One Sunday evening, shortly after Jane arrives at Lowood School, she is forced to recite the sixth chapter of St. Matthew as part of the daily lesson (70; ch. 7). This chapter in Matthew states,
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? / (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. / But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (31-33)
Although these words are not stated overtly in the text, they aptly fit Jane's situation. Cast off from the Reed household, Jane is entrusted to the caretakers at a charity school, where food, drink, and warm clothing are scarce. This lesson is used in Lowood to encourage the girls not to think of worldly matters.
This passage also applies to Jane's life after Lowood. After Jane runs away from Thornfield, refusing to become a mistress, she has little money and few belongings. By escaping Rochester, Jane runs from sin, temptation, and safety, into the unknown, trusting in God to help her find food and shelter. She is more concerned for Rochester than she is for herself, and comes to the conclusion that "Mr. Rochester was safe; he was God's and by God would he be guarded" (319; ch. 28).
Biblical allusions like this are rife in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Brought up by an Anglican minister, Bronte understood the Bible as an authoritative text upon which many members of Victorian society guided their lives. As a result of this religious training, Bronte inserted references into her stories, giving her characters a richer ...
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...arrative tales. Other excuses were also found. Elliott-Binns writes that, "The Conservatives held to the literal truth, with some few and unimportant exceptions, of the Bible. All the obscurities or seeming contradictions contained in the sacred narrative they put down to man's imperfect knowledge, or possibly to corruption in the text" (277). In some ways, the criticism helped the Bible because people began to read it closer to determine its veracity. Charlotte Bronte, capitalizing on the popularity of the Bible, inserted allusions into Jane Eyre, hoping that people would find a richer story beneath her romantic tale.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Boston: Bedford, 1996.
Elliott-Binns, L. E. Religion in the Victorian Era. London: Lutterworth, 1936.
McLeod, Hugh. Religion and Society in England, 1850-1914. London: MacMillan, 1996.
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