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Notes on Jane Eyre Themes

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Jane Eyre Topic Tracking: Morality and Religion

Morality and Religion 1: Bessie and Abbot warn Jane of the appropriate behavior for a child of her gender and class, and the result if Jane does not:

"'And you ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed, because Missis kindly allows you to be brought up with them. They will have a great deal of money, and you will have none: it is your place to be humble, and to try to make yourself agreeable to them.'
'God will punish her: He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go? ...Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself; for if you don't repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney, and fetch you away.'"
Chapter 2, pg. 10

Morality and Religion 2: "No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the red-room: it only gave my nerves a shock, of which I feel the reverberation to this day. Yes, Ms. Reed, to you I owe some fearful pangs of mental suffering. But I ought to forgive you, for you knew not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities." Chapter 3, pg. 18

Morality and Religion 3: Helen Burns remarks how the pain and animosity Jane feels toward Mrs. Reed and John Reed could be averted with a different Christian philosophy. Here we are given Helen's opinion of more appropriate behavior for a young Christian girl:

"What a singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your heart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings. Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs." Chapter 6, pg. 50-51

Morality and Religion 4: Jane's belief about the intent of the self, is very similar now, to what was once Helen's philosophy.

"'Sir,' I answered, 'a wanderer's repose or a sinner's reformation should never depend on a fellow-creature. Men and women die; philosophers falter in their wisdom, and Christians in goodness: if any one you know has suffered and erred, let him look higher than his equals for strength to amend, and solace to heal.'" Chapter 20, pg. 192

Morality and Religion 5: Jane admits that she makes Rochester promise to let her continue on as Adèle's governess and being paid for that so that they are equal, or as she puts it:

"[B]y that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides. I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give me nothing but...your regard: and if I give you mine in return the debt will be quit." Chapter 24, pg. 237

Jane's views on this affair are extremely feminist when taken out of historical perspective. In actuality, they are her attempt to not change the power dynamics of her relationship with Rochester, to be paid for work, instead of becoming his object or property. But she admits later:

"My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol." Chapter 25, pg. 241

Jane also admits before this that she wishes she could tease Rochester like they used to, but that she felt the need to be more firm and serious with him, so that he would treat her not as his object or prize. There is an interesting connection between Jane's comments about power in marriage for herself and Rochester, and her comments about his image as an idol.

Morality and Religion 6: Jane grapples with the voice inside her which is tempted, and her better reason:

"'Oh comply!' it said, 'Think of his misery, think of his danger--look at his state when left alone...Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?'...Still indomitable was the reply--'I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour, stringent are they; inviolate they shall be...with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot!'" Chapter 27, pg. 279

Morality and Religion 7: "'Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now. He sees not as man see, but far clearer; judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower--breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. I, in my stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of bending to the decree, I defied it. Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death...Of late, Jane--only--only of late--I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.'" Chapter 37, pg. 393

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