1. “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so somber, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercises was now out of the question. I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed” (Bronte 1). Ch. 1
These are the opening statements to the novel. Within this passage, a part of Jane’s character has already been revealed. At first it appears that she is saddened by the fact that she is not able to go for a walk outside, due to the disappointing tone that is exerted through her description of the clouds as ‘somber’ and the rain as ‘penetrating’. This shows that Jane might be misleading throughout the novel, with a seemingly conflicting personality, suggesting that she may be an unreliable narrator. This passage also subtly reveals Jane’s ages; although, not specifically. “…my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed” only vaguely suggests that she may be younger than these characters. However, if seen in a different perspective, it may already establish the relationship between Jane and those characters.
It is already evidently stated that Jane does not get along with Bessie, the nurse; Jane is often reprimanded by her apparently. From the diction of Bronte, choosing the word ‘inferiority’ to differentiate Jane and the Reeds, it might suggest that the Reeds are of some importance and Jane is lower in such significance to them. That may explain the humility that is mentioned. Later, it is revealed that Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed are all hostile toward her, so that may be the physical inferiority of Jane.
2. “‘I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately married, and will not miss me. By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault.’ ‘But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?’ ‘I believe; I have faith: I am going to God’” (Bronte 84). Ch. 9
For a young child, Helen Burns shows grand maturity, already accepting death as a part of life and showing no fear of it. Her words of graceful serenity and words that often refer to the Lord definitely highlight the pure faith that she possesses. From this conclusion, she shows opposite to both Jane and Mr. Brocklehurst, who, along with Helen, may both be representations of the theme of religion or Christianity in the novel.
Jane shows little faith and is ignorant of the subject of faith, as opposed to Helen, who shows a deep understanding of her faith. That is why Jane is stubborn when Helen tries to explain to her about her moral values. When Jane was upset towards Miss Temple earlier in the novel, Helen tried to tell Jane about the principles taught in the New Testament of the Bible, which states, as according to Helen, “‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you’” (Bronte 60). However, Jane’s obstinacy prevents her from truly understanding Helen’s reference and her intentions. This contrast can be seen at the end of this passage, where Jane asks Helen where she is going and Helen already ‘knows’ that she is going to God, or heaven.
Mr. Brocklehurst and Helen may represent the ‘bad type’ and ‘good type’, respectively. Mr. Brocklehurst represents the hypocrisy that some Christians may exhibit. This is exemplified a few times, one such being earlier where he suggest that the girls at Lowood should have their hair cut short because curly hair is not Christian-like. But then soon after his wife and two daughters appear with their hair in curls. Helen shows the purity of Christianity, in which she stays true to her morals, despite what has happened to her, as suggested in the passage that her father left her, possibly explaining her attendance at Lowood.
3. “On a dark, misty, raw morning in January, I had left a hostile roof with a desperate and embittered heart –a sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation – to seek the chilly harbourage of Lowood: that bourne so far away and unexplored. The same hostile roof now again rose before me: my prospects were doubtful yet; and I had yet an aching heart. I still felt as a wanderer on the face of the earth; but I experienced firmer trust in myself and my own powers, and less withering dread of oppression. The gaping wound of my wrongs, too, was now quite healed; and the flame of resentment extinguished” (Bronte 229, 230). Ch. 21
As Jane revisits Gateshead, it is apparent that all she remembers of that place is the forms of abuse she endured earlier from the Reed family, suggested by the descriptions used such as the house as hostile and her heart as “desperate and embittered”. However, evidence that she is a dynamic character may be seen here, in which Jane is able to ease some of the tension that she has felt for so long. This passage also reveals that Jane may have finally forgiven the Reed family for the aforementioned abuse imposed upon her, suggested through the mention of her “withering dread of oppression”, healing “wound of [her] wrongs”, and extinguishing “flame of resentment”.
4. “‘If you could but be persuaded to think no more of it, aunt, and to regard me with kindness and forgiveness –’ ‘You have a very bad disposition,’ said she, ‘and one to this day I feel it impossible to understand: how for nine years you could be patient and quiescent under any treatment, and in the tenth break out all fire and violence, I can never comprehend.’ ‘My disposition is not so bad as you think: I am passionate, but not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been glad to love you if you would have let me; and I long earnestly to be reconciled to you now: kiss me, aunt’” (Bronte 241, 242). Ch. 21
It is astounding to see that while Jane is forgiving Mrs. Reed, Mrs. Reed responds with a bit of an insult to Jane’s ‘bad disposition’. However, this may reveal Mrs. Reed’s character of true evil, for she is unable to fathom the kindness of Jane. Although earlier in the novel when Jane was leaving for Lowood she said she would never refer to Mrs. Reed as aunt, she does do so while returning to care for Mrs. Reed during Mrs. Reed’s sickness. Jane has definitely changed, or more so grown, as a character for she has learned to forgive through her growing faith and intimacy with God, which may have started due to the influence of Helen Burns earlier in the novel. Mrs. Reed’s character and ignorance of Jane’s kindness can be seen as a reference to what Jane said to Helen earlier in the book: “If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would grow worse and worse” (Bronte 59, 60).
Jane often acquiesced to the instructions of Mrs. Reed when Jane was younger, aside from little murmurs under Jane’s breath and minute back-talking. The one significant instance in which someone stands up to Mrs. Reed was from Jane’s outburst, where she mentions she would no longer refer to Mrs. Reed as ‘aunt’. Aside from this, no one else is known to correct Mrs. Reed for her cruelty. Whether Mrs. Reed grew worse in her cruelty is undeterminable; however, her cruelty definitely did not get better, thus remaining static.
5. “His form was of the same strong and stalwart contour as ever: his port as still erect, his hair was still raven-black; nor were his features altered or sunk: not in one year’s space, by any sorrow, could his athletic strength be quelled, or his vigorous prime blighted. But in his countenance, I saw a change: that looked desperate and brooding – that reminded me of some wronged and fettered wild beast or bird, dangerous to approach in his sullen woe. The caged eagle, whose gold-ringed eyes cruelty has extinguished, might look as looked that sightless Samson” (Bronte 434). Ch. 37
The metaphor of Mr. Rochester being an analogous to an eagle is quite effective here, whereas Mr. Rochester is depicted as a stern man, who shows leader-like qualities through his commanding personality and given strong features, and the eagle, too, is seen as a strong bird of honor. Bronte describes Mr. Rochester in such a way to show that the change in him is not entirely physical. However, he is physically disabled, which is later revealed. That might be why he is described as “the caged eagle”, because of the disabilities he gained while he was away: he was blinded and lost one of his hands due to a fire caused by his mentally deranged wife. It can also be inferred, though, that he has been blinded due to the illusion of the Biblical character Samson at the end of the passage. In the Bible, Samson, after being imprisoned by the Palestinians, had his eyes plucked out and was enslaved temporarily.