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JANE EYRE

By Charlotte Brontë


Key:

  • Information
  • Quotes
  • Context
  • Critics


Themes



Love & Autonomy

-Jane cannot stay with Rochester because although she loves him, his marriage to Bertha means that this would be sacrificing her own integrity

-Equally, Jane cannot stay with St John, because although she would have independence and work, she does not love him

-For Jane, it is important to have a balance between religion and passion

-‘I could not, in those days, see God for his creature, of whom I had made an idol’

-‘That would be unendurable’

-‘He does not love me: I do not love him’

-Evangelical Anglicanism vs. Romanticism



Passion

-Jane is passionate about Rochester

-On the other hand, Blanche only wants to marry him for his money, despite the fact that Rochester pretends to love her

-Equally, St John treats his proposal to Jane like a business agreement

-Passion can encompass:

-Anger (to John Reed, Brocklehurst)

-Love (Rochester)

-Jane is not satisfied to follow Helen’s passive reason

-Rochester is ‘seething with passion’

-‘For the second time in my life, only the second time, I became insensible from terror’

-‘Forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low’



Red Room

-Exile and imprisonment

-Although she is eventually freed, she continues to be socially ostracised

-Reappears as a memory whenever Jane makes a connection between her current situation and that first feeling of being ridiculed

-Lowood - ‘Frightful episode of the red-room’

-Leaving Thornfield - ‘I dreamt I lay in the red-room at Gateshead’

-‘For the second time in my life - only the second time - I became insensible from terror’

-‘This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire’



Social Class

-Ambiguous class standing - governess

-Liminal

-Hard to connect - servants are too low, and upper classes are too high

-Intellectual equal, not social equal to Rochester

-Jane is only able to marry Rochester when she comes into money

-‘Stood at God’s feet equal - as we are!’

-‘Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless?’

-Souls are equal, even if not in life

-Classes are pretty much the be-all-and-end-all (no social mobility)

-‘She will be entering into a union even more unequal than that proposed by Rochester’ - Gilbert and Gubar



Religion

-Finding the balance between moral duty and earthly pleasure

-Main religious figures:

-Mr Brocklehurst

-Dangers and hypocrisies of religion

-Abusing power and excusing wrong-doings as religious

-‘Punish her body to save her soul’

-‘Vile bodies’

-Helen Burns

-Her model of Christianity is too passive for Jane

-Jane respects Helen for her religion, however

-‘By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings’

-St John

-Ambition, glory, self-importance

-Sacrificing emotional attachment

-Fulfillment of moral duty

-‘God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife’

-‘Unclouded… undaunted… sure… steadfast’

-Eliza Reed

-Joins a convent in France

-Believes in being useful

-‘Ensure the doing of all things decently and in order’

-‘I could not, in those days, see God for his creature, of whom I had made an idol’

-Evangelical Anglicanism

-‘St John may be a martyr, but is he a Christian?’ - Patricia Ingham



Substitute Mothers

-Idea proposed by Adrienne Rich

-Bessie

-Soothes after Red Room

-Songs and stories

-Miss Temple

-Spiritual strength and charm

-Shelter

-‘Stood by me in the stead of a mother’

-Helen Burns

-Role model

-Faith

-Friendship

-The Moon

-Present at all important events

-After the wedding is cancelled, Jane has a dream:

-‘My daughter, flee temptation’

-‘Mother, I will’

-Diana and Mary Rivers

-Unmarried but independent

-Intellectual equals with St John

-Mrs Fairfax

-Warns against marriage

-Kindliness - closest thing to a friend that Jane has at Thornfield



Birds

-Jane is often compared to a bird

-‘Like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation’

-Contrast between Jane and Adèle

-‘Little hungry robin’

-‘A pond with beautiful birds in it, that I fed with crumbs’

-Freedom

-‘Bewick’s History of British Birds’



Gender

-Brocklehurst, Rochester and St John all try to keep Jane in a submissive position

-Jane must escape Brocklehurst, reject St John, and can only marry Rochester after ensuring that they can marry as equals

-Diana and Mary are independent, despite the fact that they are not married

-Adèle is looked down upon because her mother was promiscuous, and she is an illegitimate child, although the man whose child she is is not looked down upon

-‘Women feel just as men feel’

-Patriarchal system

-Brontë was not a feminist



Fire and Ice

-Fire represents Jane’s passion, anger and spirit

-Rochester is often compared to fire

-Bertha sets fire to Thornfield twice: this allows Jane to become on an equal level with Rochester. It also allows her to marry him, because Bertha dies

-Ice represents Jane’s physical and spiritual isolation at Gateshead

-‘Extreme cold’

-‘This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire’

-It also represents her sense of psychological exile at Lowood

-Cold after the interrupted wedding:

-‘A white December storm had whirled over June’

-St John is associated with cold:

-‘Icily’

-‘Cold as an iceberg’

-Jane rejects St John’s proposal:

-‘Forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low’

Characters



Jane Eyre

-First person narrative

-Bildungsroman

-Learns to control her passion

-‘Fire of my nature’

-Position as a governess (liminal, ambiguous class standing, poorer)

-Does not want to be enslaved to Rochester

-‘Hated the business’ of buying new clothes

-‘Stood at God’s feet equal - as we are!’

-Fights between passion and reason throughout

-‘Conscience, turned tyrant, held Passion by the throat’

-Evangelical Anglicanism vs Romanticism

-Passionate and strong as a child

-‘For the second time in my life - only the second time - I became insensible from terror’

-Compared to a bird many times

-‘Like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage and its desperation’

-‘Women feel just as men feel’

-‘Grant me at least a new servitude’

-‘I could not, in those days, see God for his creature, of whom I had made an idol’



Rochester

-Ignores God in the face of passion

-Rochester is ‘seething with passion’

-Sensual and sexual - open about sex etc

-Described in terms of fire

-Byronic hero

-Must be blinded in order to end up with Jane - bringing them onto an equal level

-The eyes are the window to the soul, but even without eyes, Jane can still see his soul because they are equal in soul

-‘I would not exchange this one little English girl for the Grand Turk’s whole seraglio’

-‘In some Bluebeard’s castle’



St John

-Has a strong sense of self-importance

-Believes he knows best, as God speaks through him

-‘You are formed for labour, not for love’

-‘God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife’

-Rejects passion

-Refuses to admit to himself that he loves Rosamond Oliver

-‘I scorn the weakness’

-‘Forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low’

-‘That would be unendurable’

-Compared to ice and cold

-‘Icily’

-‘Cold as an iceberg’

-Preaching, grandiose tone - uses biblical language

-‘Fixed as a rock’

-Praised at the end for his belief and dedication to God

-‘Unclouded… undaunted… sure… steadfast’



Bertha

-An ‘Other’ for Jane

-‘It’

-‘Snatched and growled’

-‘Strange wild animal’

-Doppelgänger for Jane

-They are both described in terms of fire

-They are both compared to supernatural creatures

-Jane puts out a fire that Bertha starts

-Significance of it being his bed that she burns

-‘That is my wife… and this is what I wished to have’

-Erotic, romantic relationship with Rochester

-Imprisonment

-Causes the fire at Thornfield

-Outsider

-Creole

-Position as a woman - shamed for her promiscuity and wildness (she lets out her passion)

-Hysteria (hysteros - Greek word for womb)



Helen Burns

-A role model for Jane

-The ideal of religion

-Debateable - Jane eventually rejects Helen’s religion because it is too passive

-‘By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings’

-Anger at mistreatment, but not passionate

-Does only what she needs to



Brocklehurst

-Jane’s oppressor

-He takes the form of the wolf

-‘Large, prominent teeth’

-Hypocritical - Feeds his family lavishly, but treats the girls at Lowood badly

-Stingy - could afford better food and heat etc for Lowood but claims it is all in the name of religion

-Belief that bodies must be punished to feed the soul

-‘Punish her body to save her soul’

-‘Vile bodies’



Miss Temple

-Surrogate mother for Jane

-‘Stood by me in the stead of a mother’

-She demonstrates strength of character

-She is the opposite to Brocklehurst

-She is kind

-Because of her kind nature, she is also beautiful

-‘Tall, fair, and shapely’





Blanche Ingram

-Romantic rival for Jane

-Wishes to marry Rochester for money

-Haughty and beautiful

-She looks down on Jane because she is a governess

-Links to views that governesses were of a lower status than other people of the upper classes



Adèle

-Opposite to Jane

-‘A pond with beautiful birds in it, that I fed with crumbs’

-She is looked down upon because she is foreign and because she is illegitimate

-She is frivolous



The Reeds

-Jane’s oppressors

-Mrs Reed

-Acts as an evil stepmother to ‘Cinderella’ Jane

-John Reed

-Bully

-‘You are like… a slave driver… Roman emperor’

-‘He bullied and punished me… continually’

-‘Wicked and cruel boy’

-Due to his horrible nature, he is ugly

-‘The disgusting and ugly appearance of him’

-He ends up becoming an alcoholic and killing himself

-This links to Charlotte Brontë’s own brother, Branwell, who died of alcoholism

-Georgiana and Eliza

-Both are shallow

-Georgiana is pretty and ends up marrying a wealthy man, despite her -first potential husband leaving due to Eliza

-Eliza is petty, and angry that her sister is so beautiful, so breaks up Georgiana’s marriage

-Eliza ends up going to France to become Mother Superior in a convent

-‘Ensure the doing of all things decently and in order’



The Rivers Sisters

-Role models for Jane

-Strong and independent, despite not being married

-Work as governesses

-Intellectual equals for St John



Mrs Fairfax

-Surrogate mother for Jane

-Warns against marriage

-Kind





Grace Poole

  • -The carer and guard of Bertha
  • -Alcohol-induced naps allow Bertha to escape
  • -Is the cover for Bertha - she ends up becoming twisted and confusing in Jane’s mind, due to the mixed stories she hears
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the WAY you snapped! thanks bro
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