Jane Eyre: orphaned at an early age, subjugated by her Aunt Reed to whose patronage she had been consigned after the death of her maternal uncle Mr. Reed, and then abandoned to Lowood School: a poorly run institution by a miserly stringent manager, had her childhood replete with mistreatment and oppression. However, these trials and tribulations couldn’t dampen her unfettered spirits, her resolve – instead roused in her passion to be her morale, truth her sword and decree of God her guide.
Since nothing had been bequeathed to her after the demise of her parents, at Gateshead Jane Eyre was strongly reminded of her pecuniary disadvantage: she was relentlessly persecuted at the hands of her villainous cousin John Reed and shown marked condescending attitude by the other two cousins – Eliza, and Georgiana Reed. She was abased as “less than a servant” for she did nothing to earn her place in her Aunt’s abode. Ostracized from social gaiety and severely penalized for faults she had not, Jane’s only solace became her books. Perhaps, her only fault were her plainess in looks; only “if she were a nice pretty child one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that”. Although, nature had compromised on her beauty, it bestowed on her in abundance the aptitude to judge between right and wrong, courage to exercise her moral stance and perseverance to achieve what she sought.
At Lowood School – an ill provisioned orphanage – she had to struggle initially against the vilification levied by her Aunt Reed to mar her progress, but it wasn’t long before she had not only achieved a sound education but also won hearts of her fellow orphan Helen Burns and of her teacher Miss Maria Temple. Jane Eyre for her lack of kinship had always longed and searched for warmth of heart and soul and often fell prey to deceit and coercion against her will. However, she did appeal to many who, esteeming her highly, made close ties with her.
Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester being one such acquaintance, found in her a docile listener of his deplorable past due to his fallacious conduct which had forever maimed his life. To Jane he could ruminate on his “mire of thoughts” loudly without fear of mortification. Despite his sturdy disposition, his rugged looks comprising “dark face, with stern features and heavy brow”, Jane became drawn to him like a pet to his master.
By a spate of jealousy and misunderstanding, a rift was caused between them and they drifted away from each other. It was as if Providence had more obstacles and tests of moral sinew for Jane to defy; a period followed wherein she braved through debilitating hunger which languished her strength amidst a deserted terrain in harshness of weather. However, as much as it was difficult for her, for Mr. Rochester it served a greater reprimand for errors he had made – the romantic overtures to Miss Ingram and a concealment of his previous marriage were to be accounted for.
In the course of estrangement, Jane came to realize her irrepressible affection for Mr. Rochester. She was starkly made aware of this when Mr. St John Rivers – a puritan clergyman who had abolished the charms of life and only believed laboring in the way of God would attain him eternal satisfaction – proposed to her to render her service in his endeavors in India as his wife. It afflicted Jane’s natural propensity of being true to her ideas; of not feigning a character she didn’t possess; of not being enslaved by mortals and aims she couldn’t, in the light of moral judgement, condone – “I am not a bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will”.
The tale of Jane Eyre meanders along the path of social injustice into the labyrinth of intricate emotions with a backdrop of Gothic mystery. Published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is an autobiographical account of life which closely mirrors her own.
The experiences derived from her own school named Clergy Daugter’s School formed the foundation for Jane Eyre’s Lowood Institution: Strict regulations with scanty provisions for girls and frequent chastisement is indicative of the harshness she herself endured along with her other sisters of whom the eldest two perished by the spread of endemic tuberculosis. Jane Eyre as a governess were also how Charlotte Brontë made a living. The incident where John Reed hurls a book at Jane Eyre is from similar misdemeanor she experienced as a governess with her pupil John Benson Sidgwick.
Thoroughly evocative first person narration combined with a riveting plot Charlotte Brontë has concocted a profoundly touching tale of female heroism. Also, drawn from her religious upbringing, the constant dictation of morality and self sacrifice has allowed Jane Eyre to remain still loved as one of the best works of Literature.