Passion and Practicality of Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is a coming-of-age story about an unconventional woman's development within a society of strict rules and expectations. At pivotal moments in Jane's life, she makes choices which are influenced by her emotions and/or her reason. Through the results of those choices, Jane learns to balance passion and practicality to achieve true happiness.
Jane is a spirited woman, and her emotions give her a strength of character that is unusual for a female heroine of this period. Rather than being nervous and oversensitive, Jane expresses her feelings through anger. The first example of this occurs at one of the pivotal moments of her life, when John Reed hits her. "'Wicked and cruel boy!' I said. 'You are like a murderer- you are like a slave-driver- you are like the Roman emperors!' I had read Goldsmith's History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula, etc. Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I never thought thus to have declared aloud." Jane realizes for the first time that she need not be passive and accept her fate; instead she fights back, losing control, and her actions are a blur in her memory. "I don't very well know what I did with my hands, but he called me 'Rat! Rat!' and bellowed out aloud," she says.
This act changes Jane's life forever, in both positive and negative ways. She learns that she need not tolerate abuse, and that she deserves better treatment than she has received. From that point forward, she becomes direct and honest, and forms a strong dislike of frivolity, false kindness, and the hypocrisy of the upper classes. She even finds the couage to confront Aunt Reed and speak her mind: "'I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.'" However, Jane's out-of-control emotions also cause her considerable suffering. When she is locked in the Red Room, she flies into a fit of temper, and "...prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated." Too much emotion leads to irrationality, and Jane is ill for some time as a result.
Having found a new strength in rebellion, Jane is placed in another oppressive situation: Lowood School. In this situation, there is little opportunity for her to resist; she has a different lesson to learn. Shortly after her arrival at Lowood, Jane meets Helen Burns, who teaches her patience and rationality. Helen is in many ways a Christ figure, accepting what happens to her as God's will and speaking often of...