Love in Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is the most famous work of Charlotte Bronte, who is considered as an extraordinary woman novelist. Because the novel throbs with the heart-beats of its author, both literary critics and the readers have taken great interest in its unconventional heroine Jane Eyre, whose unconventionality is shown in the heroine’s pursuit of liberty, equality and independence. It is an autobiographical novel in a certain degree. This essay attempts to prove Jane is a real feminist through the analysis of her personality. Jane Eyre is a typical and magnificent representative in English literature, not only for her plain but famous appearance but also for her character’s outstanding and alien thoughts. The image of Jane Eyre is brilliant for her rebellious character. She always insists on her principle to rebel and fights bravely against the unjust world. She still tries her best to pursue freedom, equality, independence and true love. By unremitting efforts she finally gets dignity, freedom and true love.
Jane Eyre seems to be pale, thin and weak. She is like a piece of dust, nobody pays attention to her. At any time she may disappear. She was born an orphan, with an unfortunate family and long time repressive feeling; she builds up her resistant emotion. Under this background, everyone looks down upon her. Jane asks herself “why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always abused, for ever condemned.” (Bronte, 2002:13) Her reason says “unjust!-unjust!” (Bronte, 2002:14) A first angry voice bursts out from her deep heart. When John beats her again, she attacks him viciously. She shouts at him, “Wicked and cruel boy! You are like a murderer —you are like a slave?driver—you are like the Roman emperors!’ (Bronte, 2002:7) When Mrs. Reed tells Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane has a bad character and a deceitful disposition, she defends that “I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may give it to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.’ (Bronte, 2002:48) However, Jane is a brave soldier who dares to face up all kinds of injustice and fights against them. Before she leaves Gateshead, she rebukes her aunt’s cruelty, “How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You think I 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. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently thrust me back—into the red- room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’ And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me—knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!” (Bronte, 2002:49) Jane suffers various violent treatments by her aunt and cousins; she tries her best to be a good girl but only results in failure in Mrs. Reed’s eyes.
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Jane resists and resists, but finally breaks out and speaks all her anger; Jane’s courage frightens Mrs. Reed, for she knows Jane is right. In those days at Gateshead Hall, Jane’s strong, brave and unbending characteristics are expressed step by step. Her every behavior shows her great indignation. Isolation, poverty, discrimination and oppression cause her to revolt against the unfair society in her own way. Jane is driven away from and escapes from Reed’s house partly because of fearless courage. Jane fights not only for just treatment, but also for equality. This is the first step of the development of Jane Eyre’s rebellious character.
At Thornfield, Jane, as a grown-up, changes her harshness into a refined woman with good education, delicacy of feeling and gentleness of manners. At Thornfield she gets along well with everyone. Jane is mild to everyone. Adele, a girl without talent is carefully taught by Jane and made safe and happy. In such a wild world, she forgets her pain and her misery. Furthermore, she learns to be tolerant to others’ shortcomings. Hearing that Mrs. Reed is dying, she comes back soon to Gateshead. Although she once has told Mrs. Reed that she never wants to see her again, she forgets and forgives her. Jane’s delicate feeling is best revealed when she meets Rochester, who is hurt. She gives him a hand in a polite way. In spite of his rude rejection, she says, “I can not think of leaving you, sir, at so late an hour, in this solitary lane, till I see you are fit to mount your horses.” (Bronte, 2002:173)
When Jane falls in love with Rochester, she is awaken and still keeps her resistance; she makes her every effort to rebel against social prejudice and customs, struggling for independence and true love. She dares to say “no” to anyone, including her master, Mr. Rochester who is domineering and arrogant. When she talks with Mr. Rochester, she doesn’t avoid saying what she thinks whether Mr. Rochester is happy or not. On the wedding between Jane and Rochester, Jane is told that Rochester has married before. Bertha Mason, a mad woman is his wife who has been living in Thornfield. At the bad news, Jane knows if she lives with him, she will fall into the category of mistress and lose her respect. The dream of freedom, happiness and the independence which she was looking forward to would become fancies. The strength of reason is power over emotion. Jane leaves Thornfield resolutely to meet unknown fate in the future. When she almost starved to death, St. John helps her. Jane’s spirit of revolt is obviously expressed by her refusal of St. John’s offer of marriage .Jane never changes her will to follow St. John. She thinks, “If I join St. John, I abandon half myself, if I go to India, I go to premature death”, “if I do make the sacrifice he urges, I will make it absolutely: I will throw all on the altar—heart, vitals, the entire victim.” (Bronte, 2002:642) Jane says to St. John, “I scorn your idea of love.” (Bronte, 2002:649) Jane dares to rebel against St. John’s offer because she thinks they are equal. She has the right to rebel against him. This period is the perfection of Jane Eyre’s rebellions.
Toward to Jane’s pursuit of “Independence” and “Freedom”, Independence is the outstanding quality throughout the whole process of the novel. She is maltreated by her cousins and aunt.In the Red Room, she is frightened, but she keeps a clear mind that she realizes she needs to be saved from her blind fear of authority and be self-reliant. Her mind is in tumult, and all her heart in insurrection, her reason says “unjust! I never compromise to them. I shall be independent.” (Bronte, 2002:14) She hates Gateshead, hates everyone there. Moreover, At the beginning, Jane has much sympathy for Helen. Because Helen doesn’t dare to fight against the person who insults her. When Helen is to be flogged and to be asked to stand in the middle of a room that full of people. Jane thinks that Helen should turn against others when she is bullied; she should resist against Miss Scatcherd, and dislike Miss Scatcherd. From these we can see that Jane is not obedient to anyone if someone bullies her, she will do the same thing to others. As known to all, it is not violence that best overcomes hatred, nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury. And Jane learns these from Helen. Jane is deeply moved by Helen’s actions and words. “Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it: it is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what your fate to be required to bear”. (Bronte, 2002:79) Then through the friendship with Helen, she learns to be self-control in a certain degree. “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”. (Bronte, 2002:79), In order to lead a life of independence, Jane works as a governess at Thornfield Hall. She is looks down upon by the rich ladies of the fashionable society, but she never despises herself, she never feels herself inferior. She is satisfied with, and even proud of her honest, independent work. She loves Rochester who is in a large possession of fortune and in a high social position, but she never thinks of relying on these things. Once she immediately answers Rochester’s question about what else she needs, by saying, “Your regard: and if I give mine in return, that debt will be quit.” (Bronte, 2002:424) This kind of independence is irrevocable out of her pure soul which hasn’t been contaminated by the earthy care at all and represented the pure uprightness. When the happiness reaches the highest point where she is about to be the dreamy person’s wife, Jane keeps a clear mind, protecting her independence and her personality. She refuses all the precious gifts that could have been owned as a fiancee and reminded Rochester again and again of the responsibility she should continue to fulfill as a governess.
The another reason about why Jane is a feminist is that Jane’s attitude about love. Jane’s viewpoint shows she has clear self-awake sense of love. As a woman living in the society unequal between men and women, Jane doesn’t follow the outmoded conventions. She believes men and women are equal even if not in property, but in personality. When Rochester tells Jane that he is going to marry Miss Ingram and he insists that Jane must stay at Thornfield. Jane is angry at it. Let us see how Jane retorts to Rochester’s teasing.
“I tell you I must go!” “Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton?––a machine without feelings? And I can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my lips? Do you think I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? In fact you think wrong!––I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty. and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you .I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,—as we are!” (Bronte, 2002:396) Rochester understands fully and esteems her. Jane still maintains self-control and clear-headed when she becomes Rochester’s fiancée. She wants to protect her honor and independence. When Rochester buys diamond necklace, bracelet, ring, etc., which means to bind her, she refuses those gifts and reminds her, “I shall continue to act as Adele’s governess; by that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides.” (Bronte, 2002:423) Thus she is such a person who regards her dignity sacredly and inviolably. Jane seeks for happiness and love, but she doesn’t think love is supreme. She can throw away traditions to follow love, but she will never sacrifice her dignity and independence for the reason of love. Obtaining equality in life is Jane’s ambition. It is equality that makes her love Rochester with all of her heart and soul; also it is equality that makes her leave Rochester with her disappointment and distress. Through mutual understanding, they gain the love between them. Jane gets Rochester’s love as well as equality. Their love is based on equal communication, equal understanding and equal spirit. As we know, Jane is deep in love with Mr. Rochester, but if love runs against independence and equality, she would rather choose the latter, though it would be a great sorrow for them two. The unfulfilled matrimonial ceremony, therefore, provides the reader a good chance to learn the good sense and shrewdness in making decisions. In the end, Jane’s return to and union with Mr. Rochester (who is not only nearly blind but relieved from his mad wife,) helps the reader see her true love for Mr. Rochester and her willing sacrifice to restore their paradise. From Jane’s perspective, The marriage pursued by women must be based on true love. She distains the money and hunt marriage, and looks down upon her artificial and hypocritical manners.
Jane Eyre is Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece; it is an autobiographical novel in a certain degree. Charlotte Bronte was so poor when she was young and she nearly could not feel her parents’ love. In addition, she is not attractive and is very short, so all of these reflect her self-humiliation. She has a strong sense of self-esteem, and she often compensates for the self-humiliation by her self-esteem. She describes Jane Eyre, in fact, she writes herself. Jane Eyre is as common as Charlotte Bronte, and she keeps going after a kind of free, bright and beautiful life because of her self-esteem. The poetic, imaginative story of the love of a young governess for her married employer also has undoubted connections with Charlotte Bronte’s experience in Brussels. It is an immediate success with both readers and most of the critics. Jane Eyre, the heroine of this novel, struggles to acquire her self-respect, independence, dignity and self-sufficiency at every stage of her life, both in struggling with social pressure, maltreatment, discrimination and in resisting against the temptation of passion. That the author describes her leading personalities in the novel, and highly praises her spirit against the oppression and social prejudice, her pursuit of the independent personality and the dignity, and her tenacious struggle for happy life is obviously aimed at revealing the call of the people of the lower class for respect and freedom, and further to awaken them to protest against the unfair society that kills humanity. And it’s in this sense that Jane moves most readers as a kind and unique image in spite of her plainness, poverty and low position. In my opinion, the value of a woman does not lie in her looks, her dress, and any other things that have a powerful fascination to men’s eyes, but in her nature, her mind, her character and her sentiment. This novel embodies the indomitable struggle of the laboring class who are awakening. The author, Charlotte Bronte calls for the equality between sexes, spiritual freedom and inviolable human dignity, showing her sympathy for the laboring class.
- Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre Edited with an Introduction by Smith, Margaret. London: Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Shorter, C. K. Charlotte Bronte and Her Circle. London, 1896.
- Ellison, Edith. A Study of Bronte’s Novels. Green Wood Press, 1991.