Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre portrays an orphan both as protagonist and narrator. Jane, a plain, good-natured, and meek young girl, learns the harsh realities of life from an early age. Jane, an orphaned child due to her parents’ deaths, is forced by Mrs. Reed to live in dependence under her roof. Jane is treated badly by Mrs. Reed’s two children. They are not kind, equal, or loving. Jane was deprived of love and affection from the moment her parents died until the day she left the Reeds. Jane becomes a strong and independent character despite all of these hardships. She stands up for justice, equality and morality – even if this means she loses love. The presence in the novel of an 18th-century orphan serves as an antagonist to other characters and plot, while also highlighting the difficulties Victorian women experienced in fiction.
To fully appreciate Jane’s significance as an orphan, it is important to understand her past and early life. Bronte tells the story of Jane Eyre’s dependency through John Reed: “You’re a dependent…you’ve got no money, your father left you nothing. You should beg instead of living here with us gentlemen’s kids, eating the same meals as us and wearing clothes that our mamma pays for” (Bronte). John Reed describes Jane Eyre as being a dependent of another family. The reader is made aware that Jane is considered to have a lower status than her family. The orphan is portrayed in this way: unwanted, unloved, ill-treated. Jane’s childhood is marked by constant degrading and isolating experiences. These will have a lasting impact on her life. This virtue can be used to contrast almost every other character in the book. Miss Temple, Helen Burns and Miss Temple are the only two exceptions. Comparing her to other characters highlights both her goodness and the harsh, despicable qualities of the others. The reader dislikes characters like the Reeds, Miss Scatcher, and Mr. Brocklehurst from the very beginning. Bronte explains all the characters in the novel, and by the end of it the reader has already decided to side with Jane. She is the ideal person to interpret the characters accurately because she is someone the reader can trust and who they agree with. Jane creates an accurate picture of Mrs. Reed by stating, “Well I might dread and dislike Mrs. Reed because she was born to hurt me harshly.” In her presence, I was never happy. Even though I did everything I could to please my mother, she was still disgusted. Readers cannot accept a character who treats Jane so horribly. Rochester is not without his wicked moments. Bronte reveals this in a conversation with Jane. Jane is not a fan of this selfishness, and she expresses her disapproval in an outspoken manner. This shows that Jane has both moral goodness as well as patience when faced with temptation. Jane’s orphanage plays a major role in the concept. Jane was never spoiled by her family, and Mrs. Reed’s example shows that she didn’t have anyone to look away when Jane behaved badly. She would have been like John, or Georgiana. Orphans are not considered to be part of any society.
Jane is also a modest person. Jane Reed, who lives with the Reeds and attends school in Rochester, is often reminded of her inferiority by Miss Ingram, or even when she visits Rochester’s estate. Jane’s pride in putting others before her and not being selfish has had a profound effect on her self-esteem. Jane’s modesty can be contrasted against the character of many other characters. The reader will see that they all have a similar morality. Jane paints portraits of herself as well as Miss Ingram. Jane becomes more and more aware of her differences in aesthetics after she compares the two portraits. Jane goes so much as to label herself a’stupid deceiver’ (190) advising to “cover (her] face and feel ashamed” (190). Jane’s negative view of herself was undoubtedly created by the Reeds. Jane would have never felt so alienated aesthetically and physically had her parents not passed away.
Jane Reed is not only completely dependent on her Reed parents, but also never experienced any intimacy with their family. Jane never escaped the label of a charity client. Jane would have liked to be called sister or daughter, but due to her starving heart she never got those titles. Jane is pity and sympathetic to the reader as she expresses her need for love. Jane swears by the oath of extremes and desperation to prove that she needs affection. Jane is portrayed as a person who would prioritize her desire for affection over all other things. Jane’s choices throughout the book, however, disprove this assumption. Her need for independence often complicates her devout quest for love and affection. Jane’s orphanage also contributed to her independence. Jane was an orphan all her life and had to learn to live on her own. Jane Eyre’s story is driven by the struggle between Jane Eyre’s need for love and her autonomy.
Jane’s actions in the novel best demonstrate the theme of independent thinking. Her relationship is not easy because she has to choose between two desires. Rochester will give her love, a sense that she belongs and a feeling of belonging at the expense of her independence. Jane’s independence is not a failure. Jane realizes quickly how important it is for her to be on an equal footing with Rochester. Jane’s need to be autonomous is most evident during the wedding preparations. Jane is frustrated, even though Rochester’s engagement and proposal prove that Jane loves him. She says, “the more he spent on me, the more I felt a sense annoyance or degradation” (Bronte 313). As Rochester forces Jane to wear expensive jewelery and elaborate silk dresses, the carriage they are in becomes a prison. Jane slowly loses her self-confidence as she falls further behind Rochester in terms of status and becomes less “plain Quakerish” (Bronte), 303. Readers can now see the beginnings in the transformation of an orphaned girl from a low-class to a higher-class socialite. Jane’s independence is not a weakness. Jane escapes the situation through her uncle’s inheritance, by leaving Rochester and his estate, by finding a job via St. John. Finally, she returns with the upperhand to Rochester. There are several instances in this orphan story that put her independence at risk, but show her strength by exposing her to various temptations and trials. St. John wants Jane at his side, just as Rochester does. Jane only responds to significant men with values that are enduring. Jane will not waver in her quest for autonomy, no matter what. Bronte’s audience won’t see Jane swaying as she endures the path to this prize. Jane’s inner strength is the result of her difficult childhood, and her estranged lifestyle.
Jane has a strong desire for friendship and love. This is obvious to anyone who reads her. She places great value in these kinds of feelings and relationships. Jane’s choice to always go with strength over affection is quite interesting. The orphan is the moral identity of this novel despite all the hardships she has to endure. The moral identity of the orphan serves as a foil for the other characters, and is the reason why the plot moves forward. Charlotte Bronte’s story ends with a strong emphasis on the orphan. It is surprising to see this given how orphans are often portrayed. Bronte does not show much sympathy towards Jane Eyre because she is a self-reliant and strong woman.
No, this is not correct. The original phrase “Works Cited” refers to a bibliography of sources used in a research paper, while “Bibliography” generally refers to a list of sources on a particular topic, whether or not they were used in a research paper.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003. Print.