* Jane Eyre: The protagonist of the novel and the title character. Orphaned as a baby, she struggles through her nearly loveless childhood and becomes governess at Thornfield Hall. Jane is passionate and opinionated, and values freedom and independence. She also has a strong conscience and is a determined Christian. * John Reed: Jane's cousin, who as a child bullies Jane constantly, sometimes in his mother's presence. He ruins himself as an adult by drinking and gambling and is thought to have committed suicide. * Bessie Lee: The plain-spoken nursemaid at Gateshead. She often treats Jane kindly, telling her stories and singing her songs. Later she marries Robert Leaven. * Mr. Brocklehurst: The clergyman headmaster and treasurer of Lowood School, whose maltreatment of the students is eventually exposed. A religious traditionalist, he advocates for his charges the most harsh, plain, and disciplined possible lifestyle—but not, hypocritically, for himself and his own family. His second daughter Augusta hereby states: "Oh, my dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look... they look at my dress and mama's, as if they never seen a silk gown before." * Diana and Mary Rivers: St. John's sisters and (as it turns out) Jane's cousins. They are poor, intelligent, and kind-hearted, and want St. John to stay in England. Jane's ambiguous social position — a penniless yet moderately educated orphan from a good family — leads her to criticize some discrimination based on class, though she makes class discriminations herself. Although she is educated, well-mannered, and relatively sophisticated, she is still a governess, a paid servant of low social standing, and therefore relatively powerless. As a young woman, small and of relatively low social standing, Jane encounters men during her journey, of good, bad, and morally debatable character. However, many of them, no matter their ultimate intentions, attempt to establish some form of power and control over Jane. A particularly important theme in the novel is the depiction of a patriarchal society. Jane attempts to assert her own identity within male-dominated society. Jane Eyre also combines Gothicism with romanticism to create a distinctive Victorian novel. Jane and Rochester are attracted to each other, but there are impediments to their love. The conflicting personalities of the two lead characters and the norms of society are an obstacle to their love, as often occurs in romance novels, but so also is Rochester's secret marriage to Bertha, the main Gothic element of the story. Jane Eyre follows the emotions and experiences of its eponymous character, including her growth to adulthood, and her love for Mr. Rochester, the byronic master of fictitious Thornfield Hall. The novel contains elements of social criticism, with a strong sense of morality at its core, but is nonetheless a novel many consider ahead of its time given the individualistic character of Jane and the novel's exploration of classism, sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism. Jane has a vivid imagination and romantic side which cause her to be passionate, "strange" as the Reeds call her, and more emotionally and verbally advanced than other children her age. She is also extremely perceptive, analytical and self-aware.
A particularly important theme in the novel is the depiction of a patriarchal society. Jane attempts to assert her own identity within male-dominated society. Three of the main male characters, Mr. Brocklehurst, Mr. Rochester and St. John Rivers, try to keep Jane in a subordinate position and prevent her from expressing her own thoughts and feelings. Jane escapes Mr. Brocklehurst and rejects St. John, and she only marries Mr. Rochester once she is sure that their marriage is one between equals. Through Jane, Brontë opposes Victorian stereotypes about women, articulating her own feminist philosophy: Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women...
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