Love, Family, and Independence
As an orphan at Gateshead, Jane is oppressed and dependent. For Jane to discover herself, she must break out of these restrictive conditions and find love and independence. Jane must have the freedom to think and feel, and she seeks out other independent-minded people as the loving family she craves. Jane, Helen Burns, and Ms. Temple enjoy a deep mutual respect, and form emotional bonds that anticipate the actual family Jane finds in Mary and Diana Rivers. Yet Jane also has a natural instinct toward submission. When she leaves Lowood to find new experiences, she describes herself as seeking a "new servitude." In her relationship with men, she has the inclination toward making first Rochester and then St. John her "master."
Over the course of the novel, Jane strives to find a balance between service and mastery. Jane blends her freedom with her commitments to love, virtue, and self-respect. At the end, Jane is both guide and servant to Rochester. She finds and creates her own family, and their love grows out of the mutual respect of free minds.
Social Class and Social Rules
Life in 19th-century Britain was governed by social class, and people typically stayed in the class into which they were born. Both as an orphan at Gateshead and as a governess at Thornfield, Jane holds a position that is between classes, and interacts with people of every level, from working-class servants to aristocrats. Jane's social mobility lets Brontë create a vast social landscape in her novel in which she examines the sources and consequences of class boundaries. For instance, class differences cause many problems in the love between Jane and Rochester. Jane must break through class prejudices about her standing, and make people recognize and respect her personal qualities. Brontë tries to illustrate how personal virtues are better indicators of character than class.
Yet the novel doesn't entirely endorse breaking every social...
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