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Jane Eyre | Characters

Victoria Elliott | Wednesday September 07, 2011


Jane Eyre

Brontë constructs the character of Jane as having been left as an orphan after her parents’ death through typhoid; Jane is initially brought up by her mother’s (dead) brother’s wife, along with their children. Her paternal family are apparently ‘poor’, and she does not know anything of them, until her aunt – on her deathbed – reveals a letter from her father’s elder brother, who has made his fortune, but who has no children to whom to leave it. Later she discovers the Rivers family – the children of her father’s sister.  She has all the typical handicaps of a governess, being orphaned, poor and without family to rely on; and this leaves her very vulnerable. In typical ‘Romantic heroine’ style, the uncle’s bequest means that Jane, as an adult, has enough money to secure her future; being a generous and good she divides it between herself and her three Rivers’ cousins, who have taken her in after her departure from Thornfield Hall.

The character of Jane is presented as being a somewhat docile heroine, despite her clearly very passionate feelings. From the beginning she describes herself as being ‘habitually obedient’, even to those who mistreat her, such as John Reed, and later to some extent Mr. Rochester.

During the evenings at Thornfield Hall, when Rochester is entertaining the party from the Leas, Jane is presented as being quiet and withdrawn, not pushing herself forward in company. She is not, however, averse at speaking her mind to those who seek her opinion: Mr Lloyd, who arranges for her to go away to school, Rochester, and St John Rivers – after his proposal. This relates to the theme of the struggle between love and autonomy.

Interestingly, she still is created as exhibiting the ‘Romantic heroine’s’ tendency to being over-governed by her feelings: her fear and hysteria over being locked in the red room make her ill; her departure from Thornfield leads to her turning up at...

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