This continues from “A Heroine’s Quest for Home, Part Three: Jane’s Tests”
“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward’s society: he knows none of mine, anymore than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together.”
Unlike the typical quest tale, Jane Eyre’s journey consists of a series of calls and departures, each one bringing her one step closer to finding a home. In a happy home, there exists a healthy balance of security, duty, and freedom. Jane’s search is for a home where she can be both useful and loved, and where she can enjoy a sense of security and belonging while also retaining her independence. As a child at Gateshead, Jane was dependent on people with whom she felt neither a sense of love nor belonging. At Lowood, she became useful but was still a dependent. At Thornfield, she was useful and also loved, but not yet independent. At Marsh-End, she was able to be useful and independent, and even discovered a sense of belonging, but her life still lacked the security and love which her soul required. By the time Jane joins Rochester at Ferndean, she has become independent and is able to serve him on a level of equality. She tells him, “I love you better now, when I can really be useful to you, than I did in your state of proud independence.” Their new relationship is one of mutual benefit rather than subservience and dependence.
Just as the hero in the quest tale returns bringing back the “boon,” when Jane returns to Rochester, she seems to administer a life-giving elixir. As she describes it, “All I said or did seemed either to console or revive him […] It brought to life and light my whole nature: in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine.” She now experiences what it is “to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth.” In the end, Jane overcomes her apparent disadvantages and finds her place in society while preserving her own identity and integrity, as well as a home where she can truly live, love, and be loved.
This article continues from “A Heroine’s Quest for Home, Part Two: From Thornfield Hall to Marsh-End.”
“Hopeless of the future, I wished but this—that my Maker had that night thought good to require my soul of me while I slept; and that this weary frame, absolved by death from further conflict with fate, had now but to decay quietly, and mingle in peace with the soil of this wilderness.”
In this part of my review of the novel Jane Eyre, I am looking at a particular aspect of Jane’s journey. Typical to the quest tale structure, the heroine encounters challenges that test and strengthen her character along her journey towards finding home. As Eric Solomon has pointed out, a pattern is repeated in each phase of Jane’s journey: “Jane comes into conflict with authority, defeats it by her inner strength, and departs into exile.” After leaving Gateshead, Jane faces four main tests, which originate from Mr. Brocklehurst, Mrs. Reed, Mr. Rochester, and finally St. John Rivers. Each test tends to interrupt Jane’s current life with issues from the past. In some of these challenges, she is supplied a helper. Each incident evaluates Jane’s growth and progress towards acquiring her ultimate goals: independence and home. Continue reading “Jane Eyre: A Heroine’s Quest for Home, Part Three”→
This article continues from “A Heroine’s Quest for Home, Part One: From Gateshead to Lowood”
“He is not to them what he is to me,” I thought: “he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;—I am sure he is—I feel akin to him—I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him.”
In this series of articles, I take a look at the story of Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favorite novels, by reviewing the various periods of Jane’s life as phases of a journey. Following her time at Lowood School, Thornfield Hall is the second stop of Jane’s journey. It is here that Jane experiences a new type of servitude – one in which she willingly and joyfully serves someone she loves. While being put to use immediately as a governess, more importantly she is directly useful to Rochester on numerous occasions, beginning with her first encounter with him. On this occasion, Rochester tells Jane, “Necessity compels me to make you useful.” After she saves him from the fire, he tells her, “I knew you would do me good in some way, at some time.” Continue reading “Jane Eyre: A Heroine’s Quest for Home, Part Two”→
“Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds…that then I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach…It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”
One of my all-time favorite works of classic fiction is Jane Eyre, and I’ve read it several times (and will again!). This romantic, gothic, fictional autobiography portrays a young woman seeking to find a place in society where she can add value to others, as well as be valued herself. From the very start, the reader sympathizes with Jane and admires her courage in difficult circumstances. Abandoned, demoralized and betrayed as a child by those on whom she depends for care and protection, Jane has almost every disadvantage in a society which judges and rewards individuals for their external and superficial qualities, such as social status, wealth and beauty. But Jane does have qualities that serve her well – her wit and intelligence, her courage, and most importantly, her faith. Each situation she faces serves to give her more inner strength and confidence. She knows that while people may fail her, God never will, and He never does. Continue reading “Jane Eyre: A Heroine’s Quest for Home”→