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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

 

 

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Introduction

Jane Eyre is a novel authored by Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre is the leading actor and narrator of the novel. Charlotte Bronte paints Jane as an intelligent and honest girl of tender age who is faced with oppression, discrimination in the form of gender inequality, and hardship. Despite these shortcomings, Jane Eyre manages to maintain her stand in matters of justice, morality, and human dignity. Other principles Jane upholds in her life include intellectual and emotional desires. In the book, Jane has equally challenged Victorian prejudices due to her strong belief in both social and gender equality. Bronte’s work embodies various differing conceptions of Christianity as exemplified by three of her major characters in the novel namely, Helen Burns, Mr. Brocklehurst, and St John Rivers. The three characters relate differently to Jane, and all of them have differing conceptions of Christianity. Mr. Brocklehurst was the cruel master of Lowood School; Helen Burns was Eyre’s close confidant during her time at Lowood School, while St John Rivers who was Jane’s cousin ministered at Morton. Each of them impacts Jane’s life differently, and these effects are discussed in detail in this paper.

Differing Conceptions of Christianity Embodied in Jane Eyre by Mr. Brocklehurst

Mr. Brocklehurst has been described as cruel and hypocritical; a man who lives a luxurious lifestyle courtesy of funds that he steals from Lowood School. However, his hideous ways are cut short once he is discovered and discredited. According to Glen, Lowood School was a boarding school for orphaned girls, and these girls received harsh treatment from Mr. Brocklehurst. Mr. Brocklehurst would mistreat the orphans by starving them and exposing them to cold. It is against Christian law to mistreat and subject orphans to rejection. Instead, Christians are called upon to express show love to the poor and especially orphans, and to take good care of them. Mr. Brocklehurst would also threaten the young girls that they would go to hell for the sins they had committed. The latter statement is a differing conception of Christianity as no one should judge another; God should be the only judge of humankind. Mr. Brocklehurst felt that he was righteous on his part and that God was crediting him for his good work. The latter comment is yet another differing conception of Christianity as no one should claim to be holy for the same reason that only God can determine the righteousness of a human being.

According to Zhu, Mr. Brocklehurst used to embezzle funds from the institution in a bid to support his luxurious lifestyle. An institution like Lowood School is a charity organisation that depends on well-wishers to fund its activities. As such, funds belonging to it should not be used for personal pleasures. It is against Christian teachings to use public funds, and those meant for orphans to fulfill personal desires while the rightful owners languish in starvation and cold nights. Mr. Brocklehurst’s children wore the best clothes made of fur and silk, and never missed a meal courtesy of funds money that was meant for the orphans. It is not proper that a Christian should use money intended for charity to better the lives of their children while the orphans who are meant to benefit from such funds suffer in silence. Mr. Brocklehurst is one man who acts and lives a life that is totally opposite to how a Christian should live. This man is selfish and wants the best for himself and his family while mistreating orphans. Mr. Brocklehurst is also judgmental and thinks of himself as being righteous and one who receives God’s credit for condemning orphaned girls. Jane Eyre was an orphan and attended school at Lowood.

In the Bible, Mr. Brocklehurst can be compared to the Pharisees who pretended to be good teachers of the law but were just hypocrites. The Pharisees loved to have the best seats and to be praised by being called Rabbi. Mr. Brocklehurst gives an excellent speech to the orphans about the plainness of clothing, yet his wife and daughters always dress in fine silk and linen. Again, this act can be compared to that of the Pharisees who never practiced what they taught; they also cleaned the outside of the cup while the inside was full of greed. As Christians, people should not pursue vanity, but Mr. Brockelhurst’s actions differ from this conception. Hypocrisy is a vice according to Christian teachings, and anyone practicing the same disagreeing with the notions of Christianity; a person such as Mr. Brocklehurst.

Differing conceptions of Christianity embodied in Jane Eyre by Helen Burns

Helen Burns is the friend whom Jane met at Lowood School, and she did a lot in helping Jane get through the harsh times at the institution. Due to Helen’s good deeds and kindness to Jane, she can be compared to Jesus Christ. Helen is part of the evangelical teachers at the Lowood School and among other character traits, ‘she is patient, forgiving, loving and faithful’; a part of Helen that makes her comparable to Jesus. Helen has to bear the hardships since she cannot avoid them and she perceives it as being silly to run away from that which is one’s fate. For the recent actions, Helen can be compared to Jesus who came forth to save sinners, and he took to the cross, enduring all the pain and humiliation.

Helen is portrayed in the Book Jane Eyre as the forgiving type. It is evident that the people in Helen’s life mistreat her but she is quick to forgive them. Christianity teaches that people should forgive and love those who subject them to mistreatment and hatred. Jesus forgave those who mocked and crucified him. At one point, He cried to His Father and asked Him to forgive His mockers for they knew not what they were doing.  Helen is full of love for everyone at Lowood School. Helen sees the right side of Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Scatcherd who are instead dedicated to doing that which is wrong[19]. Miss Temple is also loved dearly by Helen Burns. The Christian teachings state that people should love and care for orphans. Helen practices the latter by loving Jane who is an orphan and even offers to be her elder sister; Helen also teaches Jane about Christianity, just as Jesus did. Jesus loved sinners and always showed them the right way to follow, and thus Helen portrays the image of Christ in Jane Eyre.

Helen Burns is a lady full of Faith. All the acts discussed in the previous two paragraphs portray Helen as a strong believer. Indeed, on her deathbed, Helen spoke to Jane and confessed about her deep affinity with God. According to Bronte, these were Helen’s words to Jane “I reply implicitly on his power, and confide wholly in his goodness: I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to him, reveal him to me”. These words show that Helen’s death was a sacrifice as Jane learned a lot about faith from this experience. According to Na, the words on Helen Burns’ tombstone read: “Resurgam” which means “I shall rise again,” thus evidence enough that she portrayed the image of Christ. Helen is an example of a faithful who conforms to all conceptions of Christianity. Burns lives a life of hope, love, and which portrays how a true Christian should live and relate to fellow human beings. There is no practice by Helen Burns that differs from the conceptions of Christianity.

Differing conceptions of Christianity embodied in Jane Eyre by St John Rivers

As seen earlier, St John Rivers was a Minister at Morton and a cousin to Jane. On the issue of Christianity and its conceptions, St John Rivers portrays the image of Saint John who wrote the Book of Revelation. Saint John devoted all He had to God with no regard to secular matters; the same case applies to St John Rivers. In regard to marital status, St John Rivers proposed to Jane despite that he never had any love feelings for her, only because he thought that Jane could make a good missionary wife. St John Rivers left for India with the thought he could worship his God better at this new location. St John Rivers conducted prayers every evening which goes to show that he was pious. He also read the Bible, and the last reading that they shared with Jane was from Chapter 31 of the Book of Revelation.  Although Jane had refused St John Rivers’s marriage proposal, on that particular night she almost said yes; the teachings from the reading by St John Rivers were so strong such that they almost lured Jane. It is evident that St John truly loved God and lived a Christian life. Even in his marital affairs, St John Rivers involved God. The novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte ends with a letter by St John Rivers to Jane. These words are in fact the same ones found in the last verse of the Book of Revelation whose author is ‘Saint John the Divine’.

St John Rivers’ ways and practices could be Christian-like, but according to Lamonaca, Jane rejects the Christian worldview that St John represents. St John Rivers is repeatedly viewed as a feminist, and his religious agenda is seen as a vehicle for masculinity and dominion. The latter cannot be classified as a part of Christian teachings as one is not supposed to use religion to gain marital favour. Apart from the recent accusations, St John Rivers lives a Christian life that is not full of controversies. He earnestly preaches the gospel as it is that which he was called to do.

Comparison among Helen Burns, St John Rivers and Mr. Brockelhurst’s differing conceptions of Christianity embodied in Jane Eyre: How far does any one predominate?

Mr. Brocklehurst is the callous supervisor at Lowood Institute and at one time he publicly humiliated Jane by calling her a liar and a devil’s agent. The actions by Mr. Brockelhurst were inhumane and against Christian teachings and because he viewed himself as being righteous, it was not on his part to condemn Jane. In this situation, Helen Burns introduces Jane to Christianity and consoles her following the conflict with Mr. Brocklehurst. Helen’s acts are full of love and bestow hope to the afflicted and the hopeless. Helen Burns assures Jane that there is indeed an invisible world that is filled with the kingdom of spirits watching over human beings; Jane included. The latter helps Jane realize Christianity empowers women and they can stand for what they believe in while equally competing with their male counterparts. Helen also teaches Jane that she should only fear God and not men; explaining that God’s word is stronger than that of a powerful man.

Mr. Brocklehurst presents the most differing conceptions of Christianity as he does everything against Christian teachings. He is a hypocrite who does not practice what he teaches but rather judges and condemns innocent orphans. He also enriches himself with charity money that is meant to assist. Helen, on the other hand, lives a Christian life and she goes ahead to portray the image of Christ. She is forgiving, the loving, devoted faithful who confesses Christ even on her deathbed. St John Rivers does that which is good, and he has devoted his all to God.

References

Baldick C. (2000). Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign

Language Education Press.

Barsheshat N. 2015. Christianity as a form of empowerment in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

[Online].

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Bronte C. March 2015. Jane Eyre. Ignatius press-Fiction

Glen H. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to the Brontes. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign

Language Education Press.

Lamonaca M. 2002. Jane’s crown of thorns: Feminism and Christianity in “Jane Eyre”.

[Online].

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

The Holy Bible. (1971). Revised Standard Edition. Collins Bible.

Zhu G. (2001). Twentieth Century Western Critical Theories. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign

Language Education Press.

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Bronte C. March 2015. Jane Eyre. Ignatius press-Fiction

Baldick C. (2000). Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign

Language Education Press.

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Glen H. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to the Brontes. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign

Language Education Press.

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Bronte C. 2015. Jane Eyre. Ignatius press-Fiction

Zhu G. (2001). Twentieth Century Western Critical Theories. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign

Language Education Press.

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

The Holy Bible. (1971). Revised Standard Edition. Collins Bible.

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

The Holy Bible. (1971). Revised Standard Edition. Collins Bible.

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

The Holy Bible. (1971). Revised Standard Edition. Collins Bible.

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Lamonaca M. 2002. Jane’s crown of thorns: Feminism and Christianity in “Jane Eyre”.

[Online].

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Na Z. (2015),’Christianity in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre’, International Journal of Liberal Arts

And Social Science, vol. 3, no. 6, pp.1-6. [Online].

Lamonaca M. 2002. Jane’s crown of thorns: Feminism and Christianity in “Jane Eyre”.

[Online].

Bronte C. (2000). Jane Eyre. Ed. Huang Yuanshen. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language

Education Press.

Barsheshat N. 2015. Christianity as a form of empowerment in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

[Online].

Barsheshat N. 2015. Christianity as a form of empowerment in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

[Online].

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