Jane Eyre (originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography) is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published on 16 October 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. of London, England, under the pen name "Currer Bell." The first American edition was released the following year by Harper & Brothers of New York.
This novel tells the story of Jane Erye's growing up and maturization. Although the novel does not tell all the details of Jane's growing up, it does address the main events that help her develop into the person she becomes. These events include her unhappiness with the Reeds, her underprivileged schooling at Lowood, the disappointment she feels when she learns Mr. Rochester is already married, and finally her ability to begin a new life for herself in a new area.
One of the secrets to the success of Jane Eyre, and the source of its strength in spite of numerous flaws, lies in the way that it touches on a number of important themes while telling a compelling story. Indeed, so lively and dramatic is the story that the reader might not be fully conscious of all the thematic strands that weave through this work. Critics have argued about what comprises the main theme of Jane Eyre. There can be little doubt, however, that love and passion together form a major thematic element of the novel.
There is also a spiritual theme running through the novel. When Jane is at Lowood she meets Helen Burns, the good and sacrificing girl whom Jane questions about God and Heaven right before she dies. This seems to begin Jane's relationship with religion that is traced more through the book. Jane calls on God after she finds out about Rochester's wife. She locks herself in her room, and states, "One idea only still throbbed lifelike within me - a remembrance of God: it begot an unuttered prayer.'be not far from me for trouble is near: there is none to help'" (Chapter 26). Again when she is trying to resist succumbing to Rochester's passion and a dishonest marriage with him we see her turning to God. After Rochester's attempts, Jane tells him to "do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in Heaven. Hope to meet again there" (Chapter 27).
Soon after Jane is settled at Lowood Institution she finds the enjoyment of expanding her own mind and talents. She forgets the hardships of living at the school and focuses on the work of her own hands. She is not willing to give this up when she is engaged to Rochester. She resists becoming dependent on him and his money. She does not want to be like his mistresses, with their fancy gowns and jewels, but even after she and Rochester are married, she wants to remain as Adele's governess. She is not willing to give up her independence to Rochester, and tries to seek her own fortune by writing to her uncle. In the end, when she does have her own money, she states, "I am my own mistress" (Chapter 37).
Just as Jane Eyre can be described as Jane’s quest to balance her contradictory natural instincts toward independence and submission, it can also be described as her quest to find a balance between passionate feeling on the one had and judgment, or repression of those feelings, on the other. Through the examples of other characters in the novel, such as Eliza and Georgiana, Rochester and St. John—or Bertha, who has no control over her emotions at all—Jane Eyre shows that it’s best to avoid either extreme. Passion makes a person silly, frivolous or even dangerous, while repression makes a person cold. Over the course of the novel, Jane learns how to create a balance between her feelings and her judgment, and to create a life of love that is also a life of serious purpose.
s an orphan at Gateshead, Jane is oppressed and dependent. For Jane to discover herself, she must break out of these restrictive conditions and find love and independence. Jane must have the freedom to think and feel, and she seeks out other independent-minded people as the loving family she craves. Jane, Helen Burns, and Ms. Temple enjoy a deep mutual respect, and form emotional bonds that anticipate the actual family Jane finds in Mary and Diana Rivers. Yet Jane also has a natural instinct toward submission. When she leaves Lowood to find new experiences, she describes herself as seeking a “new servitude.” In her relationship with men, she has the inclination toward making first Rochester and then St. John her “master.”
In Jane Eyre, education provides the only route for someone who isn’t independently wealthy to improve their character and prospects – it allows social mobility. The "education" we’re talking about in this novel, however, is mostly aesthetic; characters learn basic music performance, basic artistic skills, and a little bit of foreign language. It’s enough to make them seem cultured, but not to make them actually useful for anything except teaching music, art, and foreign language. Education is also a safe haven, something that provides emotional satisfaction in a protected space separate from the hardships of the world.
This theme shown in Jane Eyre brings up the idea that knowlegde is power. Even though in these times the only knowledge was limited to music, foreign language, and art, there is a hierarchy of people and the people on top are always much more educated in anything that people on the bottom. This way of life applies in modern times as well.
In Jane Eyre, marriage is about a combination of three things: compatibility, passion, and ethics. A marriage only works between like-minded individuals with similar attitudes and outlooks on life. Inequalities of class background or financial situation are surmountable, but characters who marry for wealth or status are doomed. But a marriage has to have more than common ground – it has to have passion. Characters who try to match themselves up based on rational criteria, the ones who are doing nineteenth-century-style online dating, sin against their own natures, as do characters who try to claim that marriage and love are the same thing.
Jane receives three different models of Christianity throughout the novel, all of which she rejects either partly or completely before finding her own way. Mr. Brocklehurst's Evangelicalism is full of hypocrisy: he spouts off on the benefits of privation and humility while he indulges in a life of luxury and emotionally abuses the students at Lowood. Also at Lowood, Helen Burns's Christianity of absolute forgiveness and tolerance is too meek for Jane's tastes; Helen constantly suffers her punishments silently and eventually dies. St. John, on the other hand, practices a Christianity of utter piousness, righteousness, and principle to the exclusion of any passion. Jane rejects his marriage proposal as much for his detached brand of spirituality as for its certain intrusion on her independence.
The main quest in Jane Eyre is Jane's search for family, for a sense of belonging and love. However, this search is constantly tempered by Jane’s need for independence. She begins the novel as an unloved orphan who is almost obsessed with finding love as a way to establish her own identity and achieve happiness. Although she does not receive any parental love from Mrs. Reed, Jane finds surrogate maternal figures throughout the rest of the novel. Bessie, Miss Temple, and even Mrs. Fairfax care for Jane and give her the love and guidance that she needs, and she returns the favor by caring for Adèle and the students at her school. Still, Jane does not feel as though she has found her true family until she falls in love with Mr. Rochester at Thornfield; he becomes more of a kindred spirit to her than any of her biological relatives could be. However, she is unable to accept Mr. Rochester’s first marriage proposal because she realizes that their marriage - one based on unequal social standing - would compromise her autonomy. Jane similarly denies St. John's marriage proposal, as it would be one of duty, not of passion. Only when she gains financial and emotional autonomy, after having received her inheritance and the familial love of her cousins, can Jane accept Rochester's offer. In fact, the blinded Rochester is more dependent on her (at least until he regains his sight). Within her marriage to Rochester, Jane finally feels completely liberated, bringing her dual quests for family and independence to a satisfying conclusion.