Independence and Love in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Length: 1336 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)
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Throughout Jane Eyre, Jane searches for a way to express herself as an independent person who needs help from no one, yet she also wishes to have the love and companionship of others. Often times, Jane finds that she can have independence but no one to share her life with, or she can have the love of another at the loss of her independence. Jane's entire journey is based on the goal of achieving a seamless blend between independence and love, a mixture that rarely seems to go hand in hand.
The story begins with a young Jane Eyre who is essentially neither loved by anyone nor independent in nature. At this point in the story, the reader discovers that Jane is an orphan and is being supported by the Reed family. This discovery is made through the portrayal of John Reed when he is taunting Jane about her social status. John claims that since it is his family who supports Jane, it is their choice to dictate the circumstances under which she lives. In this case, Jane is not allowed to play with the younger Reed children or read a book that belongs to the Reeds. The fact that6 Jane is an orphan living under someone else's roof displays that she has not yet gained her independence.
The Reed's, as it can be seen by their actions above, are also terribly cruel to Jane. After John is done taunting Jane about the book he hits her with it. A fight ensues, in which Jane is victorious. Despite the fact that John instigated the fight, Jane is punished by being sent to the "red-room" by Mrs. Reed. The Reeds are Jane's only acquaintances, and since they do not treat her lovingly, she basically has no one in her life that is close to her.
When the story progresses to Jane's life at Lowood School, love and independence finally begin to make a show in Jane's life. Jane finds a mother figure in Mrs. Temple while she is attending the school. Mrs. Temple is, in reality, the only truly kind teacher at the school, and she shows Jane a taste of what being loved is all about. A major example of the relationship between Mrs. Temple and Jane is when Jane is accused in front of the entire school of being a liar. It wounds Jane severely that many of the students and faculty believe that statement, but Mrs. Temple does not automatically take the accusation at face value. Upon finally hearing Jane's rebuttal to the situation, Mrs. Temple believes her and vows that she will clear Jane's name of the false statement, which she eventually does. However, the school also introduces a character who questions Jane's search for love. While this character, Helen Burns, does not condemn love, she states the Jane bases her actions too much on the quest for love. Helen believes that one should look forward more to the promise of a reward in the after-life than the immediate gratifications (such as love) of life. Jane disagrees with Helen and her meek outlook on life but is still able to make friends with her, which helps Jane to receive anther kind of love. The independence factor can be viewed by the simple fact that Jane is no longer dependent on the Reeds for complete support. At Lowood, she has the ability to express herself a little bit more freely. In addition to this, she also becomes a teacher after graduating the school.
The next stage in Jane's maturance in independence and love occurs during her interim as a governess at Thornfield for Mr. Rochester. She immediately sets herself as independent by taking the job. In this manner, she is earning her own money and must fend for herself in the world. However, the main focal point of this stage is the love that develops between Rochester and Jane. Jane first realized that she loves Rochester when the character of Blanche Ingram arrives on the scene. Blanche Ingram and Rochester are supposedly very close to one another. They are both rich and aristocratic people and seem to be the perfect match for each other. When Rochester brings this Miss Ingram to Thornfield, Jane begins to entertain thoughts of marrying Rochester herself. Though Miss Ingram and Rochester are rumored to be infatuated with on another, it soon becomes evident that Rochester much prefers Jane's company to that of Miss Ingram's. This is revealed in two major ways. The first is seen in Rochester's parting response to Jane on the night of the party. He wishes for Jane to stay with him and enjoy the party, but she refuses due to the awkwardness of watching the man she is falling in love with fawn over Miss Ingram. When Jane turns to leave, Rochester bids her good night and unconsciously almost lets slip a term of endearment. The second indicator is a couple of nights later when Rochester fakes the identity of a fortune-teller but reveals himself only to Jane. This shows that he has more trust towards her than anyone else who had visited him in that guise. Eventually, Rochester does propose to Jane. Jane agrees and a wedding date is set. However, Jane discovers later on that Rochester is already married to an insane woman by the name of Bertha Mason. Jane abandons Rochester under the semblance that she cannot marry him because of Bertha, but truly she feels that by marrying someone she loses any independence she has in the name on love. Jane can have one but not the other. After this she takes flight away from Thornfield and to the next stage of her life.
Upon taking her leave of Thornfield, Jane travels by coach in an attempt to get as far from Rochester as she can. The coach eventually drops Jane off at the crossroads Whitcross, with the nearest town ten miles away. She must take shelter in under a crag she finds since no shelter is immediately available. The next day she travels into town and begins searching for work. When she can find none, Jane is reduced to begging in the streets. This brief part of the story gives Jane her full independence, but when she finally gets it, Jane realizes that it is truly not what she desired after all.
The final act in Jane's quest for love and independence takes place after she discovers that her father, whom she has never really known, has died and left her a fortune. Jane is overjoyed by this news because she finally feels that she can marry Rochester (as she still loves him). With a way to financially support herself, Jane can now share her life with Rochester, but she will not be dependent upon his money and status to survive. Jane seeks out Rochester at Thornsfield only to discover that it has been burnt to the ground. Apparently Bertha set fire to Jane's old bed in the house and then jumped to her death from a window. This also sets Jane free of the obligation that Rochester has to Bertha making her independent position even stronger. She finds out through an innkeeper that Rochester was blinded during the conflagration and was staying at Ferndean. Jane makes her way Ferndean immediately and seeks out Rochester. In the end Jane professes that she still loves Rochester and wishes to be married to him, which represents the final accomplishment of Jane finding true love.
Though the road was hard for Jane, she finally was able to find love and independence. Each one came from a different source, the independence from the money her father left her and the love from Rochester, but Jane mixed them together by marrying Rochester but having the means to support herself. In the end Jane accomplished what she had set out to do.