There were great changes in the religious arena during the time of Victorian England. John Wesley had his warm heart experience, India had been opened to missionizing, and a Utilitarian and Evangelical shift had occurred. Charlotte Brontë would have felt the effects of these things, being a daughter of the clergy, and by simply being a daughter of the Victorian era. Her novel, Jane Eyre, serves as a reaction to Utilitarianism, and the protagonist Jane emerges as an Evangelical figure. By using this novel as a tool for Evangelism itself, Brontë has a platform to fulfill moral obligations, and to have a discourse with the socially held views of her time. Beyond this, it also addresses the intrinsic struggle between Paganism and Christianity.
The original position of the East India Company and the English Parliament was, the resistance against allowing missionary work in India, and that the clergy would be commissioned to serve only the European population there. They took this stance, because they felt the inhabitants would feel threatened and cause problems for those who had financial interests in the area. In 1813, with the passing of a new Charter Act, India was opened to missionary activity, and many jumped at the opportunity to sacrifice all for the sake of “heathen” souls. (Viswanathan 36)
The very personification of this ideal comes in the form of Brontë’s character, St. John Rivers, Jane Eyre’s cousin and almost fiancé. He expounds on this when he explains:
After a season of darkness and struggling, light broke and relief fell; my cramped existence all at once spread out to a plain without bounds-my powers heard a call from heaven to rise, g...
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... the great religious impact it is meant to have. Christ, should and will, win out in the end – as the last line of the novel says, “Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!”
“Brigit.” Encarta Encyclopedia Online. 2004. http://encarta.msn.com
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Richard J. Dunn. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001.
“Evangelism.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online. 2004. http://www.m-w.com
Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.
Viswanathan, Gauri. “The Beginnings of English Literary Study.” Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
Weber, Max. “Luther’s Conception of the Calling.” The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Trans. Talcott Parsons. New York, Dover Publications Inc.
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