work thus her rejection of love became her victory. She was able to take that which she sought, and never fathomed attaining and overcome it. Jane was faced with the reality of love that had so long been denied to her, but had to continue her journey when she found his love unacceptable. Burkhart 6 “I have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I absolutely must be torn from you forever. I see the necessity of departure; and it is looking at the necessity of death.” She is able to withstand Rochester’s pleading, “Oh, Jane,” and move on. Moving on deeply hurt Jane. Finding love and having to leave it never knowing if she would find it again was devastating. Referring her life back to that of what her dear friend Helen had taught her, Jane forgives Mr. Rochester. “I forgave him at that moment, and on the spotI forgave him all; yet not in words, not outwardly; only at my heart’s core”(Bronte 336). She felt superiority over her “master” at this point, a feeling of which she never knew before. She asks Rochester if he thinks she is “soulless and heartless.” She reigns superiorly over Rochester in a spiritual triumph. God had gifted her with a heart and though she had little experience of being loved before Rochester she was blessed with a heart as well. She knew how to use it and her personal faith was her means to use it. Jane moves on destitute and with out any money or friends. “Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant Burkhart 7 woman-almost a bride-was a cold, solitary girl again: her life pale; her prospects were desolate” (Bronte 330) is taken in by Mr. St. John Rivers and his sisters. She becomes a teacher and tries to forget about her love for Mr. Rochester. St. John proposes marriage to Jane offering not love, but a place by his side in a missionary post. His offer is the total opposite of Rochester’s. Though a difficult decision, Jane does not accept the proposal. Marrying St. John out of love would be the right thing to do in the eyes of God, but it would not make her happy. And it is that love which she seeks that would make her happy, thus continuing on her journey. Jane is then called to do what would please her. She returns to Thornfield and finds it burned to the ground. Jane discovers Mr. Rochester is living at a small farm called Ferndean with two of his servants from Thornfield. She is reunited with her true love Mr. Rochester. Jane is able to go back to Rochester due to the fact that Bertha had died in the fire. Mr. Rochester had lost his sight and one of his hands due to the burning of Thornfield. Jane does what pleasures her and gets married to Rochester. She ends her journey finding what she longed for her whole life: true love and happiness. Burkhart 8 Growing up in the Victorian era, Jane’s views were very conventional. Her childhood particularly influenced this conventionality. Living under her strict Aunt in her early years inevitably started Jane off to a “bad” start in her life. Not having love and people who cared created a wall prohibiting Jane’s climbing of it. If it were not for her experiences at Lowood, the Moor house, and Thornfield Manor Jane would not have been able to carry out the act of love, though it was what she was seeking. She sought love because she was not loved and every “human must be loved and love something” in order to live a fulfilling life. Jane originally rejects Rochester’s love because it violated her moral standards, but in the end she ends up happily in love with him. Bronte does not allow the brutality of the environment diminish Jane’s ability to experience love. Her quest for love was turbulent, but in the end Jane found the love of which she set out for.
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