Relationships in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
‘To what extent is Jane Eyre influenced by relationships in chapters 1-10 in the novel?’ Relationships are a key theme in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Throughout the novel we see the rise and fall of Jane, all most importantly due to relationships. This starts primarily with her lack of relationship with her parents, as she was orphaned when she was very young, she has no idea what it is like to love or to be loved and we see her strive to find out these feelings throughout the novel, until finally she achieves it, but the journey towards this is deeply important.
In chapters one and two we see the basis of Jane’s view of relationships through her connection with the Reed’s. Firstly Mrs Reed does her upmost to make sure Jane is excluded from her and her ‘contented, happy, little children’ we as readers see this as a cruel act from Mrs Reed, she does not care that Jane is deeply unhappy because Jane is not one of her children, therefore she does not see it as her duty to care for her emotionally and thinks by punishing her and excluding her from the family that this will teach Jane to be a ‘contented child’ however we as readers see that this causes Jane to be deeply troubled within herself.
This leads to Jane not only resenting Mrs Reed but also her children as they have been taught that Jane is a ‘dependant’ especially John who ultimately sees himself as above Jane in every aspect of life, he believes that Jane is just scavenging off them and this causes him to act in a horrific and bullying manor towards Jane. This causes Jane to act in a way she ordinarily would not, she even says herself that it causes ‘sensations for the time predominated over fear’ she feels so angry and let down that she finally stands up for herself. Therefore this influences Jane in a way that she feels like nobody will ever truly love her and she feels very much an outcast, this causes Jane to act in a way that even she herself expresses that she does not want to, she is cold and unloving and strives desperately to be appreciated but of course, this all happens in vain. We also see Jane to act very irrationally towards Mrs Reed, she deeply wants her to love her, yet when it comes down to it and she realises Mrs Reed never will she has an explosion of anger and tells Mrs Reed all the things that have been stewing up in her mind for so long; ‘I am glad you are no relation of mine.
I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to visit you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick. . . .” this we see as Jane being bitter towards Mrs Reed which we learn in later chapters as a very uncharacteristic feature of Jane Eyre, she is usually forgiving. The relationship between Jane and the nursery maid; Bessie is an important one, in the first few chapters we see Bessie as being somewhat cruel and dismissive of Jane compared to the other Reed children, she does not feel a connection towards Jane as she is not as pretty or funny as the other children therefore Bessie does not see her appeal. However after the event in the red room we see a change with Bessie’s attitude towards Jane, she turns somewhat softer as we see her feel sorry for Jane and how hard Mrs Reed is on her.
This is an extremely important turning point in the novel as we see Jane in the chapters leading up to this as very self involved and saddened as she has no one to love, yet as soon as Bessie softens to Jane and tells her that she can sympathise with the position she’s been put in she tells Jane ‘I don’t dislike you, Miss; I believe I am fonder of you than of all the others.’ This affects Jane greatly and we see a completely different little girl, she seems to talk which much more glee and excitement and even for her ‘life had its gleams of sunshine’. So we see how much relationships influence Jane and her attitudes in the novel, relationships affect Jane and how her personality is. In chapter five Jane meets Helen Burns, Helen is also an orphan and see’s the school as somewhat of a sanctuary even though she is constantly picked upon by the teacher.
Helen is Jane’s first friend but more importantly she becomes Jane’s best friend and we see as the relationship grows that Helen deeply influences Jane, she teaches her to be less excitable and too see the best in others, a quality that Jane desperately needs after her experience with the Reed’s. She teaches Jane to be self sacrificing when she tells her ‘it is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you’. Helen believes that you should suffer pain yourself than have others see and feel an action that you may regret when you have calmed down.
Jane learns from this and this causes Jane to be a character who thinks beyond this life and onto the next with God. We see Jane finds this as a great comfort and now instead of looking onto God as something to be feared, she looks at him as somewhat of a comfort, especially after Helen dies of typhoid. Helen believes that after she dies she is going to be with her family and loved ones and most importantly with God, therefore she does not fear death and although Jane is deeply distraught by the death of the only friend she’s ever had in the world, the fact that she will, if she lives correctly see her again is a great comfort. This shows the importance of friendship throughout the novel and how with Jane having the comfort of a friend she can be the person that she has always wanted to be, thanks to Helen Jane finds herself acting more appropriately and being able to handle her anger.
Therefore this relationship has greatly affected Jane as she strives to be more like Helen. Relationships are of key importance to Bronte writing about Jane Eyre, it is how she expresses her feelings of how relationships have perhaps affected her and it shows how deeply the lack of love can affect someone. This novel is primarily about love, whether it being a lack of love or so much love that it turns into passion, Jane strives to feel this emotion and closeness with anyone who will allow her to be their friend. Therefore relationships are a key influence to Jane Eyre, they affect how she acts and how she feels and without them, as we learn in the first few chapters, life can be a very lonely existence.
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