In The beginning of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte introduces Jane as an orphan girl who is residing at Gateshead with Mrs. Reed and her children. Bronte walks us through the episodes of Jane’s life as she moves to Lowood, Thronfield, Moor House, and finally to Ferndean. Throughout these stages, Bronte will show how charity was depicted through the interactions that Jane had. Through these perspectives we will see that the results of how charity was regarded, based on the nineteenth century concepts and views that Bronte discusses, point out the significance of charity in Jane Eyre.
Charlotte’s focus on charity in her novel revolves not only around giving money to orphans, but giving love and care to those in need. An example of this would be Graham Gordon’s view that, "Charity is an active concern to help others in their poverty and weakness…. This includes not merely alms-giving, or even the giving of emotional support, but sympathetic understanding as well"(159). What is being said is clearly that charity doesn’t only have to do with money, but the thought of acknowledging peoples’ situations in the world with respect. Charlotte’s attitude toward performing good deeds is quite optimistic in her belief that kindness will lead to happiness. In a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey, Charlotte writes, "The right path is that which necessitates the greatest sacrifice of self interest, which implies the greatest good to others; and this path, steadily followed, will lead, I believe, in time to prosperity and to happiness" (qtd. in Winnifrith 51). This piece of information correlates to the Christian belief that this type of action is "the true way to the end" (Graham 10). This clearly states Charlotte’s vi...
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...ng Jane to be the ultimate example of what a charitable person is like. We can see clearly how charity was depicted in the nineteenth century and that there were good people who acknowledged the need of others even though they themselves were deprived. The final image that we get of charity in Bronte’s novel through Jane is that no matter what type of people we may encounter in our lives, we can still be capable of reaching prosperity and happiness through our good deeds.
Bentley, Phyllis. The Brontes and their world. New York: Viking P, 1969.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1996.
Graham, Gordon. The Idea of Christian Charity. Notre Dame, In: U of Notre Dame P, 1969.
Hinkley, Laura L. Charlotte and Emily. New York: Hasting, 1945.
Winnifrith, Tom. The Brontes and Their Background. New York: Barnes, 1973.
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