“l can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give. ” (Bronze 141). It is this quote that I believe accurately sums up the incredible transformation the character Jane Ere undergoes throughout the duration of the novel of the same name.
There are many things that influence and shape the character of Jane as she grows and matures throughout the story, from the hiding and abuse of her aunt and cousins at Gathered, to the religious zealotry of Mr.. Brochures at the Elwood School, her extremely complicated relationship with Rochester, and finally her time spent with SST. John. However, her greatest struggle was how to bring her passionate spirit and desires in line with her desire to follow God and His will for her life.
It is with this thought in mind I would like to examine the effect religiosity had on Cane’s life and the choices she made, and how those she came into contact with throughout her life shaped not only her personal growth as n individual but also allowed her to step away from their influence and form her own personal beliefs about God and her identity in Him. It is first through her encounters with the Reeds and the others at Gathered that she realizes her passionate spirit has caused her to be at odds with the established majority of religious thought.
Following her outburst after being struck by John, she is told by Abbot, “God will punish her: He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go? ” (Bronze, 9). This is the first time we see Jane being scolded by her superiors for acting out of character for a girl of that time erred, and being told that because of her actions, God will Judge her. The irony here is that she is acting exactly the way a ten year old child would act if someone had Just thrown a book at them, but Mrs..
Reed and the other members of Gathered are forcing an identity on her that is not her own (Shapiro 685). Shapiro argues that the reason Jane looks to others almost in an idolatrous way is due to her intense lack of affection from others, something she desperately craves. This is true, considering the way she grew up and the lack of love and affection she received from those expansible for her. Similarly, Kathleen Evoked states that “From the earliest days of her lonely childhood, Jane sees no difference between an object of desire and an idol” (Evoked 244).
This phenomenon is most commonly found in western culture, in children who have intense separation anxiety or, according to disheartening. Com, a 2007 study by Paul Bloom of Yale University and Bruce Hood of University of Bristol stated children tend to cling to these objects as if they were alive, hoping to get from them what they do not get from their parents or guardians. Because of the cruelty he is subjected to by the Reeds, Jane attempts to find solace anywhere she can, whether it be in her own mind, a book, or in the few treasures she has to call her own.
Instead of having the opportunity to take this heart-broken child away from her house of horrors and tormentors, Brochures is instead another instance of pain and cruelty in young Cane’s life, but he unknowingly will teach her a life lesson that will come to save her from a major mistake later in life. When we are first introduced to Mr.. Brochures, it is not too long after the incident with Jane in the red room with the “ghost” of Mr.. Reed.
He begins their interaction by skiing Jane a series of questions about whether she enjoys reading the Bible, and her opinion on how one should avoid going to hell. It becomes clear very quickly that, like Mrs.. Reed, Mr.. Brochures is “cruel, greedy, and hypocritical” (Franklin 464). Also, according to Elisabeth Jay, Brochures represents a “repressive sanctimoniousness, entirely at odds with the service of a God of Love” Cay 19). He is most concerned with the actions of those around him, rather than the state of his own soul and character, and “sees accountability not… S emanating from self- examination but in terms of regulating the lives of others” (Franklin 464). He is a “perversion of grace” (Benevolent 624), someone who sees consistency and humility of far more importance than love and charity. The incident when he has to punish Jane during his family’s visit to Elwood, forcing her to stand on a stool in front of the entire school and calling her a liar, while entirely unfounded, telling the students to shun and ignore her, push her even farther into her intense desire to be loved and her worship of others.
However, for all his faults, Brochures does manage to actually impart some truly valuable knowledge to Jane before she leaves Elwood. It is through interaction with him and his radically skewed views of Christianity that helps Jane learn the value of equality and how important it is to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. She learns to challenge the theory that poverty is a criminal offense, by exerting her will and voice over those who would attempt to suppress it in direct response to the influence of Brochures and the rest of the faculty and staff at Elwood save Mrs..
Temple, who was the one shining light of kindness found in that institution. The second person to influence Cane’s spiritual growth would also enter her life while at the Elwood School, the young, soft-spoken, Helen Burns. According to Franklin, Helen is presented as a foil to Brochures; she is essentially the antithesis of everything he is. Where he is cruel and malicious, she is kind and loving, and able to overlook the harshness of her surroundings and see things through the eyes of Christ (Franklin 464).
Helen is very much the personification of the New Testament, holding to the commands to turn the other cheek, love your enemy, and bless those who curse you. Even when unjustly criticized, she refuses to stand up for herself, trying to see things from Mrs.. Catcher’s perspective. She says at one point that she “can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last” (Bronze 51). This is completely the opposite of what we have seen from Brochures and the Reeds.
Helen truly is an example of Christ-like love and how to live selflessly. It is this creed as Helen calls it that has such a profound impact on Cane’s life. It allows her to be able to forgive her aunt and also “discriminate the Christian from the man” (Bronze 358) in SST. John Rivers (Franklin 465). Helen also serves as the one who would introduce Jane to her first mother figure n Mrs.. Temple, something she had never experienced until she came to Elwood. Helen is also Cane’s first true friend, someone who does not berate her who treat her like they are better than she is.
Helen attempts to teach Jane a way to resist the draw to idolatry, but because it is so deeply ingrained in her psyche, Jane is unable to break free from the compulsion to have others accept her (Evoked 244). She leaves Elwood with a plea to be granted “a new servitude” (Bronze 99), which shows her desire not only for a change in circumstances but also a fulfilling object of worship, which until this point she has not found. What she will find at her new post at Threefold is the character of Rochester, who not only becomes her new “master” but completely satisfies her desire for one whom she can be completely devoted to (evoked 245).
Before Jane can completely give herself to Rochester and marry him, she has one more lesson to learn about herself and her beliefs. This lesson is learned during her exile from Threefold following the discovery of Rochester’s secret wife Bertha who was hidden away in the attic, while she is staying with her cousin SST. John Rivers. SST. John is one who, like Helen Burns, strives to fulfill God’s will for His life, however he goes so by removing all forms of passion and emotional fulfillment from his life. Although there are some that may argue that SST.
John is a paragon of Christian faith, he is at the core of his being made up of all the negative attributes of Brochures, and sorely lacks the love that made Helen such a wonderful person and the true example of Christian charity and piety. It can always be said of SST. John that he was truly a devout man, dedicated to his faith and the furtherance of it. However, his desire and drive to live life without two virtues of utmost importance to Christianity, eve and compassion, makes him not only very difficult to get along with, but also causes Jane to doubt his Christian faith.
She admires him for the various charity work he does, however, because he lacks compassion for those he serves, it seems he acts more out of devotion to duty rather than emotional sympathy (Pickerel 179). He is described as being “zealous in his ministerial labors, blameless in his life and habits, he yet did not appear to enjoy that mental serenity, that inward content, which should be the reward of every sincere Christian and practical philanthropist” (Bronze 357). Essentially, he was doing a great work for the kingdom of God, but for all the wrong reasons, he lacked any sense of peace that should come from doing the work of Christ.
His biggest fault was his arrogance, he felt as though the words he spoke were straight from God and were therefore infallible. It is when he asks Jane to marry him we see this most clearly, “Do you think God will be satisfied with half an oblation? Will he accept a mutilated sacrifice? It is the cause of God I advocate: it is under His standard I enlist you. I cannot accept on His behalf a divided allegiance: it must be entire” (Bronze 413). In the end, while she admires the Christian piety of SST.
John, seeing what it looks like to live a life completely devoid of passion and emotion sends her running back to Threefold and to Rochester. Throughout her entire life, Jane has been striving to find a way to balance her moral duty and her physical desires, always coming close but never finding a complete answer to this question that would follow her through her time at Gathered, Elwood, Threefold, and Moor House. But it is when she returns to Threefold and finds Rochester at Ferdinand she finally realizes she is able to love and array Rochester and maintain her sense of identity and self that is so crucially important to her.
It is through an almost psychic connection that Jane finds herself drawn back to Rochester, as she hears him calling out to her as she is being coerced into marrying SST. John and going to India with him (Benevolent 631). It is this connection that awakens within Jane the realization that it is Rochester that is the answer to her question, he is the thing that will make her whole and complete where SST. John would be controlling and domineering, stifling her fire and spirit in such a ay that would destroy the essence of who she is.
Just as he has given himself and those around him no room for compromise, John would give none to Jane as well, either she goes to India with him as his wife, or she does not go at all (Benevolent 632). Her response to SST. John is quite telling, and shows Just how far she has come, and how willing she is to fight for what she believes in, and especially that she will fight for herself, “god did not give me my life to throw away; and to do as you wish me would be almost equivalent to committing suicide” (Bronze 408).
Not soon after his Jane leaves Moor House to return to Threefold and Rochester with every intention of marrying him, however when she arrives, she finds that the house has all but burned to the ground. It is interesting that, according to Solomon, it takes a fire far more powerful than Rochester to bring him to the point where he is worthy of Cane’s love. Upon learning of the fate of her beloved Rochester, she goes to him and agrees to marry him, as she has finally been able to reconcile her physical and spiritual desires and feels she will be able to maintain her independence.
It was not until she had left Threefold and had the experiences she had with SST. John that brought her to the place where she was truly able to find the middle ground with Rochester, to come to the place where they were able to temper the fire between them. Although the fiery gleam in his eyes has gone due to the fire set by Bertha, it is Cane’s kindred spirit that will work to rekindle the flame that once burned too hot in him, but now will be shared by them both, and as such will be kept under control (Solomon 217).
Throughout her marriage with Rochester, they are truly equals with en another, which gives Jane the very thing she has been searching for since her time at Gathered. She finally has a family and someone to love and accept wholly for who she is. In the end, we have come to the point where the two extremes have been brought into unity, the fiery, destructive spirit of both Jane and Rochester and been sated and quenched by their love for one another, until it is burning as a steady flame, rather than a wildfire.
From her humble and troubling beginnings at Threefold with the Reeds, to her tenure at the Elwood School, to her time spent with the Rivers at Moor House, to her IANAL destination with Rochester at Ferdinand, Jane Ere is constantly undergoing a transformation of character and a greater development and understanding of her personal beliefs. There are numerous factors that helped to shape her growth as an individual and as a Christian woman, but most important of any of these would be the examples of Mr.. Brochures, Helen Burns, and SST. John Rivers.
These three individuals each presented a certain viewpoint towards Christianity, however they each held to starkly different ideals when it came to what they truly believed was true. Brochures was a hypocrite who was more concerned with keeping the girls at Elwood under his thumb while his family got to have the best of everything and his students starved. Helen Burns was a pacifist whose meek and mild mannered approach to life was far too submissive for Jane to adhere to, it did however teach her how to control her passionate spirit when the situation called for it.
SST. John, while he was a pillar of Christian morals and charity, his life was so devoid of passion and love that Jane could never abide staying with him, much less marrying him. Nor could she obscure to his way of living, to do so would require her to put to death half of her being, something she has never been willing to do (Pickerel 179). In remaining true to her spirit, Jane instead steps away from these three influences and shapes her own identity and ideas about morality, Christian duty, and how to balance her passionate spirit with her interaction in everyday life.
With these other choices, she would have had to give up at part of herself in order to follow whatever path she chose, whether it be that of Brochures, Helen Burns, or SST. John. She decided very young in life forever, that she would never compromise for the sake of others, and it is this determination that allows her to make the choice she does. She does not abandon morality or her faith in God, but she does not allow that to be the one controlling factor in her life either.
She has her faith, but she stands independently from it, it is a part of her life, it is not her whole life. Cane’s experience with religion had been one of extremes, either going too far on one end of the spectrum or too far on the other. By seeing how living out these extremes impacted not only her life but the lives of those around her and certainly he lives of those involved, she came to see how too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Her faith does not make her cruel or malicious like Brochures, nor does it require her to spurn the world around her the way Helen and SST.
John chose to. By the novel’s end, she comes to find a comfortable middle ground where she is able to bring these two halves of herself into harmony with one another. It is a way for Jane to be able to curb her sometimes immodest passions while at the same time still care for those around her and have a heart of compassion for the less fortunate. Where fore, she had only questions and doubts about herself and her faith in God, she now has a complete identity and faith in Christ.