Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is about a woman named Jane Eyre who becomes enlightened through faith over time, whether by struggling to obtain it, or by the mercy of a higher power, by obtaining the precious gift of true freedom. This is a story of a little bird who was constantly caged and who dreamt of blue skies. Jane was a woman constantly chained down and held back due to the circumstances of a life she could not change; the aspects of her life that prevented her from obtaining true freedom; true choice over mind and body. This novel was about a woman who kept fighting against the circumstances that held her back while continuing to be true to herself, regardless of what society thought of her. Jane Eyre is a story about the restrictions that prevent freedom, the hope that promises it, breaking the chains of captivity, and finally reaping the rewards that freedom brings.
Freedom is a sense of being able to be true to oneself without being restrained due to outside forces. Jane Eyre has been of the kind without that natural God-given independence due to the inferiority and circumstances of her birth and her continued existence thereafter. Jane, as a young girl, had always been a strong-willed spirit that longed to be free; however, due to the mistreatment of her aunt, her life was left wanting. “Judgments of life satisfaction are dependent upon a comparison of one’s circumstances with what is thought to be an appropriate standard” mere judgment of how satisfied individuals are with their lives is based on a comparison with a standard which is determined by each individual” (Agyar). Evren Agyar would say that Janes childhood was not satisfied in the respects of having any control over her actions; her self-esteem was low and she probably had little to no hope. In that way, Jane Eyre was ever restricted in her life, not allowed to satisfy any basic human need.
Jane, the little caged bird, needed liberties ever since she was but a small child; however, the overly strict conditions of her surroundings and the people who shut her out emotionally as well as physically, seemed to doom her from the very beginning. It is reasonable to incorporate rules and some restrictions, for especially young children, as to not spoil and thus ruin their character. Mrs. Reed, Janes Aunt, would say, whether she truly believed it or not that, “children must be corrected for their faults” (Brontë 35) She treated Jane one way and let her own children act in any foolish manner that befitted them. Jane was called a “rebel slave” (Brontë 12) when trying to obtain a sense of overdue freedom, and locked away in the Red Room for her troubles when an outburst of freedom would consume her, for it is not natural for a being to hold in what is meant to be free; one does not try to put a cork on an erupting volcano. This is not to say that Jane is as bad as a destructive volcano; however, if one is not allowed to release some steam, you will be shocked at the outburst of pure, untempered emotion. Even being a child restricted her from true freedom, for even she said that “children can feel, but they cannot analyze their feelings” (Brontë 23), this and a combination of the future aspects of her life, continued to bind her. Even after leaving Mrs. Reed she was still bound by the shackles of her aunt’s contempt when moving to Lowood. She was labeled as a liar, a word that would seem to destroy any new reputation that Jane would ever wish to gain. When she finally left Lowood she was still even owned and restricted by serving a new master, believing that even going out further into the world, she still only new of the experience of Lowood, “its rules and systems” (Brontë 81). Jane desperately, from within her bars, reached and prayed for some form of liberty. Even Mr. Rochester recognized the chains of restraint holding Jane back for he said “your soul sleeps” (Brontë 134). However, even he was a jailor for the prison she was downtrodden to. Jane became slave once again to the whim of her master, who concealed truths from her, and being forced to parties to be scoffed at. Jane continued to be held back by her lack of prospects, her plainness, her uncontrolled prejudices against poverty, vengeance, secrets, money, marriage and a life she couldn’t change for herself throughout her story. Diana Calin said that during the Communist period, woman’s “rights were infringed at the social, political level and at the level at individual freedom” (Calin). Although these restrictions were always there and would always remain in immortal fashion, there was also always glimmers of hope for Jane.
Hope is the most powerful ray of light that can shine through the dark times in our life. Even though Jane had a rough go of it, her life seeming desolate and uncompromising, and even though she may have not have noticed right away, Jane always had rays of hope that promised a brighter future of freedom, if she fought for it with the lessons she learned through those angels of hope. Throughout Janes life, when the Mrs. Reeds came to destroy and the red rooms of her life seemed its most beak and discouraging, there was always a glimmer of hope that promised some light. When there is darkness, only one spark is required for a dream to come alive. Hope promises liberty.
Hope promises freedom, even in the dark. In every dark red room that Jane faced, there was always something that kept her going. At Gateshead, Jane had Gulliver’s Travels to explore the great expanses of the world. At Lowood, Jane had Helen Burns, for however short at time, and Miss Temple who gave her a chance. At Thornfield, Jane had Adele and the thought of true love with Mr. Rochester. When she ran away across the moors, starving and destitute, she discovered inheritance as well as even more hope, family whom she felt on equal footing. When one is lowly and emotionally isolated, one drop of hope can make a world of difference. For Jane Eyre, the biggest hope and the one that stays with her throughout her life is the angel that came to her and painted her a true picture of God and thus a way to obtain true freedom. Helen Burns was the light that burned continuously for Jane and showed her the way. Helen taught Jane to “bear what it is your fate to be required to bear” (Brontë 53). She taught her to endure the pain of her life and to never act hastily and commit a wrong that would cause hurt for everyone, but she also taught Jane to persevere and showed her that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; there is hope of a better future. Even Miss Temple was an angel to show hope to Jane. Even when Jane was labeled a liar in front of everyone, Miss Temple gave Jane hope and words of wisdom that most absolutely shaped Janes life. Miss Temple told Jane not to worry about what other people will think about you because of what people have said but instead that people will grow to “think of you what you prove yourself to be” (Brontë 67). With the lessons Jane learned from her angels, hope promised Jane a future of true freedom.
Hope gave Jane the courage to forge a path for herself to gain true freedom by breaking the chains that bound her. Since Janes birth, she has had to struggle and just accept the chains that bore her down, however, she learns lessons throughout her life that prove she can attain true freedom. One of the greatest illusions in life is that one can have some form of control over one’s life; however, true freedom comes when one accepts that control does not truly exist. By giving up the idea of control, one can feel freer than they ever have been. Jane learns this throughout her lifetime, and when she does, it is when she shows her true strength.
There were many attributes of Jane that held her back from attaining freedom; however, by choosing to let go of the concept of control, Jane was able to become free quite easily, even though technically she still had those things that once held her back. Jane was able to break the chains of her captivity by choosing to see the “power beyond beauty” (Brontë 231). In regard to her plainness and Mr. Rochester’s off putting appearance, she was able to free her heart of vengeance and forgive her aunt, she was able to save her soul by not selling it “to buy bliss” (Brontë 191). This proves that she does indeed care about and respect herself enough to follow God’s laws and be free to be true to herself. Jane became free enough to run away from Rochester even though she loved him, she was free enough to become equals with her family and choose to leave when she thought her freedom might be strained again by being in a loveless marriage to St John. She was free enough to choose Rochester again and create a truly freeing relationship where they could now speak as equals with no secrets between them. Diana Calin said that “In order to obtain equality in both spaces in which they live, first it is necessary to change the mentality, and then to make changes at the level of regulation. Only by surpassing the tradition imposed by the patriarchal society we can reach equality which would signify for woman the independence from man” (Calin). Jane once trapped by the situations of her birth broke the chains and gained the true reward of freedom.
Once Jane broke the chains of her entanglement, she was able to reap the rewards of a lifelong lived in freedom. Evren Aguar suggested that freedom is “a state in which the person feels what she/he is doing is done by choice and because one wants to do it” (Aguar). If this is the case, then by the end of the book, Jane got the true freedom she was seeking at the very start. She was no longer tethered to the bonds of another master, she became her own master and partner to the man she loved. Jane becomes grateful because she knows that God has led her down the right path, “All I see has made me thankful, not despondent” (Brontë 338). Jane believes she has attained true freedom.
Jane now gets to reap the rewards of a lifelong struggle and enjoy true freedom. Because of the lifelong lessons from the people she’s encountered, the situations she’s persevered through, she is now able to be better in this moment than she did in her past. Rochester even learns that through God that “in the midst of judgment, he has remembered mercy” (Brontë 418). So whether or not Jane gained true freedom through struggle or through a higher power, she was able to remain herself and add on to herself through marriage, for “to be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company” (Brontë 421). Jane is truly free at the end.
Jane Eyre is a story about a woman who lived in a time where not only was she suppressed because of her gender, but because of her inferior birth and life. All Jane ever wanted was to be free, though maybe she didn’t even know what true freedom was until she got it. Jane didn’t have to sell her soul to gain true freedom, she just had to let go and let God. This was a story about a little bird that was able to escape from her cage and fly higher than anyone would have thought possible for her status. Jane proved that one be not stuck in one position, that they may be more than what society thinks. Jane found true freedom even though she was restricted by societal standards, she learned to rely on hope to bring freedom, she broke the chains that prevented freedom and then she gained the reward that true freedom brings.
Agyar, Evren. “Contribution of Perceived Freedom and Leisure Satisfaction to Life Satisfaction
in a Sample of Turkish Women.” Social Indicators Research, vol. 116, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-15, ProQuest Central,
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.
Calin, Diana N. “Impact of Passing from Communism to Democracy Over Women’ Rights.”
Revista de Stiinte Politice, no. 35, 2012, pp. 112-119, ProQuest Central, http://proxy144.nclive.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1346869053?accountid=13429.