Personal discovery in Jane Eyre

Jane walking on the hillside

The form of Brontë's Jane Eyre is a bildungsroman. A bildungsroman is a novel that follows the main protagonist and the struggles they have from their childhood to adulthood. The main protagonist learns from their experiences and this develops them as a person. The novel ends with them usually succeeding in later life, often finding happiness.

In Jane Eyre, Jane goes on a journey of personal discovery and finds out who she is, both in terms of her own identity and personality, and how she can find her own happiness. She is a true heroine and many readers rejoice in Jane's story and how she conquers Victorian society by pursuing her own happiness.

How is personal discovery shown in Jane Eyre?

  • Through Jane's experiences and what she learns from them.
  • Through the ending of the novel - Jane gains her independence and marries Rochester.
How is personal discovery shown in the novel?EvidenceAnalysis
When Jane cannot marry St JohnSt John asks Jane to marry him so they can both become missionaries in India. Jane nearly accepts but then realises she cannot marry a man she does not love.Jane tells St John she cannot marry him, refusing when he keeps insisting: "Seek one elsewhere than in me, St John: one fitted to you."This illustrates Jane's forthright nature, as she is telling St John she will not marry him. Jane sticks to her principles and can't marry without love. Later on she tells St John that, "If I were to marry you, you would kill me." This is symbolic as Jane is suggesting a marriage without love would be deadly.
When she realises she still loves RochesterAfter St John has proposed to Jane, she hears Rochester calling to her in the night. It is then that Jane realises she cannot marry a man she does not love.After Jane's refusal, St John tells Jane that he knows she loves Rochester: "I know where your heart turns and to what it clings."The use of personification illustrates how Jane's love is a part of her and is ready to be awakened again. This shows personal discovery as Jane is now aware of her love and will do something about it.
Jane's independence and happinessAt the end of the novel, Jane is independent and marries Rochester as an equal, finally achieving ultimate happiness.I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.Jane is stating that she and Rochester are the same - they are joined together through love. Jane has achieved her happiness in Rochester. This quotation also links to the Bible, highlighting how pure their love is.

Analysing the evidence

Jane visits her Aunt Reed at Gateshead when her Aunt is severely ill and at risk of dying.

quote
Love me, then, or hate me, as you will," I said at last, "you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God's and be at peace." Poor, suffering woman! It was too late for her to make now the effort to change her habitual frame of mind: living, she had ever hated me - dying she must hate me still.Jane forgives a dying Mrs Reed
Question

How does Brontë present Jane's personality in this extract? How does it differ from the beginning of her novel?

'"Love me, then, or hate me, as you will," I said at last, "you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now for God's and be at peace."

Poor, suffering woman! It was too late for her to make now the effort to change her habitual frame of mind: living, she had ever hated me - dying she must hate me still.'

  • "my full and free forgiveness" - this shows that Jane has truly changed the way she feels for her aunt, as she pities her and forgives her for her poor treatment and abuse. The use of the words 'full' and 'free' illustrate how earnest Jane is and how her personality has changed over the course of the novel.
  • "ask now for God's" - Jane is instructing her aunt to ask for God's forgiveness, therefore highlighting how independent and confident she is, as she is instructing her aunt to do something.
  • 'Poor, suffering woman!' - Jane pities her aunt. This demonstrates how Jane's feelings towards her aunt have changed and how she has learnt to sympathise with her situation. The use of the exclamation mark heightens Jane's emotion.
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