Jane as a Strong Woman
Jane Eyre is based on the life story of a woman who seems relatively independent, despite her poor social status. Throughout the novel, she seems to be brave enough to leave any situation she doesn’t like. This is seemingly interesting because she has no money or family to support her. This is similar to the story of Mary Seacole, a woman who went off into the world to help others. Mary Seacole travels to the fronts of Crimean War and creates a hotel or hospital to care for the wounded. Mary Seacole and Jane Eyre are similar in the fact that they are both brave independent women. However, Jane seems to move away from this independence as soon as she meets Mr. Rochester. Jane loses her independence through her reliance on Mr. Rochester.
Despite the fact that Mary Seacole travels to the fronts of the Crimean War with Thomas Day, a man that supported her and was possibly her lover, she refused to let him change her very free nature. This is quite the opposite for Jane. Even when Jane sees Mr. Rochester amongst members of his own class, she says,
“He is not to them what he is to me,” I thought: “he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine; – I am sure he is, – I feel akin to him, – I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. […] I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever sundered: – and yet, while I breathe and think I must love him” (pg. 203-204).
Up to this moment, Jane seems self-sufficient and blunt. It is when she is presented with the idea of Mr. Rochester’s affections that her strong will withers. Only when her dignity and honor are put to the test does Jane come to her senses. She knows full well the situation at that point and realizes her folly. Rochester has been lying to her the entire time. He is actually married and any love they had was tainted by his lies. He was forced to get married to a woman, but she became mad only a few months after they married. This then drove him to lock Bertha in the home. Who was to say this would not be Jane’s fate.
Jane finally realizes that to marry Rochester would make her life harsh and unkind. He asks her to understand the situation he has been put into, but Jane finally becomes herself again. She says,
“that he asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband’s heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock, down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge. He prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all. Unmarried to him, this would never grieve me; but can I let him complete his calculations – coolly put into practice his plans – go through the wedding ceremony? Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent?” (pg 466-467).
She realizes that she had made a horrible mistake. She needed to find her own way. This is what would bring her true happiness, as it did to Mary Seacole. Jane remembers the true pleasure of being independent and true to herself. In the end she realizes that one needs a happy balance between being true to herself and being true to her husband.