Jane Eyre : themes

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Jane Eyre is a notable literary work by Charlotte Brontë. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Jane Eyre.


Charlotte Brontë’s novel “Jane Eye” tells the story of Jane Eyre. The novel is celebrated for its strong and independent female protagonist, its exploration of social class, morality, and gender roles, and its Gothic elements.

Here we will point out some dominant themes of the novel “Jane Eyre”.

Independence and Autonomy

Jane Eyre’s quest for independence and autonomy is one of the novel’s central themes. As an orphan and a governess, Jane is initially in a position of dependency, but she consistently seeks self-respect and self-sufficiency. Despite social pressure, her refusal to compromise her principles shows her determination to remain independent. Throughout the novel, Jane’s desire for independence and autonomy is evident in her actions and choices. Despite being orphaned and mistreated by her aunt and cousins, she maintains a strong sense of self-worth and refuses to succumb to their cruelty.

One of the pivotal moments in Jane’s pursuit of independence occurs when she leaves Lowood School and accepts a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets Mr. Rochester, with whom she develops a complicated and passionate relationship. Her love for Mr. Rochester is genuine, but she refuses to compromise her virtue and autonomy for the sake of love. When she finds Mr. Rochester’s dark secret, she makes the hurtful decision to leave him, even though it breaks her heart. This act exhibits her unwavering commitment to her own independence and moral principles. Jane’s journey continues as she faces various challenges and hardships but remains firm in her pursuit of independence. Her inheritance from her long-lost uncle provides financial security, freeing her from dependence on others. She eventually marries Mr. Rochester, but only after he becomes physically disabled and emotionally humbled, ensuring that the marriage is one of equals rather than dependence.

Independence and autonomy are essential components of Jane’s character and development. Jane Eyre’s resolution to maintain her self-worth, make her own choices, and live on her terms is an enduring example of a strong, independent female protagonist in Victorian literature.


Social Class

“Jane Eyre” explores the theme of social class in 19th-century England. In the story, Jane faces various challenges and obstacles related to her social status. This theme is highlighted when Jane accepts the governess position at Thornfield Hall. She is employed to teach a young girl named Adele. Jane is of a lower social class than the wealthy and aristocratic Rochester family, who owns Thornfield Hall. Her status as a governess places her in a liminal space between the upper and lower classes. It highlights the strict social hierarchy of the time. Throughout the novel, Jane’s interactions with characters from different social classes, such as her cruel aunt and cousins at Gateshead, the poor condition of the students at Lowood, and the various residents of Thornfield Hall, show the stark differences in wealth, power, and privilege.

However, the character of Mr. Rochester, the master of Thornfield Hall, adds complexity to the theme of social class. Despite his wealth and status, he is drawn to Jane for her intelligence and integrity. It exceeds the social norms of the time. However, their relationship is still fraught with challenges and societal expectations.


Gender Roles

The novel explores the theme of gender roles in Victorian society. Jane Eyre, the novel’s protagonist, challenges traditional gender roles by seeking independence and self-respect. Despite her disadvantages as an orphan and a governess, she refuses to accept a life of subservience and seeks self-worth. In Victorian society, marriage was often seen as the primary intent for women, a means of gaining social status and financial security. However, Jane rejects a loveless marriage proposal from Mr. Rochester when she discovers his dark secret. This decision echoes her resolution to prioritize her emotional well-being over societal expectations.

The novel also underlines the gender inequality of the time, particularly in the treatment of women. Women like Bertha Mason, Mr. Rochester’s first wife, were often locked away when they did not conform to societal standards. Jane’s journey to self-discovery and empowerment represents a feminist perspective. Her denial of being restricted to traditional female roles and her pursuit of personal growth and fulfillment challenge the limitations placed on women in her era.


Love and Passion

The novel presents a passionate and unconventional love story that challenges societal expectations of the time. Jane Eyre’s journey to find love while maintaining her self-respect and independence is at the novel’s heart. Jane’s passionate nature is evident in her deep emotional connection with Mr. Rochester. She falls in love with him despite their differences in social status, and her love is based on a profound intellectual and emotional connection. Throughout the novel, Jane’s journey of self-discovery and her pursuit of independence are interwoven with her quest for love. She refuses to compromise her self-respect and principles in the name of love, ultimately finding a love that respects and values her as an equal.

The novel addresses the theme of love transcending social class. Despite Rochester’s higher social standings, his proposal to Jane challenges Victorian society’s traditional standards.


Gothic Elements

Gothic Novel is a literary genre characterized by elements of mystery, horror, and the supernatural, often set in dark and fearful settings such as castles, mansions, or remote landscapes. “Jane Eyre” is an iconic example of a Gothic Novel. Gothic elements are evident from the beginning when Jane is kept inside the Red Room as a punishment by her aunt, Mrs. Reed. The Red Room has a frightening atmosphere where her Uncle Reed died. In addition to its connection with death and garish red decor, the room is cold and silent, heightening Jane’s terror. Her terror climaxes when she imagines Uncle Reed’s ghost in the room.

Gothic elements unfold in gloomy and imposing Thornfield Hall, where Jane takes up the governess position. The mansion is a classic Gothic setting with hidden secrets, mysterious noises, and a brooding (thinking and unhappy) master, Mr. Rochester. The mysterious and deranged woman further heightens the foreboding atmosphere, Bertha Mason, locked away in the attic. The supernatural elements also come into play through Jane’s vivid dreams and eerie premonitions (a strong feeling that something terrible is about to happen). These elements add a layer of ambiguity and suspense to the story.