Introduction Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte was published in 1847. Interestingly, Charlotte did not choose to publish her work with her real name. Instead, the book was published with her pen name, Currer Bell. The novel proved an instant success, winning her a literary status among other English writers of her time. Following its popularity, the novel appeared in the American publishing market and proved more popular than in England. This bildungsroman (a novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education) follows Jane Eyre, its eponymous heroine, throughout her life to highlight her growth as an adult after going through grueling life experiences with her relationships, education, and life.
Summary of Jane Eyre
The story begins when Jane, aged 10, is living at Gateshead Hall, the family manor of the Reeds, with Mr. Reed, her uncle and his wife, and their three children of the same age group. However, she faces cold-shoulder, including occasional ill-treatment of being kept at bay from the family gatherings and provision of cheap clothing. It’s only her Uncle and Bessie, the nursemaid treats her kindly in the house. When he passes away the torture both physically and mentally escalates.
Despite this, she demonstrates resilience and stands tall against the maltreatment she becomes a victim of. On the other hand, Mrs. Reed does not stop at that and sends her to Lowood, a boarding school for poor and orphan girls to get rid of her as she has been becoming an irritant for her. During her audience with Mr. Brocklehurst, Mrs. Reed declares Jane with ‘tendency for deceit’., and demands of him to warn the teachers and pupils at Lowood which Mr. Brocklehurst comprehends as a liar. Before Jane leaves for school, she confronts her and tells her that she will never call her ‘aunt’. This hurts Mrs. Reed feeling but wouldn’t show them.
When she reaches Lowood school, she finds life harsh and the atmosphere stifling. The boarders are mostly ill-fed and thinly dressed even in frosty season. Surprisingly, she adjusts to the situation rather quickly and befriends Helen Burns, a girl older than her, due to her kindness including her unquestioning obedience to corporal punishment and unreasonable reprimanding. Jane sees that most of the pupils face the same treatment on daily basis. Both friends discuss religious and psychological issues for hours.
Jane narrates how she was mistreated by Mrs. Reed but then Helen responds by telling her it would be better if she holds no grudges. Her good nature soon wins her the confidence of the kind and caring superintendent, Miss Temple, whose help publicly vindicates Jane, declaring her an honorable young girl despite bad repute spread by Mr. Brocklehurst during his visit to Lowood. It is in Miss Temple’s company that she finally finds a true mentor. Both Helen Burns and Miss Temple, who play an important part in her moral, psychological, and spiritual development, become her true friends and role models. Among the total eighty pupils at Lowood of whom many died in the outbreak of Typhus, Jane stays safe and healthy. However, his friend, Burns, develops consumption and dies, leaving aggrieved Jane alone.
Having lived for eight years at Lowood with the last two as its teacher, Jane decides to venture out of the school boundary and look for work to stay at some other place. She advertises herself in a newspaper, offering her services as a governess to find a better opportunity. She receives a reply from a certain Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield, comprising an offer to teach a French girl, Adele Varens, that she immediately accepts. At Thornfield, she finds that Mrs. Fairfax is quite kind and compassionate. Above all, her student, Adele, is a good girl having a good living place. Soon she faces Mr. Rochester, the master of the mansion, though, she stays unaware of his real status until she meets him again at Thornfield.
To her own surprise, she quickly finds herself attracted to Mr. Rochester despite his coldness. She, too, tries her best not to reveal her feelings as he stays indifferent at first but starts paying attention to her after some time. Finally, Jane has to give in to Rochester’s advances. But never confess her feelings towards him. Once, she saves him from the mysterious fire, and he thanks her dearly. The next day, he leaves for a gathering and comes back with the whole party including the beautiful Blanche Ingram. Then, it was rumored that Mr. Rochester and Blanche were to get married. Usually reserved Jane, infuriated during a conversation, Jane and Mr. Rochester both admit their love for each other and decide to marry.
On their wedding day, Mr. Mason, Mr. Rochester’s first wife’s brother, and a lawyer appear and stop the proceedings, declaring that his first wife, Bertha, is alive and kicking. This news not only causes consternation to Jane but also infuriates Rochester. Seeing Jane feeling betrayed, Mr. Rochester explains to her the lunacy of Bertha and his life with her. Although she accepts his explanations and feels sorry, too. He suggests they elope to France and live as husband & wife without getting married. Even though tempted by his words, she didn’t want to go against her Christian values. Then, she decides to leave Thornfield.
After leaving Thornfield, she wanders in the heath as a destitute and accidentally reaches the Moor House where her cousins Diana, Mary, and St. John Rivers are living. There, she comes to know her being an heiress of a thousand pounds’ fortune that one of her uncles John Eyre has left for her. Meanwhile, St. John proposes to her for marriage since she would make a good missionary wife as he was going to India to serve Christianity. Even though she accepts going to India, she denied the marriage and suggested they travel as brother and sister.
Before leaving for India, Jane mysteriously hears Mr. Rochester’s voice and reverts to Thornfield which to her surprise has been burnt down by Bertha. Rochester, too, has lost his sight and an arm in an attempt to save Bertha from burning alive. Mr. Rochester asks her ‘Am I hideous, Jane?’. She replies ‘Very sir, you always were, you know.’ In spite of his repulsive appearance, she declares her love and assures him of never leaving. Finally, both of them find themselves in each other’s company to marry without any external restriction. Later, Mr. Rochester regains his eyesight and sees their newborn son.
Major Themes in Jane Eyre
- Role of the Family: Jane Eyre, the novel, shows the theme of the family role through Jane, for she is left alone in this world to fend off herself. Although she becomes independent at quite an early age, it comes at a price that she has to rely on Miss Temple and Mrs. Fairfax instead of her parents. When it comes to her relations, she finds that even relatives do not treat a lonely relation fairly. The example of St. John and Mrs. Reed are cases in point that she has to return to Miss Temple to demonstrate her love. Because of that situation, she has to spurn Rochester’s offer to verify his genuineness instead of going for marriage with him in one go. In the case of having a family, she would not have to take too many troubles.
- Religion: Jane Eyre learns that religion plays an important role in a person’s social life when she meets Mr. Brocklehurst but she also learns that this evangelicalism has been adopted to facilitate social superiority, for it is very much couched in hypocrisy. She sees that Mr. Brocklehurst uses the funds of the children for himself and yet mistreats them. She, then, meets Helen Burns, whose tolerance surpasses the clergy, while St. John shows piety and virtuosity to win her. However, she chooses Mr. Rochester to show her own loving side.
- Social Status: The theme of social status emerges quite early and often peeps through different strands in the novel when Jane Eyre has to go through the ordeal of attending boarding school. Although Mr. Reed is her uncle, yet she becomes a butt of their ridicule only because of her social status. She sees that although Mr. Rochester is a reasonable man, he marries Bertha only because she belongs to an aristocratic family. And he suffers for it, too. Later when she finds a niche for herself in society, the same Rochester becomes very sincere and leans toward her. However, she finds sincerity in him, giving him a second chance, and accepts his proposal, though, belatedly.
- Gender Equality: Jane Eyre shows gender inequality through different characters. Jane is confined to the red room merely because of her being a girl and the same goes for Bertha Mason because she depends on Rochester. It shows that the Victorian Era’s idea about femininity was still based on the deprioritization of gender roles. For example, St. John is free to select any career, while on the other hand, Jane could not choose her career due to her gender. However, she becomes slightly independent by the end when she visits Rochester to accept his previous proposal.
- Gothic Elements: Jane Eyre shows the thematic strand of Gothic elements such as through the manor of Thornfield, which is not only mysterious but also very bizarre. Bertha Mason’s behavior, too, becomes strangely mysterious in such an atmosphere where the supernatural rules the roost, or at least seems so. When Rochester is left alone after the suicide of Bertha, he, too, seems to have something Gothic in him.
- Class Struggle: One of the significant themes of the class struggle emerges from the character of Jane and her interaction with her relations, Mr. Reed, and his family. She stays with them as a working hand as long as she is poor with attendant issues of loneliness and depression. However, as soon as she becomes independent, her significance with her relations improves. She not only becomes independent but also marries a gentleman, Mr. Rochester.
- Self-Discovery: Self-discovery or self-knowledge that is also called bildungsroman is also a significant strand as it runs throughout the novel. Jane witnesses this transformation coming gradually to her after she lives with Mr. Reed and then leaves the family for a better prospectus after she discovers that she can survive and improve her life. She, then, does not respond to St. John’s overtures replying to him that she does not love him. With courage and for love, she chooses Mr. Rochester with whom she thinks he is equally in love. This self-discovery becomes a significant theme of the novel.
- Love and Marriage: The novel shows the theme of love and marriage through the character of Jane, St. John, Mr. Rochester, and Bertha. Although St. John tells her that he is ready to marry her, she does not love him. She confesses her love for Mr. Rochester who is already married to Bertha Mason, a mentally ill person, who has become a burden in his life, causing frustration and fear. Ultimately when Bertha Mason commits suicide, Jane responds to Rochester’s proposal, and both of them ready for marriage.
- Colonialism: Many aspects of the novel point to the thematic strand of colonialism that has been going on in the world at that time. Jane’s uncle, John, who lives in Madeira, shows that he has amassed wealth for her. Mr. Rochester, too, has married Bertha Mason, a Jamaican Creole lady, while St. John is ready to set sail for India, an English colony at that time.
Major Characters Jane Eyre
- Jane Eyre: The eponymous girl, aged 10, Jane Eyre is the protagonist of the novel. From a sensitive orphan, she grows into an assertive and independent young woman who dares to propose to the blind Mr. Rochester, when he needs love and support. However, the journey from a sensitive and dependent teenager to an independent lady has never been an easy ride, for she has had to pay the price in the form of ill-treatment she receives at Lowood and occasional advances from St. Johns, who also proposes to her and asks her to accompany him to India. She, however, stays patient in the face of maltreatment from her uncle and resists love from St. John. This stable and balanced persona wins her the title of the heroine of the novel.
- Edward Rochester: Rochester stands tall among the male characters. He displays a genuine feeling toward Jane and his heroic qualities. He has suffered so much from his hasty marriage with Bertha Mason that he longs to marry a girl like Jane. Although he knows that socially he is quite an aristocrat but he needs an emphatic and sympathetic person like Jane to make him a balanced person. Therefore, when he is paralyzed by the fire in which Bertha Mason burns herself, he accepts Jane’s proposal understanding that it is not out of pity but his sincerity and love.
- John Rivers: St. John is Jane’s cousin, who has devoted his life to preaching as an evangelist and longs to visit India to spread the civilizational message. His stoic and strict brand first seduces Jane but she realizes soon his would-be patriarchal domination that may undermine her independence in the future. Therefore, instead of going for St. John, she prefers Mr. Rochester, for his sincerity of feelings and goodness of his heart in that he needs Jane at this point in his life.
- Helen Burns: Helen Burns is Jane’s schoolmate as well as her mentor. Her faith in Christianity and the goodness of the human heart is buried deep in her psyche that she does not budge from her stand come what may. Jane is not moved much by her staunch religiosity, yet she has a very strong influence on her personality.
- Brocklehurst: Mr. Brocklehurst in the novel is known for the cruelty and torture he inflicts on the children of Lowood School. He stands as a perfect example for a hypocritical figure, delivering Christian sermons but practicing quite opposite. His embezzlement in the school funds later proves this public impression of him.
- Bertha Mason: As the wife of Mr. Rochester, Bertha Mason has a strong impact on her surroundings and Mr. Rochester’s life. Suffering from hereditary mental illness, Bertha becomes a cumbersome burden for Rochester to whom he could not leave. Rather he has had to employ Grace Poole to keep watch on her in case she might commit suicide, and that she does when she burns down Thornfield Manor.
- Reed: Despite being Jane’s aunt, Mrs. Reed abuses her as a child such as confining her to the red-room as a punishment even for trivial situations. She continues to resent Jane’s presence and does not repent her behavior even on her deathbed.
- Miss Temple: A very considerate lady, Miss Temple treats children with kindness and takes up the responsibility of caring for them about their food and clothing at Lowood. She is specifically kind to Jane and her friend, Helen, and treats them with kindness. Jane and Helen both treat her as their motherly mentor to whom they follow as a role model in their lives.
- John Reed: Jane’s cousin and brother of Eliza and Georgiana, John Reed does not show his relationship with Jane by taking care of her. He rather bullies her whenever he finds a chance and conjoins with his mother to hurt and abuse Jane. Excessive motherly love spoils the kids in that he becomes a gambler when he grows up and commits suicide due to the pressure from the creditors.
- Grace Poole: The significance of Grace Poole lies in his supporting role for Rochester in taking care of Bertha at Thornfield. However, his little negligence provides Bertha time enough to set the entire house on fire, causing severe injuries to Rochester and making him almost dependent on Jane.
Writing Style of Jane Eyre
Descriptive and formal, the novel shows the use of complicated sentences with formal diction suitable for fiction. The formal narrative of Jane also points to her formal education. The novel shows the narrator’s sympathetic view of other characters in the first-person point of view when addressing all of them “We” instead of merely using “I.” Although sentence structure is complex and elaborate, yet it is understandable for the common readers. Jane often narrates in her cultivated language yet uses very difficult and formal diction that is fit only for academic purposes but simultaneously does not make the reading of the novel hard for its readers. The use of common features such as metaphors and similes and realistic dialogs make the novel fit to be suggested for course work in schools.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in Jane Eyre
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the whole life and growth of Jane Eyre to an adult. The falling action occurs when she comes to see Thornfield Manor, crumbling to the ground after Bertha Mason sets it on fire, while the rising action occurs when she meets Mr. Rochester to positively respond to his past proposal of marrying her.
- Anaphora: The novel shows examples of anaphora as given in the below example,
“I like this day; I like that sky of steel; I like the sternness and stillness of the world under this frost. I like Thornfield, its antiquity, its retirement, its old crow trees and thorn-trees, its grey facade, and lines of dark windows reflecting that metal welkin: and yet how long have I abhorred the very thought of it, shunned it like a great plague-house? How I do still abhor—” (Chapter-XVI)
The example shows the repetitious use of “I like.”
- Alliteration: Jane Eyre shows the use of alliteration at several places as given in the below example,
Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland,
Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with “the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary space,—that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights above heights, surround the pole, and concenter the multiplied rigours of extreme cold.” (Chapter-1)
ii. Two young ladies appeared before me; one very tall, almost as tall as Miss Ingram—very thin too, with a sallow face and severe mien. There was something ascetic in her look, which was augmented by the extreme plainness of a straight-skirted, black, stuff dress, a starched linen collar, hair combed away from the temples, and the nun-like ornament of a string of ebony beads and a crucifix. (Chapter-XXI)
Both of these examples from the novel show the use of consonant sounds such as the sound of /s/, /r/,/t/ and again /s/ occurring after an interval to make the prose melodious and rhythmic.
- Allusion: The novel shows a good use of different allusions. For example,
I returned to my book—Bewick’s History of British Birds: the letterpress
thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain
introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank. (Chapter-I)
ii. Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland,
Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with “the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary space,—that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights. (Chapter-I)
iii. I put both plate and tart away. Bessie asked if I would have a book: the word book acted as a transient stimulus, and I begged her to fetch Gulliver’s Travels from the library. (Chapter-III)
iv. “And, Miss Eyre, so much was I flattered by this preference of the Gallic
sylph for her British gnome, that I installed her in an hotel; gave her a complete establishment of servants, a carriage, cashmeres, diamonds, dentelles, &c. (Chapter-XVI)
The first example shows the reference to a book, the second to different places, the third to Jonathan Swift, an English author, and the fourth to mythology.
- Antagonist: Reed is the antagonist of the novel as he tries his best to obstruct all avenues for Jane Eyre, and also puts her in a situation of mental agony.
- Conflict: The novel shows both external and internal conflict. The external conflict is going on between Jane and the external world like Mr. Reed. The internal conflict is going on in the mind of Jane about her actions and her relationship with Helen Burns and Mr. Rochester.
- Characters: The novel shows both static as well as dynamic characters. The young girl, Jane Eyre, is a dynamic character as she shows a considerable transformation in her behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Mr. Reed, Mrs. Reed, St. John, Georgiana, and Mr. Rochester.
- Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when Mr. Rochester is trapped in his burning manor and is taken out injured. Then Jane visits him to console him and respond to his previous marriage proposal.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given in the examples below,
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question. (Chapter-1)
ii. I resisted all the way: a new thing for me, and a circumstance which greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot were disposed to entertain of me. (Chapter-II)
iii. The next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had had a
frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red glare, crossed with thick black bars. (Chapter-III)
The mention of winter, resistance, and nightmare show that the times for Jane are going to be very difficult. They foreshadow her difficulties lying ahead.
- Hyperbole: The novel shows various examples of hyperboles in the below examples,
In five minutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved: I knew quite well that I was in my own bed, and that the red glare was the nursery fire. (Chapter-III)
ii. According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam hovered here or
glanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that bent his brow; now St. John’s long hair that waved; and anon the devilish face of Judas, that grew out of the panel, and seemed gathering life and threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor—of Satan himself—in his subordinate’s form. Curtain of rain were drawn around the car. (Chapter-XXI)
Both of these examples exaggerate feelings such as bewilderment which can’t become clouded, or St. John cannot be such a devilish person.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol. (Chapter-XXIV)
ii. A kind of pleasant stupor was stealing over me as I sat by the genial fire. In an undertone she gave some directions to Hannah. Ere long, with the servant’s aid, I contrived to mount a staircase; my dripping clothes were removed; soon a warm, dry bed received me. (Chapter-XXVIII)
These two examples show images of color, sound, and feelings.
- Metaphor: Jane Eyre shows good use of various metaphors as given the examples below,
I really saw in him a tyrant, a murderer. (Chapter-I)
ii. This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered. (Chapter-II)
iii. I caught scraps of their conversation, from which I was able only too distinctly to infer the main subject discussed. (Chapter-III)
These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows comparing a person to a tyrant, the second shows the room compared to a person, and the conversation of the third shows compared to bread.
- Mood: The novel shows various moods; it starts with quite a somber and bitter mood but turns out to be highly exciting at times and tragic when it reaches Mr. Rochester’s burning in his house, and happy when Jane returns to him.
- Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are winter, fire, ice, spirit, and anger.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated in the first-person point of view, who is Jane herself. The novel starts with her as a child and ends when she finally settles down with Mr. Rochester.
- Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications as given in the below examples,
For me, the watches of that long night passed in ghastly wakefulness; strained by dread: such dread as children only can feel. (Chapter-III)
ii. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation. (Chapter-XII)
These examples show as if the watches and the trees have feelings and lives of their own.
- Protagonist: Jane Eyre is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with her entry into the world and moves forward as she grows young and becomes a lady.
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places. For example,
“Who talks of cadeaux?” said he gruffly. “Did you expect a present, Miss Eyre? Are you fond of presents?” and he searched my face with eyes that I saw were dark, irate, and piercing. (Chapter-XIII)
ii. “Once more, how do you know? By what instinct do you pretend to distinguish between a fallen seraph of the abyss and a messenger from the eternal throne—between a guide and a seducer?” (Chapter-XV)
This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
- Setting: The setting of the novel is somewhere in northern England during the time of George III.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes as given in the below examples,
She had Roman features and a double chin, disappearing into a throat like a pillar: these features appeared to me not only inflated and darkened, but even furrowed with pride; and the chin was sustained by the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural erectness. (XVII)
ii. It seemed to me that, were I a gentleman like him, I would take to my bosom only such a wife as I could love; but the very obviousness of the advantages to the husband’s own happiness offered by this plan convinced me that there must be arguments against its general adoption of which I was quite ignorant: otherwise I felt sure all the world would act as I wished to act. (Chapter-XVIII)
iii. What a hot and strong grasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his pale, firm, massive front at this moment! (XXVII)
These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things such as the first shows the lady compared to a pillar, the second shows the person compared to another gentleman, and the third shows facial features likened to marble.