Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë



Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë:  Jane Eyre


         Gateshead Hall
Lowood School
Thornfield Hall
Moor House

Jane's Quest:

  • awareness of social inequality.  Jane is less than a servant at Gateshead.
  • desire for social equality
  • resentment of feeling powerless
  • strives for independence
  • love


  • Jane is powerless in family relationships.  Her cousins are respected, especially her cousin John, because he is male.  He abuses Jane and asserts the notion of a patriarchal society.
  • she does not take the abuse lightly.  She fights back.
  • Pattern of entrapment and escape throughout novel, beginning with the red room incident.
  • red of blood and passion.  Jane is a passionate child
  • There is no one to defend her.  Notion of patriarchy still important to her.  She wishes her uncle Reed could be alive to defend her.  As it is, she uses his name to defend herself against Mrs. Reed.
  • She is unloved and abused.
  • Represented to Mr. Brocklehurst as a deceitful child.  She straightens Mrs. Reed out on this, defending herself with passion.
  • Confinement and eventual escape in going to school.
  • At Lowood School, she learns to repress her passions, having two models:

         Maria Temple:
-models submissiveness
-she won't let the children starve.  She is willing to take the                                   consequences of  feeding them upon herself.
-She never stands up for herself, but always for the others.
-shades of servitude are seen in her.

         Helen Burns:
-gets abused for her submissiveness
-can never keep things neat because she does not bother                    paying attention to the smaller details in life.
-accepts punishment without anger, while Jane would be                               inclined to fight back against the evil people who punish her.


  • Brocklehurst is a negative patriarchal figure.  He has an oppressive role in denying the girls food and comfort, leading to their ill health.
  • For a while Jane accepts the role description as taught by Miss Temple, becoming a teacher.
  • Gains mastery over her passions until after Miss Temple moves away.  A wish for escape is awakened once more, and she feels trapped.


Thornfield Hall

  • Travelled to Thornfield to be a helper.  When she first meets Mr. Rochester, she has to help him.
  • Goes about serving as a helper: rescues him from fire, helps him with Mason.
  • Helps him emotionally in his loneliness.  In her, he has someone intelligent to talk to.
  • Confidence that he can get away from his dissipation helps to save him from sinking into sin and continued dissipation.
  • She helps him to overcome his despair.


  • She is socially inferior to Rochester as a governess in the house.  She is greater than a servant, but of no real status.  Her lack of status is evident by the fact that the visitors insult governesses while she is still in the room.
  • She is elevated in Rochester's mind because of her strength of character.

She is intelligent and willing to debate.  She is critical of how the world treats people.

  • Contrast between the beautiful personal appearance of Blanche Ingram and Jane's superiority of spirit.
  • Mr. Rochester and Jane do not consider one another handsome.


  • Jane's repressed passions smoulder.  She is a passionate as well as intelligent women.  This would be an alarming combination to nineteenth century society.
  • Some thought that Jane Eyre was an anti-Christian book because the representation of the cruel school, and because in the Victorian view of Christianity, women know their place.
  • Charlotte defended her work: 

         "Conventionality is not morality.  Self-Righteousness is not religion."

  • she tries to assert that women are worthy of social equality and independence.
  • Romantic novel in which a lady of lower class background is elevated in stature.


  • The description of Jane's third-storey walks asserts her discontent, restlessness, power of imagination (the world of imagination is full of life and feeling).  She is getting away from oppressing her passions.
  • equates her passions with supernatural powers in the strange laugh.
  • The most oppressed people are women.  They are supposed to be generally calm.  Jane asserts that women feel as men feel.
  • society limits women's intellectual capacity.  They are supposed to stay in their place.
  • laugh in hallway:  Another woman is confined to Thornfield.  She expresses all the rage of her confinement.
  • madness seems the woman's escape.  Jane escapes in her own world of imagination.
  • it seems wherever she goes, there is only servitude.
  • Jane does not go over the edge in the little world of her own.


Gilbert, Sandra M.  and Susan Gubar.  The Madwoman in the Attic:  the Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

Chapter 10  A Dialogue of Self and Soul:  Plain Jane's Progress

  • permeated by angry attempts of escape into wholeness.
  • opened eyes to female realities.


  • figure becomes partially described unwillingness to accept dictates of a patriarchal society.


Critics' Comments:

Elizabeth Rigby:  Quarterly Review, 1848

         "Jane is throughout ... an undisciplined and unreasonable spirit.  Her autobiography is predominantly an anti-christian composition.

Anne Mosely:  The Christian Remembrances

"Currer Bell had seemed ... sour, coarse and grumbling, an alien from society.

Mrs. Oliphant:  1855

         "Ten years ago we professed an orthodox system of novelmaking ...suddenly, without warning, Jane Eyre stormed upon the scene."


  • Important element is in seeing Mr. Rochester as something of a Byronic hero.


p.433  English Literature with World Masterpieces "Byron"

Byronic Hero:
One in whom there is mixed much to love and to hate.  One whose silences seem to form a theme for others' chatter.  The Byronic Hero was an aloof wanderer, an aloof, smouldering individual, isolated from the common run of humanity; an outsider, silent, passionate, gloomy, and mysterious.  This restless, doom driven, alien spirit harbours some nameless, mysterious guilt from the past as he moves with quiet scorn and defiant individualism through the present.

  • Mr. Rochester's Byronic qualities are evident as much as in Jane as in her master.  She is a defiant individualist.
  • Rochester does not accept the moral dictates of society in his attempt to marry Jane.


Richard Chase, 1948

"Obviously, Jane Eyre is a feminist tract"  -- seems it took until 1948 for people to think of this.  The nineteenth century saw Jane's behaviour in refusing St. John as an anti-christian refusal to accept.

  • The Nineteenth Century was worried about Jane's energy and refusal to accept her social destiny.  She is unwilling to accept and ungrateful for the lot of the orphan that God has handed to her.
  • she is unwilling to accept society's destiny for her.


  • The most emblematic passage of the work is the Thornfield Hall episode.  Thornfield Hall is a prototype for setting of a Gothic romance.  Questionable geography of house and third story with strange occupants creates suspense.

Gothic Romance:

  • typically set in an ancient mansion with unexplored areas within it. 
  • unusual people occupy it.
  • ambiguity of what is going on.  The third story is the most emblematic part of Thornfield.  The old furniture and distinct laugh of the secret wife of Rochester.
  • The third storey is the focal point of Jane's reality.  While she is there she expresses a desire for liberty.
  • The irrational life of Jane:  longs for more, rational anger and passion are associated with the strange laughs.
  • Jane has been locked up since the red room
  • ambiguous status of governess at Thornfield.  She is unsure of her position.
  • other women have little to offer her.  Mrs. Fairfax is a substitute for the master of the house.  The male presence is not there at the time.  The women are ultimately negative role models for Jane.  Other women:


                  Adèle:  represents type of womanhood of which she is a                                 product

                  Blanche Ingram:  her character implies convential marriage                            and courtship.  Even scheming women are doomed to                          lose the game.

                  Grace Poole:  a mystery.  Jane attempts to fathom the dark                            pool of the woman's behaviour. 

  • women, as agents of men, may be imprisoning other women while being bound with the same chains.  They are all keeping their eyes on one another for the man.


  • Mystery of Grace is the mystery of Jane.
  • deceiving question of who is the master and who the servant.  Jane questions the relationship of Rochester and the other women in the house.




Edward Rochester

  • unusual fairy tale meeting (twilight setting, rising moon, lionlike dog compared to Gytrash of Northern England.)
  • romanticized images suggest mythical setting.
  • first action is to fall.  The master's mastery is not universal.
  • he later confesses he had seen the meeting as a mythic one.
  • accuses her of having certain powers in a playful statement.


  • They begin as equals.  He as a dark, imposing creature, she as an enchanted wanderer.
  • masculine mastery is cut down immediately as he falls.

Equality emphasized in other scenes:

  • she reminds him continually that she is a paid subordinate.  He chooses not to treat her as one.
  • orders her to sit down while he looks at her pictures, but is soon won over by her creative imagination.
  • Though his speech would bewilder other servants, she is brought to life.  she wants to hear what he has to say.  He treats her as an equal.  She falls in love with him because she feels he is her equal.
  • When Rochester says that he deserves the superiority of twenty years more experience, she says that his superiority would depend upon what he had done with those twenty years.
  • his account of Varens episode would strike Victorian society as terrible, especially to talk about it with his young governess.
  • He shows his equality to Jane by his willingness to tell her the mistakes of his past.
  • She explains that the ease of his manner made her more comfortable.
  • He is not seducing Jane, but solacing himself in her unseducibility.  She is different:  not a part of the marketing game, but independent and not for sale.  She helps him to redeem himself from a world of sin.  She is pure and sweet.



As Rochester loses his position of master, he resorts to some tricks:

  • hopes to make her jealous by pretending to marry Blanche, who is only after him for money.  He wants to move Jane to make her feel for him as he feels for her.


  • Gypsy sequence:  tries to trap Jane into revealing affections for him.
  • gradually lets go of social devises that give him the mastery elements.
  • charades.  Trickery as source of power.  Evasion of equality that he says he believes.


Wedding Day Scene:

  • Rochester trusts Jane, scorns society and laws that restrict his happiness with Jane.  He has to deceive her in order to convince her to marry him.


  • when she learns the truth, she leaves.  She had believed him to be on equal terms with her.  He had been deceptive. 
  • Disguised equality.  If she had really been his equal, he would have been honest from the beginning.


Moor House

  • the point of the episode is to see if she can get on with her life without him.
  • Offers Jane a life's work.  St. John wants a "helpmeet" and manipulates her, trying to make her believe that by rejecting him, she was rejecting God.
  • mystical scene stops her from accepting
  • choice between following her head and following her heart.
  • progressively confined by St. John.  She feels no love, but admiration.


  • because of John Eyre's death, she inherits the social equality and independence, putting her in a better position with Rochester.  She visits him as her equal.  He is further cut down by his injuries.
  • Economic independence puts her socially at the same level as Rochester.
  • she has gained in experience.  St. John gave her a choice.  Life was not the same without Rochester.  She could never really be happy.

Ferndean Episode

  • Thornfield burnt to the ground, Madwoman leaps to her death.  Host foreshadows Rochester's condition.
  • she gets back at him for Blanche episode by talking about St. John.
  • resentment and anger bring him back to life.  Her experience puts them on a more equal footing.
  • hard for him to ask her to marry him.  He feels he doesn't have much to offer anymore.
  • Ferndean is more of a cottage that is away from society.  Rochester couldn't care less what people think about his marriage to a governess.



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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë


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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë



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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë