Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is a coming-of-age story about an unconventional woman's development within a society of strict rules and expectations. At pivotal moments in Jane's life, she makes choices which are influenced by her emotions and/or her reason. Through the results of those choices, Jane learns to balance passion and practicality to achieve true happiness.
Jane is a spirited woman, and her emotions give her a strength of character that is unusual for a female heroine of this period. Rather than being nervous and oversensitive, Jane expresses her feelings through anger. The first example of this occurs at one of the pivotal moments of her life, when John Reed hits her. "'Wicked and cruel boy!' I said. 'You are like a murderer- you are like a slave-driver- you are like the Roman emperors!' I had read Goldsmith's History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula, etc. Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I never thought thus to have declared aloud." Jane realizes for the first time that she need not be passive and accept her fate; instead she fights back, losing control, and her actions are a blur in her memory. "I don't very well know what I did with my hands, but he called me 'Rat! Rat!' and bellowed out aloud," she says.
This act changes Jane's life forever, in both positive and negative ways. She learns that she need not tolerate abuse, and that she deserves better treatment than she has received. From that point forward, she becomes direct and honest, and forms a strong dislike of frivolity, false kindness, and the hypocrisy of the upper classes. She even finds the couage to confront Aunt Reed and speak her mind: "'I am not de...
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Jane Eyre. Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Perf. William Hurt, Charlotte Gainsborough, and Anna Paquin. 1996
Jane Eyre. Dir. Julian Aymes. Perf. Timothy Dalton, Zelah Clarke. 1983
Kadish, Doris. The Literature of Images: Narrative Landscape from Julie to Jane Eyre. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1986.
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