Jane Eyre's Reflection of Modern Society

Jane Eyre is one of the most intriguing women in literature. Although the novel Jane Eyre was published in 1847, author Charlotte Bronte gave us a timeless character that accurately reflects the feelings of rejection, confusion, discrimination, and loneliness many of us feel while growing up.

Jane's journey into adolescence begins when she is ten years old at Gateshead, the home of her guardian, Mrs. Reed. Orphaned at birth, Jane doesn't know what it feels like to live in a loving, stable home. Instead, Jane is forced to live in an environment where she is mistreated and despised. Mrs. Reed's son John is a large, stout, spoiled fourteen-year-old who enjoys tormenting Jane. John chastises and berates Jane for reading books that belong to the Reeds and physically assaults her by throwing a book at her. Although Jane is humiliated and seething with rage, she takes John's abuse without expressing her resentment to Mrs. Reed. To make matters worse, Mrs. Reed punishes Jane for the incident, leaving her more confused and angry. As children, many of us are taught to be quiet and hold in our emotions. We hear that old saying, "turn the other cheek." We stifle feelings of anger, emotional pain, and animosity to avoid hurting others or simply to avoid confrontation.

After leaving Gateshead, Jane's teenage years are spent at Lowood School where she begins to have questions about religion and life. Jane wonders where and what God is. She wonders if the entire world hates her, and if it does, she feels dying would be better than living. At Lowood, Jane becomes close friends with Helen Burns. Helen is a devout girl who teaches Jane to have faith in God rather than humans. That faith is ultimately tested when Helen contracts typhus and dies. Although Jane is heartbroken, Helen's dying words comfort her and strengthen her faith in God. Helen says to Jane, "I believe; I have faith - I am going to God." When we become teenagers, loneliness, confusion, and rebellion lead us to search for our own truth. We need something or someone to believe in. Jane faces the painful reality of life when she loses her best friend to death. Growing up, we discover the pain of losing people we genuinely care about and who genuinely care about us, whether it be through death, relocation, or a rift in the friendship. Although emotionally devastating, loss is just another step on the staircase of life.

After painful, yet educational lessons learned at Lowood, Jane's passage into adulthood takes her to Thornfield, where she obtains a job as a governess. Jane feels comfortable at Thornfield, even though she is somewhat bored with life. She has her own private room, access to a vast library filled with books, and a master who treats her with dignity and respect. Although he's a bit unreasonable at times, Jane falls in love with her master, Mr. Rochester. Rochester eventually asks Jane to marry him and she accepts. On their wedding day, Jane discovers that Rochester is already married. Jane is heartbroken and feels used and betrayed by Rochester, so she decides to leave Thornfield. We can sympathize with Jane's heartbreak. Most of us have experienced the pleasure and pain that comes with love. We know what it is like to find out that the person we loved wasn't really who we envisioned them to be.

After leaving Thornfield, Jane travels for a few days with very little money. Without money for food, she becomes weak and weary. Eventually, Jane comes to the home of St. John Rivers and his two sisters. They are generous people who take care of Jane Eyre, or Jane Elliott, as they know her. Jane remains at the Rivers' home until one day when St. John asks her to become his wife and travel to India with him on missionary work. Jane declines the offer of marriage because St. John does not love her the way she wants to be loved. Jane does not want the self-discipline and submissiveness that comes with being a missionary's wife. She values her independence. Jane feels she is needed elsewhere.

Jane's path to adulthood helped her discover the road to independence, love, and eventually, happiness. Like Jane, we yearn for and attach importance to our independence. After awhile, we realize that too much independence can lead to a lonely life. We need someone to love and depend on, and vice versa, to keep us grounded, complete, and happy. Although our life experiences may differ from Jane's, we can still identify with the timeless feelings that those experiences produced. People search for different things, but whatever the search, it's all a part of the journey to adulthood and happiness.

Published by Mia Manning

Mia Manning is a freelance writer who was an English/Communications major in college and is certified as a Legal Assistant. Manning has over ten years experience in the retail industry, several of which were...  View profile