Found this essay I wrote back at school lying around. It is dated 5th October 2009.
Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" chronicles the life of a young woman's struggle to gain independence over her own life. Indeed, it is the unusual aspect of this novel, instead of having a heroine who finds ultimate protection in a man, that astonished the reviews: "Reality - deep, significant reality."
A major issue in this novel is survival. Realising that she cannot find the "human affections and sympathies" so absent at Gatehead, Jane, who recalls Bessie's stories of school, informs Mr Lloyd the apothecary, "I should indeed like to go to school," leading him to suggest this idea to Mrs Reed. On the suraface it is a child's escape into a better world, but wat strikes the reader's eye is that Jane mentions no love or friendship as an advantage of schooling. Instead she dreams of "pictures they painted," "books they [young ladies] translated." What Jane's intention is the attainment of knowledge. Aware that she is a "dependent," Jane's act of informing Llyod catalyses Mrs Reed's decision to send her to Lowood. Curiously the ten-year-old Jane is more interested in accomplishments of ladies and governesses. She realises that to survive and earn a living, she must equip herself with academic achievements. Relating this to Brontë's life, Brontë read "Blackwood's Magazine" and adult periodicals at a precocious age. Her future career at Cowan Bridge school was "governess." Years later, as a teacher, it is Jane who actively advertise as a governess, affecting the main plot of the novel at Thornfield. From the feminist perspective, Jane's determination addresses the Woman Question perturbing Victorian England, and particularly the impoverished spinster Charlotte Brontë. Without beauty, fortune or status, Jane is unable to marry well, an avenue destined for Victorian young ladies. Another event of interest is her hope "to set up a school of my own" after she has saved enough money, an ambition of Brontë. Intellectual accomplishments of the mind are hence a mode of survival.
From the emotional viewpoint, Jane who has been deprived of familial love falls in love with the enigmatic albeit much older Mr Rochester. "Old enough to be your father: signifies an Electra complex, a longing for fatherly love, which she never knew. While Jan's conservative approach is to subject her heart to "discipline," the uncontrollable tumult of feelings is undeniable. Their chemistry is such that Jane rebukes Rochester for his determination to be reformed by a "disguised deity." Socially Jane has risen to conduct conversations with her social superior. By doing so she pave the path towards Rochester's growing attachment to her. Ultimately, it is she who confronts Rochester in the garden: "Do you think, because I am poor, plain and little, I am heartless and soulless? You think wrong!" "It was you who made the offer," Rochester acknowledges after his proposal to her. It is Jane's truthfulness in love that shocked he prudish Victorian readers, some of whom forbade their daughters from reading. By doing so jane hs found commitment in someone who truly loves her, and has secured a position emotionally to an extent. It must be noted tat despite this, Jane flees from Thornfield, ostensibly to retrieve her honour, but unconsciously to spurn forbidden love. Her dream of an "infant" and of Rochester leaving her are significant, as it represents the shattering of love, personified as a "'child" that she has nursed. Jane's search for love has overflourished to a malignant tumour that threatens her virtue and self-respect in 19th century Britain. What Jane fears is that she will be consumed by the fires of passion symbolised by Bertha, and so lose her identity as an individual. "The more solitary and friendless I am ... the more I will respect myself. "By mastering her emotions, Jane advocates Reason, which rules her actions ultimately, a theme frequently used by Brontë in other novels.
[I didn't write this back then, but I would now add that Rochester tried to dominate Jane and force her to become a society lady by making her buy colourful expensive dresses. Jane resists this too, as she dislikes society people.]
19th century Victorian England saw the rise of the church's influence on society's morals. Rochester's intended bigamy which shocked readers compels Jane to run away. "In those days, I saw God for His creature - of whom I had made an idol," she reelects, a sin in Christinaty. Jane's pagan love for Rochester is unhealthy as he is immoral and deceptive, attempting to ruin Jane's honour. To instil her sense of morals, Jane resolves to escape: "I will keep the laws --- sanctioned by man." This while depriving her of a lover, enables Jane to learn harsh living at Marsh End, the true meaning of honest toil as a "village schoolmistress, honest and free." By helping members of society learn educated skills, Jane has redeemed her sin, an important feature in Christianity. "I felt I became a favourite in the neighbourhood," she declares, happy with her students' parents who "loaded me with attentions. Another moral action she does is to distribute her inheritance among her cousins as "twenty thousand pounds would oppress me." Earning their gratitude has increased the familial connections Jane never had. Spiritually devoid in the beginning, Jane's Marsh End life signifies a reconciliation with God.
The battle within Jane's self is the choice between love and religion. St John's threats that she will burn in "fire and brimstone" if she does not marry him weakens Jane, who wants to perform missionary work in India to remove "caste" and "prejudice." The fatal flaw is that being single, she must marry he "chiselled marble" St John who feels no husbandly love for her. Jane's arguments with St John how his domineering influence on her, as he wants as wife "to influence efficiently in life, and to retain absolutely till death." Her flight signifies her choice of love for Rochester as well as an intangible moral honour: marrying St John would be prostituting herself, especially as she well do good works with no self-enthusiasm. "Classically learned," Brontë would have been exposed to Platonic idealism, in which the complete harmony of the soul requires a balance of emotion, reason, courage and morals. By returning to Rochester, Jane is emotionally and morally fulfilled, particularly as she responds to his agony of being apart from her. What is presented is an internal destiny of a previously disharmonious soul that gains transcendence. "Jane Eyre" is a novel about fulfilment, and in the end Jane achieves this aim that Brontë could not have. Critics have lambasted Jane's domestic desires after her more feminist ventures at Marsh End. What is important is not so much a zealous career, but a true home "Reader, I married him," resounds the famous line in the novel,indicating Jane's position as ruler and matriarch of her new household. "My spirit is willing to accomplish" this ask of reunion, performed by "the flesh."
In conclusion, "Jane Eyre" is the wish-fulfilment of a lady who wished to manage her destiny. What has emerged is a feminist, individualistic manifesto of catharsis in the case in Jane Eyre, a figure for "million .. in revolt."
[As far as I am aware Charlotte Brontë was not a Platonist or knew much about platonism. I put that in because at the time I was a pretentious teenager who wanted to get top marks.]
My teacher's comments:
Confident textual knowledge
Material is coherently organised.
Discuss narrative voice ....
(focus on Bronte's methods ...)