The Influences of Harsh Victorian Upbringing on Jane Eyre's Character and Development

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The Influences of Harsh Victorian Upbringing on Jane Eyre's Character and Development

Jane's early life experiences have a lasting effect on her developing

personality and beliefs. Charlotte Brontë first introduces Jane as a

vulnerable ten year old, orphaned girl who is pushed around and

disrespected. This changes drastically during the course of the novel

and ends with Jane being a happy, independent and respected woman.

Jane Eyre is an autobiographical novel thought to reflect Charlotte

Brontë's life, written by an adult but from a child's perspective.

As Jane is an orphan she lives with her aunt and cousins at Gateshead

where she is treated as an inferior and unloved child. The readers

learn that Jane is an intelligent young girl and enjoys reading as she

spends most of her time alone sitting in a window seat with a book.

Her older cousin John Reed physically abuses her, "He bullied and

punished me; not two or three times in a week, nor once or twice in a

day, but continually: every nerve I had feared him." Jane was

ill-treated in the Gateshead household, not just physically by John

Reed but emotionally and mentally too, she was not known as one of the

family even though she was related; she was not even thought of as a

servant, she was less than that, "you are less than a servant, for you

do nothing for your keep." As even the servants tell her.

On one occasion when Jane was alone reading in the small breakfast

room, John Reed came in and found her reading one of the family's

books, he was disgusted "You have no business to take our books…… you

ought to beg and not live here with gentlemen's children like us……Now


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... crown us with a full reward" St John Rivers also has an

extreme faith but Jayne learns from these people and develops a

tempered, true faith that is respected.

Charlotte Brontë uses "Jayne Eyre" as an autobiographical book and

makes Jayne the heroine, reflecting her life and her struggle to be a

grown, respected woman. According to her family and Lowood, she was

"destined for the workhouse" but she proved them all wrong and became

an independent, loved, happy woman with a respectable home and family.

She even went against the standard way of life of that time period,

few women had financial independence, most lived off their husband's

wages while keeping a good home for their family, Jayne still kept a

good home filled with love and respect but she also gained what she

had always wanted, happiness and independence.
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