Overall, Jane Eyre is a likable protagonist. During her childhood, her aunt Reed and her cousins– in particular, John Reed– abuse her with emotional cruelty. Mrs. Reed even says to her son John “Don’t talk to me about her, John: I told you not to go near her; she is not worthy of notice: I do not choose that either you or your sister should associate with her.” (Charlotte Bronte, 22) Jane is miserable, of course, but fights back with a likable passion. An example of her opposition to Mrs. Reed’s illogical maltreatment lies in the quote: “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[…]”(31). Inherently, Jane is able to stand up for herself. This quality does not translate to conceit, as the abuse she endures leads her to constantly question why she cannot please, why she cannot be loved. She eventually gets sent to Lowood, an oppressive boarding school, at which she remains for 8 years. There, she takes it upon herself to work hard and educate herself and rises in the ranks academically. After 6 years of learning, she becomes a teacher for 2 years. It is at this point that she becomes tired of her atmosphere, seeking a new life. Her adventurousness is another likable quality, as I can relate to her feeling of being trapped and yearning to expand her horizons. She advertises for the job of a governess, and soon obtains the position in the house of Mr. Rochester, where she teaches his dependent child, Adele. She treats Adele with much love and establishes a bond with her, extending her likability, as she has an inherent kindness and affection for others. Throughout the book, Jane is incredibly analytical, noting many details of her surroundings, scrutinizing the manner of the people she converses with, and losing herself in thought in general. I also find this characteristic likable because she is observant, rather than empty-headed, and ponders life rather than floating through it mindlessly. She values the principles of her religion, Christianity, and although I am not personally religious, I admire her dedication to the morality of it all. She is spunky at the appropriate times and polite at the others, and knows how to conduct herself. She becomes involved with Mr. Rochester, but has the self-respect to leave him when she discovers he is already married, (although he was tricked into the marriage with a mentally insane woman, Bertha Mason). She ends up staying with her long-lost cousins, and when her male cousin St. John Rivers wants her to marry him and accompany him to India to carry out God’s work, she cares about herself enough to turn him down and live the life that makes her happy. I admire her determination and passion. For the aforementioned reasons, I like her as a protagonist.
Jane Eyre is stuffed to the brim with Gothic elements. Charlotte Bronte employs the castle setting element and the following prophecy connected to the setting, an atmosphere of mystery and gloom, omens and elements of the supernatural, high emotion, the “women in distress” theme, the “women threatened by a tyrannical male” theme, and, finally, metonymy of gloom and horror. Bronte fulfills the castle setting element from the beginning with the home of Mrs. Reed, Gateshead Hall. It is a large house, containing rooms Jane often describes as intricate and elegant, but still dreary. Mr. Rochester’s house, Thornfield Hall, a setting Jane spends much time in, is also large– large enough to successfully conceal a raving lunatic from the rest of its inhabitants. The existence of the madwoman in the house is, also, the prophecy connected to the building. The true occupation of a maid at Thornfield, Grace Poole, who is later revealed to be the caretaker of the lunatic, is constantly rumored of. A fellow servant notes, in the subject of wages: “I wish I had as good [wages]; not that mine are to complain of,–there’s no stinginess at Thornfield; but they’re not one-fifth of the sum Ms. Poole receives.” (165-166) The employees at Thornfield all speculate on the occupation of Grace, sometimes guessing accurately that she takes care of the lunatic. Bronte also incorporates an atmosphere of mystery and gloom. She often describes her surroundings drearily with weighed-down vocabulary. An example of her gloomy description of Jane’s surroundings exists while Jane is returning from a walk and gazing upon Thornfield Hall: “the shutters of the glass door were closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house– from the grey hollow filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me– to that sky expanded before me,– a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she left the hill tops, aspired to the zenith, midnight-dark in its fathomless depth and measureless distance: and for those trembling stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins glow when I viewed them.” (116). She uses dismal diction like “gloomy”, “solemn”, “midnight-dark”, and “fathomless depth” and employs dreary personification such as “made my heart tremble”, and “those trembling stars”. She paints a very oppressive atmosphere with her use of language. As if the atmosphere isn’t already frightening enough, she additionally includes omens and elements of the supernatural. At one point in the book, when Jane is far away from Mr. Rochester, she hears him call her name three times, and she calls back to him; later, when they reconnect, they both reveal that they heard the other call to one another. This is completely supernatural, as they were miles and miles away from each other at the time. Bronte also incorporates bad omens, such as when Jane tells that she has heard dreaming of children is a bad omen, and has dreamt of them for seven nights in a row; not too long after, she learns that her cousin John Reed has committed suicide, and Mrs. Reed has suffered a stroke and is closing in on death: “When I was a little girl, only six years old, I, one night, heard Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a little child; and that to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one’s self or one’s kin. […] Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my cough that had not brought with it a dream of an infant; […] I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour of the vision drew near. It was from companionship with this baby-phantom when I had been roused on the moonlight night when I heard the cry; and it was on the afternoon of the day following I was summoned downstairs by a message that someone wanted me[…] (224). Bronte continues to describe Jane being informed of the tragedies. Bronte incorporates high emotion continually throughout the book; Jane is often melancholy about the lack of love and family in her life, becomes incredibly in love with Mr. Rochester, and endures an immense sadness upon leaving him. The traditional gothic “women in distress” theme is a key element of Bronte’s plot, as Jane had a very troubled childhood in a home whose occupants all made her feel worthless. She then gets put into a boarding school at which she, initially, is received with bitterness, and after that, still often finds herself in positions of distress. She endures emotional turbulence throughout the vast majority of the book. Later in the book, she becomes victim to St. John Rivers’ constant pestering for her to journey to India with him, which plays into the Gothic theme of “women threatened by a tyrannical male”. To call St. John Rivers’ requests “constant pestering” is not an understatement:
“‘I am ready to go to India, if I may go free. You have hitherto been my adopted brother: I, your adopted sister; let us continue as such: you and I had better not marry’.
[…] ‘Simplify your complicated interests, feelings, thoughts, wishes, aims; merge all considerations in one purpose: that of fulfilling with effect– with power– the mission of your great Master. To do so, you must have a coadjutor– not a brother; that is a loose tie; but a husband. I, too, do not want a sister; a sister might any day be taken from me. I want a wife: the sole helpmeet I can influence efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death.’
I shuddered as he spoke: I felt his influence in my marrow– his hold on my limbs.” (417)
St. John Rivers aggressively brings up the subject many, many times until Jane finally decides to go back to Mr. Rochester. Finally, Charlotte Bronte employs metonymy of gloom and horror constantly. An example exists when Jane is wandering Lowood’s campus during lunch, alone, and the weather serves as a metonymy for her feelings: “I wandered as usual among the forms and tables and laughing groups without a companion, yet not feeling lonely: when I passed the windows, I now and then lifted a blink and looked out; it snowed fast, a drift was already forming against the lower panes; putting my ear close to the window, I could distinguish from the gleeful tumult within, the disconsolate moan of the wind outside.” (51) Of course, there is also the battle within Jane when Mr. Rochester wants to marry her about her self-respect and not being owned by her husband.
The rich women in this novel are portrayed as conceited, unkind, empty-headed and only objects of aesthetic pleasure for the men: “The ladies, since the gentlemen entered, have become lively as larks; conversation waxes brisk and merry. Colonel Dent and Mr. Eshton argue on politics; their wives listen.” (177)The fact that Bronte takes care to mention that the men discuss politics while the women simply listen implies that in Victorian society, women were expected to simply look nice and refrain from partaking in what society deemed as manly matters. She also purposefully mentions that the ladies became lively only after the men entered, implying that women couldn’t enjoy themselves without men around. Meanwhile, the middle class women, such as Jane, are usually employed as governesses; the women in the book often study various languages, read, write, and create art. They are portrayed to be creative and polite. Still, no women ever study politics or economics, or partake in anything physical, such as sports. Overall, Charlotte Bronte establishes the position of women in Victorian society to be mostly aesthetic and girly, while implying that they are just as capable as men by showing that a lot of women took it upon themselves to educate themselves.
Mr. Rochester is an unsympathetic character. Even before the whole mess with Bertha Mason is revealed, he tricks a lady, Blanche Ingram, into agreeing to marry him, only to make Jane jealous. Rochester admits to this, saying to Jane: “Well, I feigned courtship of Miss Ingram, because I wished to render you as madly in love with me as I was with you; and I knew jealousy would be the best ally I could call in for the furtherance of that end.” (268) She replies, “It was a burning shame, and a scandalous disgrace to act in that way. Did you think nothing of Miss, Ingram’s feelings, sir!” (268) He answers, “Her feelings are concentrated in one– pride.” (268). Although the character of Miss Ingram is somewhat horrid, he does not care whatsoever for the results of his actions on her emotions, and this renders him unsympathetic. Later, when Mr. Rochester reveals the existence of his lunatic wife to Jane and the attendants of their wedding, and after he is promptly attacked by Bertha upon her seeing him, he describes her with repulsed diction: “That is my wife. […] Such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know. […] And this is what I wished to have, this young girl, [referring to Jane], who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. […] Compare these clear eyes with the red balls yonder– the face with that mask– this form with that bulk, then judge me[…]” (301) He refers to her as “the maniac”, and “what I most hate”. (307) Although Bertha Mason is definitely mad in the most aggressive way, being described as acting as a beast whenever she is present, she cannot help her mental illness. Mr. Rochester keeps her locked up in a small room with Grace Poole, who takes care of her. He hates her with a passion, never once acknowledging that it is not Bertha’s fault that she is mentally insane. This, also, establishes him as an unsympathetic character.
5. Jane agrees to go to India many times while St. John Rivers is pestering her, but she maintains that she will only go with him if she can go as his assistant, not as his wife. Jane is Christian and wants to please God, but, at the same, time, wants to be independent and self-sufficient. She doesn’t want Rivers to have the hold on her he wants to have. Rivers only wants to marry Jane so as to secure their mission to carry out God’s work together. Jane believes that marriage is for love, and at one point Rivers counters this by saying: “undoubtedly enough of love would follow upon marriage to render the union right even in your eyes.” (420) Jane responds with: “I scorn your idea of love. […] I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes, St. John, and I scorn you when you offer it.” (420) He says: “if you reject [my offer], it is not me you deny, but God. Refuse to be my wife, and you limit yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity.” (421) Rivers is completely incapable of love for anyone other than his beloved God. Jane describes him thus: “To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble; his eye was a cold, bright, blue gem; his tongue, a speaking instrument– nothing more. All this was torture to me–refined, lingering torture. It kept up a slow fire of indignation, and a trembling trouble of grief, which harassed and crushed me altogether.” (423) She goes on to imagine the life she would have with him: “I felt how– if I were his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon kill me: without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood, or receiving on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime. Especially I felt this, when I made any attempt to propitiate him. He experienced no suffering from estrangement– no yearning after reconciliation; and though, more than once, my fast falling tears blistered the page over which we both bent, they produced no more effect on him than if his heart had been really a matter of stone or metal.”(423) Jane knows that Rivers does not even care about her feelings when they quarrel over the subject of India; he only cares about God, God, God. Jane rejects his offer, instead going back to Mr. Rochester, who she’s discovered has become crippled and blinded as the result of a house fire– which also killed his lunatic wife– and living the life that truly makes her happy: the life with her true love. Jane learns that St. John Rivers ended up going to India alone to carry out God’s work, and worked himself basically to death there. She receives a letter in which he foreshadows his own death: “My Master, […] has forewarned me. Daily he announces more distinctly, –’Surely I come quickly!’ and hourly I more eagerly respond, — ‘Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!’” This being the quote that ends the book. The significance of ending the book with this statement of his willingness to die lies in the fact that Jane almost endured the same fate. Being so faithful to God, she wanted to carry out His work as well, and if Rivers had cracked and let her join him without marriage, or if Jane had cracked and married Rivers, she would have tragically lost the life she was supposed to live. Going back to Mr. Rochester was the best thing she could have done for herself. Before she returns to him, she is bestowed a fortune, and is turned, thus, self-sufficient. She realizes that she can now be with Mr. Rochester because she knows it isn’t out of force, or out of finances, but out of love. Mr. Rochester even gains back his sight, and they, basically, live happily ever after. Had Jane left England for India, never to see Mr. Rochester again, she would’ve done “God’s work”, but she would’ve been completely unfulfilled. Rivers would have never truly loved her like Mr. Rochester, and although she would be physically occupied with good and pure work, she would’ve wasted her life by not being happy. Ending the book with the quote of Rivers’ declaring his readiness to die leaves the reader with the impact of the knowledge that Jane was not ready to die, as she would’ve, emotionally, the second she left for India. Instead, she did what was right for her, and that was the correct path.