Jane Eyre - Critical Evaluation

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The novel "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë consists of the continuous journey through Jane's life towards her final happiness and freedom. This is effectively supported by five significant ‘physical' journeys she makes, which mirror the four emotional journeys she makes.

10-year-old Jane lives under the custody of her Aunt Reed, who hates her. Jane resents her harsh treatment by her aunt and cousins so much that she has a severe temper outburst, which results in her aunt sending her to Lowood boarding school. At the end of the eight years, she has become a teacher at Lowood. At the age of eighteen she seeks independence and becomes governess at Thornfield Hall. Over time, Jane falls in love with its master, Edward Rochester, who eventually proposes to her. On their wedding day, the sermon is abruptly halted by the announcement that Rochester's insane wife is kept locked up in the attic of Thornfield. Jane runs away. Penniless and almost starving, Jane roams the countryside in search of shelter, until she finds the house of St John, Mary, and Diana Rivers, who take her in and nurse her back to health. Jane then acquires an unexpected inheritance from her uncle. One night, Jane ‘hears' Mr Rochester's voice calling for her, and decides to return to Thornfield immediately. On her return, she finds Thornfield to be a "blackened ruin" due to a fire which has left Rochester blind with only one arm and killed his wife. Jane goes to Rochester's new home, and they are married.

Jane's ‘physical' journeys contribute significantly to plot development and to the idea that the novel is a ‘journey' through Jane's life. "Jane Eyre's" chronological structure also emphasises this idea, the journey progresses as time goes on. Each journey causes her to experience new emotions and an eventual change of some kind. These ‘actual' journeys help Jane on her four ‘figurative' journeys, as each one allows her to reflect and grow. The journey only ends when she finds true happiness.

Jane makes her journey from Gateshead to Lowood at the age of ten, finally freeing her from her restrictive life with her aunt. Before making her journey, Jane's feelings are conveyed by Brontë through the use of pathetic fallacy: "...the grounds, where all was still petrified under the influence of hard frost."

The word choice here reflects Jane's situation – she is like the ground, ‘petrified' under the influence of her aunt, whose behaviour is mirrored in the term "hard frost" because of the icy discipline she bestows. Mrs Reed's attitude towards Jane highlights one of the main themes of the novel, social class. Jane's aunt sees Jane as inferior as she had humble beginnings: she is "less than a servant". Jane is glad to be leaving her cruel aunt and of having the chance of going to school.

Eight years later, when Jane travels from Lowood to Thornfield, she is much more contented. She has come to be respected by the teachers and pupils at Lowood, largely due to the influence of her teacher, Miss Temple, to whose instruction she "owed the best part of her acquirements" and who had stood her "in the stead of mother, governess, and latterly, companion". Jane has found in Miss Temple what Mrs Reed always denied her.

This particular journey marks a huge change in Jane's life; it is a fresh start for her: "A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play..."

This comment also shows that Jane herself thinks of the move as a new beginning and is looking forward to her "new duties" and her "new life".

When Jane arrives in the town of Millcote, she is fearful:
"...I am not very tranquil in my mind......I looked anxiously around.....all sorts of doubts and fears are troubling my thoughts."

Her anxiety, though, is counterbalanced by the "charm of adventure"; Jane is finally independent and in control of her own life.

Although journeying into the completely unknown, Jane does not look back, only forward to her new life and her...
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