Individual Vs Society in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

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About this sample


Words: 1853 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 1853|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

In the novel Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte illustrates that an individual’s character signifies more than their class standing. Jane Eyre, the novel's protagonist, personally experiences multiple transitions between economic statuses providing her insight on the integrity of the people she comes across. In mid-nineteenth century England, Jane migrates through the lower, middle, and upper classes of the Victorian time period. Jane forms relationships with a wide variety of people who in turn, supply her with intuitiveness on the treatment of others based on class. Despite Jane’s maneuvering through economic statuses, she remains true to herself. Charlotte Bronte uses Jane Eyre’s mobility, relationships, and character to strengthen the theme of social class.

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Jane Eyre, from a young age, was exposed to the reality of treatment within statuses. At birth, Jane’s class position is believed to be open to interpretation. Jane learned that her father was a poor clergyman and her mother was considered to be in a higher class. Bronte writes, “…my mother had married him against the wishes of her friends, who considered the match beneath her; that my grandfather Reed was so irritated at her disobedience, he cut her off without a shilling…” (Bronte 42). Both of her parents passed due to an infection, leaving her in the hands of her wealthy aunt, Mrs. Reed. Although living in the home, Jane wasn’t treated with the same respect and honor as her cousins. She was pushed around, locked in a room without an ounce of nourishment, and diminished to “the poor orphan child”. Jane was sent off to Lowood, a charity school for female orphans. Again, she was treated with disrespect and put under harsh conditions. During this time, she befriends Helen Burns and the pair endure the miserable environment with cruel treatment. Mr. Brocklehurst, the master of the school, believes in depriving the students, proving his varied opinion between social classes. Bronte illustrates by writing Brocklehurst’s quote, “I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel;” (Bronte 118). Helen Burns takes on this conduct with patience, tolerance, and even dignity. Jane has a hard time understanding this but does appreciate it. “I heard her with wonder: I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathize with the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser. Still I felt that Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I suspected she might be right and I wrong”. The treatment of Jane by those who surround her enlighten her of the inner-character differences within the social system.

As Jane grows older, she remains true to herself while continuing to experience the implied class differences between herself and those who environ her. Jane becomes a teacher at Lowood, where she experiences life in the working class. Her education moves her along the social pyramid into the lower-middle class when she accepts a job at Thornfield Estates as a governess. Jane finally obtains an income tutoring a young girl, Adele. Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper greets Jane, where she first encounters a difference in manner. “She treats me like a visitor,’ thought I. ‘I little expected such a reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is not like what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I must not exult too soon” (Bronte 181). As she continues to familiarize herself with the other servants she notices that she is expected to treat others within certain guidelines. “..Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and John and his wife are very decent people; but then you see they are only servants, and one can’t converse with them on terms of equality: one must keep them at due distance, for fear of losing one’s authority'. Jane Eyre meets the master, Mr. Rochester, who immediately catches her eye. Mr. Rochester is accompanied by aristocratic and elegant guests including Blanche Ingram. Rochester invites Jane to join their company, but spends the time watching from a window seat while the party members treat Jane with cruelty and antipathy. She realizes there ought to be a union between the two, Rochester for his money and Ingram for her beauty and social position. Jane doesn’t believe that Mr. Rochester is the type of man to comply with social norms and expectations. “I have not yet said anything condemnatory of Mr. Rochester’s project of marrying for interest and connections. It surprised me when I first discovered that such was his intention: I had thought him a man unlikely to be influenced by motives so commonplace in his choice of a wife; but the longer I considered the position, education, &c., of the parties, the less I felt justified in judging and blaming either him or Miss Ingram for acting in conformity to ideas and principles instilled into them, doubtless, from their childhood”. Jane confesses her love to Mr. Rochester, following with him asking her to marry him. After her acceptance, many complications came about, driving Jane to retreat Thornfield, in turn changing her social status once again to a homeless runaway. During her time at Thornfield, Jane experiences a substantial amount of social class expectations along with migration through the structure.

As Jane’s tale advances, class standings remain a relevant theme as a result of her being at the lowest stature in the novel thus far. Jane is homeless, starving, and cold, therefore, is descending herself to be a vagrant and beggar. “What was I? In the midst of my pain of heart and frantic effort of principle, I abhorred myself. I had no solace from self- approbation: none even from self-respect. I had injured — wounded — left my master. I was hateful in my own eyes”. Even at her lowest time she stayed true to herself and brought out the beauty of the situation. Jane still had hope and trust in God that she would get through this. “Worn out with this torture of thought, I rose to my knees. Night was come, and her planets were risen: a safe, still night: too serene for the companionship of fear. We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence”. Jane approaches two women with intentions of receiving their help. “…Here is a penny; now go — ‘ ‘A penny cannot feed me, and I have no strength to go farther. Don’t shut the door:- oh, don’t, for God’s sake!” (Bronte 641). Luckily, her status changes yet again when St. John Rivers helps Jane and gives her a job running a charity school for girls. St. John’s sisters apologize for initially judging Jane unfairly but later befriend her. She stays sheltered and fed while making her own income again. Although, Jane was disappointed and felt like the job was debasing and downgrading. This comes along with her change in social status. Jane loosely accepted a proposal from St. John. He then confronted Jane about her identity and reveals that Janes uncle left her with 20,000 pounds. Jane now had family and wealth. “It seemed I had found a brother: one I could be proud of, — one I could love; and two sisters, whose qualities were such, that, when I knew them but as mere strangers, they had inspired me with genuine affection and admiration”. She climbed the social structure again and now was among the elite upper class. Jane declines St. John’s request to go to India with him and be his wife. Jane notices that he considers her a tool to help the business he has in India. “Far from that, Diana; his sole idea in proposing to me is to procure a fitting fellow-labourer in his Indian toils” (Bronte 796). She is now being treated differently than ever before. Bronte illustrates that the treatment of the upper class varies greatly from what Jane has ever experienced previously. Bronte depicts Jane in a new light, furthermore expressing the differences in economic classes.

As the novel progresses, Jane’s inner conflicts throughout her life begin to seize as she eventually feels the equality she has been awaiting. Jane finds herself back at Thornfield due to a tragedy leaving Mr. Rochester blind. Jane feels for him and solely wants to take care of him and be his nurse. “And, reader, do you think I feared him in his blind ferocity? — if you do, you little know me. A soft hope blest with my sorrow that soon I should dare to drop a kiss on that brow of rock, and on those lips so sternly sealed beneath it: but not yet”. She takes note of how much her life has changed in the past year following her departure. Now, with family, friends, and wealth, Jane views them both as equals but realizes it never mattered. “I should have confided in him: he would never have forced me to be his mistress. Violent as he had seemed in his despair, he, in truth, loved me far too well and too tenderly to constitute himself my tyrant: he would have given me half his fortune, without demanding so much as a kiss in return, rather than I should have flung myself friendless on the wide world. I had endured, he was certain, more than I had confessed to him” (Bronte 844). She, without doubts, agrees to ultimately marry Mr. Rochester. Jane feels at peace with the decision she has made mostly due to her understanding that evolution in status is irrelevant. She goes to see and help Adele, who reminds her much of herself when she was an orphan at a school with harsh and cruel conditions. Jane finishes her tale after 10 years of marriage with Mr. Rochester, a complete cycle of social status, and a deep understanding of the motives of others based on these statuses. Bronte concludes the story with Jane finding peace in her “position” in the social structure and accepting the treatment she receives and has received throughout her life.

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By and large, the reader cannot depict a single social and economic class that Jane belonged to. Throughout all stages in her life, Jane attained the same behavior, empathy, and understanding of those who surrounded her. She went above and beyond to stay true to herself, push past the hard times, and not assess others based on their economic stature. Although her class status changed drastically, Jane endures the same character from beginning to end of the novel. Bronte depicts Jane to have characteristics of one who experiences many economic changes but doesn’t allow that to affect the nature and quality of herself. The author applies Jane Eyre’s adjustability, relationships, and spirit to establish the theme of social class. Charlotte Bronte provides a tale on a how social class does not define character. 

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Individual Vs Society In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from
“Individual Vs Society In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
Individual Vs Society In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jun. 2024].
Individual Vs Society In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 10 [cited 2024 Jun 17]. Available from:
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