Jane’s Path to Prosperity
In The beginning of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte introduces Jane as an orphan girl who is residing at Gateshead with Mrs. Reed and her children. Bronte walks us through the episodes of Jane’s life as she moves to Lowood, Thronfield, Moor House, and finally to Ferndean. Throughout these stages, Bronte will show how charity was depicted through the interactions that Jane had. Through these perspectives we will see that the results of how charity was regarded, based on the nineteenth century concepts and views that Bronte discusses, point out the significance of charity in Jane Eyre.
Charlotte’s focus on charity in her novel revolves not only around giving money to orphans, but giving love and care to those in need. An example of this would be Graham Gordon’s view that, "Charity is an active concern to help others in their poverty and weakness…. This includes not merely alms-giving, or even the giving of emotional support, but sympathetic understanding as well"(159). What is being said is clearly that charity doesn’t only have to do with money, but the thought of acknowledging peoples’ situations in the world with respect. Charlotte’s attitude toward performing good deeds is quite optimistic in her belief that kindness will lead to happiness. In a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey, Charlotte writes, "The right path is that which necessitates the greatest sacrifice of self interest, which implies the greatest good to others; and this path, steadily followed, will lead, I believe, in time to prosperity and to happiness" (qtd. in Winnifrith 51). This piece of information correlates to the Christian belief that this type of action is "the true way to the end" (Graham 10). This clearly states Charlotte’s views about the importance of being good to others in her belief that, "this path, if steadily followed, will lead to prosperity and happiness." This passage will allow us to absorb the understanding later on of why Jane chose to be kind to the characters in the book.
Bronte’s views on charity are first seen through the actions in the Reed household. Jane is an orphan girl left to be taken care of by her uncle. However, her uncle passed away when she was very young and she remains in the custody of the bitter Reeds. The reason as to why they are bitter is because they are greedy and disregard Jane in all they do. In spite of the fact that she is poor and has no family that cares for her, they harass and mock her instead of giving her love and care. From an incident at the beginning of the novel, we can clearly see how Jane is mistreated.
When Jane is a girl of about nine years old, we learn that she has an interest in reading books. She feels that reading will allow her to experience some of the excitement in the books considering that she isn’t part of the Reed family and is excluded from everything else that they do. Even by engaging herself with reading some of their books, which were scarcely used by the Reeds,...