A Literary Analysis of the Women in Jane Eyre's Life
Within our lives we encounter many different yet important people. These people, if their effect on us is profound, help shape us into the person we become. We become this ideal person through our maturing, which is greatly affected by others.
In Jane Eyre, Jane meets many people who have a profound affect on her maturing process. Three of the most important women affecting Jane Eyre are Mrs.Reed, Helen Burns, and Mrs.Rochester. Each woman is responsible for assisting Jane in her search to be a consummate mature human being.
Mrs. Reed, within the pages of Jane Eyre, is an extremely negative person, yet has positive effect on Jane. She has a deep hatred of Jane, and feels no love for her orphaned niece. Instead of showing her love and kindness, Mrs. Reed shows Jane cold indifference until incidents happen upon which her deep abiding dislike of Jane rears its hideous head. When John Reed tries and succeeds in belittling and beating Jane, Mrs.
Reed automatically defends her immensely guilty son, with no regard to the clear fact that Jane is in no way to blame for her actions against John. The way in which Mrs. Reed’s cruelty is displayed to Jane aids in Jane’s ability to stand up for herself when being informed of all her supposed wrongdoings. After Mrs. Reed summons Mr. Brocklehurst to examine Jane for Lowood, Jane says these powerful words to her “I am glad you are no relation of mine.
I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to visit you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty. . . .
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 . . . into the red-room.
. . . 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. ‘Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt.
It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty. . . .”. Mrs.
Reed may never have treated Jane with respect, love or honesty but she did aid in Jane’s refusal to be a doormat to those who fallaciously claim superiority. Furthermore, Mrs. Reed’s hostile attitude enhanced Jane’s aversion to injustice, like the injustice dealt to her. As a result of this experience Jane becomes stronger in obtaining justice for herself, as well as others at times. Mrs. Reed in her inability to be just to Jane Eyre led to a stronger, more resilient and defensive Jane, who has no qualms of informing others of her conjectures.
Helen Burns shows kindness to Jane and teaches her various concepts about people and religion at Lowood School. Helen teaches Jane about tolerance, patience and forgiveness through her actions. When Helen is confronted with distain from Miss Scatcherd, she does not retaliate out of anger instead she compliantly takes her punishment. Even though Helen’s punishment is not justified, she forgives Miss Scatcherd saying how she was right to punish her for not concentrating on her lessons. Helen says that “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 it is your fate to be required to bear”. In this Helen declares to Jane that sometimes you must bear the difficulties that you do not wish to bear, but sinfully think you cannot bear.
Regarding patience, Helen teaches Jane about Heaven and God. On her death bed Helen informs Jane of this “I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately married, and will not miss me. By dying young I shall escape great sufferings.
I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault.” . In this statement, Helen expresses her patience in God’s plan for her. She does not fret over what is to come, only remains peaceful in the concept of not suffering through life here on Earth. Helen imparts to Jane her faith.
This faith becomes imperative to Jane’s future after being informed of Mr. Rochester’s hidden attic insane asylum. Helen has deep religious effect on Jane’s maturing process. She demonstrates to Jane how a good Christian is to act, think and behave through her own actions, thoughts, and behaviors. These are the actions, words, and behaviors after which Jane will later model her own actions, words and behaviors.
Mrs. Rochester affects Jane without speaking a solitary word to her. Bertha’s effect on Jane is providing her with an opportunity to do what is right. When Jane is informed of Mr. Rochester’s marital status, she is deeply conflicted on what course of action she should take. Should Jane stay with Mr.
Rochester and become his mistress, or do what she knows is right and leave him? In the end it is Mr. Rochester’s marriage to Bertha that makes her decision: to leave Mr. Rochester. Bertha unknowingly gives Jane the opportunity to become independent, to explore what the world has to offer on her own. For Jane this an extremely important event in her life, the acting upon her knowledge that she is free to be free of Mr.
Rochester. Also, Bertha shows Jane that she must stand up for convictions. Jane’s knowledge of right and wrong stemming from the Bible, says it is sinful to marry an already married man. Mr. Rochester tells Jane his marriage to Bertha is irrelevant because she is insane.
But Jane does not agree, so she willingly and knowingly leaves Mr. Rochester in what she knows to be the best course of action. When Mr. Rochester and Jane are arguing on the topic of Jane’s departure, she states to him “Mr. Rochester, I will not be yours” showing the strength she as a person to exert her independence. Though Jane and Bertha never truly interact, Bertha has an effect on Jane that extends beyond the pages of this early feminist book.
Jane Eyre is an example of an early literary feminist, but without the insanity of Bertha Rochester, Jane may never have become the feminist she is known as today. Without the chance to forge her own path, Jane would have never realized that she had the power to control her life. Bertha Rochester, though apathetic to what happens to Jane, has the most profound effect on Jane. Throughout Jane Eyre these women, each with a distinctive presence in Jane life’s, affect her. These women may not be throughly cognizant of their effects that shape our unforgettable protagonist to be the famed Jane Eyre. Each effect, though at first may seem negative, affect positively the way in which Jane matures.
Jane matures to be an early example of feminism through the actions and words shown to her by Mrs. Reed, Helen Burns and Mrs. Rochester. These woman each affect Jane in their own unique way; Mrs. Reed’s cruelty led to a stronger Jane, Helen Burn’s infinite faith led to a more religious Jane, and Mrs.
Rochester’s insanity and marriage to Mr. Rochester led to an independent Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre’s maturing process is deeply effected by these three women, who unknowingly, unwittingly, and irreversibility change Jane Eyre for good.