Charlotte Bronte addresses the theme of Christianity in the novel Jane Eyre. Bronte states: "Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last" (35). In Jane Eyre, Bronte supports the theme that customary actions are not always moral through the conventional personalities of Mrs. Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, and St. John Rivers.
The issue of class is prevalent in the novel. The novel begins in Gateshead Hall when Jane must seat herself away from her aunt and cousins because she does not know how to speak pleasantly to them. She proceeds to seat herself in the breakfast room where she reads a book titled The History Of British Birds. She draws specific attention to the passage that states: "The winds in these introductory pages connected themselves with succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the broken boat stranded on a desolate coast, to the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking" ( 40). Jane resembles the "rock," because she is also standing alone. She is an orphan who lives with her aunt, Mrs. Reed, who possesses a higher standing in society. Due to Jane's lower class standing, Mrs. Reed treats Jane as an outcast. As Bessie and Miss Abbot drag Jane to the "red room," a most gruesome and scary room for a child, she is told by Miss Abbot: "No; you are less than a servant for you do nothing for your keep" ( 44). She must stay in the red room after she retaliates to the attack John Reed makes upon her, her obnoxious and evil cousin. John tells Jane: "mamma says; you have no money; your father left ...
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...rocklehurst, and St. John Rivers. Mr. Rochester changes his conventional ways, and then is able to live a more moral and happy life. The characters Mrs. Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, and St. John lead their lives in conventional and self-righteous ways and Bronte portrays them to be immoral. This idea supports one of the main themes in Jane Eyre, "Conventionality is not morality."
Works Cited and Consulted:
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1991
Faye, Ron. Christianity in Jane Eyre, Barbara Timm, ed. Critical Essays on Charlotte Bronte. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1996.
Mitchell, Sally. "Jane Eyre." Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Vol. 3. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Englewood Cliffs: Salem Press, 1983: 297-302.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Introduction. Jane Eyre. By Charlotte Bronte. New York: Bantam Books, 1987: 5-14.
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