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Jane Eyre’s Journey Towards Independence, Self Knowledge, And Equality

2165 words - 9 pages

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre chronicles the growth of her titular character from girlhood to maturity, focusing on her journey from dependence on negative authority figures to both monetary and psychological independence, from confusion to a clear understanding of self, and from inequality to equality with those to whom she was formerly subject. Originally dependent on her Aunt Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, and Mr. Rochester, she gains independence through her inheritance and teaching positions. Over the course of the novel, she awakens towards self-understanding, resulting in contentment and eventual happiness. She also achieves equality with the important masculine figures in her life, such as St. John Rivers and Mr. Rochester, gaining self-fulfillment as an independent, fully developed equal.
Through the course of the novel, Jane Eyre is dependent on first her Aunt Reed, then Mr. Brocklehurst, and, subsequently, Mr. Rochester. As John Reed, her cousin, taunts her, she is “a dependent… [has] no money’” (Bronte 4), highlighting the complete control her Aunt Reed has of her life at this point. Her Aunt Reed chooses to send her to the frightful Lowood School and leads her Uncle John Eyre to believe her “’dead of typhus fever at Lowood.”’ (Bronte 217) While at Lowood, she is dependent on the dreadful Mr. Brocklehurst, a “personification of the Victorian superego,” (Gilbert and Gubar 343) who is the “absolute ruler of this little world.” (Rich 466) He uses “religion, charity, and morality to keep the poor in their place,” (Rich 466) rendering the students psychologically dependent on him. Finally, as a governess at Thornfield Hall, Jane Eyre is dependent on Mr. Rochester as his employee, required to acquiesce to his whims and to ask his permission to visit her dying Aunt Reed, which he very nearly denies. Thus, Jane Eyre begins her life dependent on the primarily masculine authority figures in her life.
Through Jane Eyre’s inheritance, her eventual self-sufficiency, and her role-reversal with Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre gains independence from domineering authority figures. By rejecting her Aunt Reed’s false and oppressive view of herself, stating that she was “’glad that you [Mrs. Reed] are no relation of mine’” (Bronte 28), Jane Eyre begins to gain psychological independence from Mrs. Reed. Instead of staying on as a teacher at Lowood, Jane decided to become a governess, the “one possible source of independence if she did not marry.” (Rich 464) This allows her to gain independence from Mr. Brocklehurst, “a pillar of society and a large bad wolf,” (Gilbert and Gubar 344), enabling to both judge and reject his religious views and teachings. Even as a governess, however, she was still dependent, this time on Mr. Rochester. When she uncovers Mr. Rochester’s deceptions, including his infamous mad wife, she refuses to further surrender her liberty, instead fleeing “one of the traps a patriarchal society provides” as it “is necessary for her own...

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