Jane Eyre Essay

Write a coherent, well-organized essay (750 words +/- 10%) that demonstrates a close critical engagement with the form and style of the following passage and makes an argument.

The extract takes place in chapter twenty-three of the novel, where it is revealed that Mr. Rochester intends to marry Blanche Ingram, thus endangering Jane Eyre’s position as the governess of Thornfield Mansion.  This specific extract focuses on Jane’s passion, manifesting itself, as an attack against Mr. Rochester.  However, this attack ultimately fails, as Mr. Rochester proposes to Jane, which she accepts.  Essentially, even though, Jane initially attempts to stand up to Mr. Rochester, she still ends up submitting to his authority; a notion, which appears throughout the novel.

Within the extract, there is the quotation “do you think I am automaton? – a machine without feelings,”¹ which relates strongly to Jane’s struggling independence.  The use of “automaton”² (Jane Eyre, p. 223) connotes with science and independence, but it can also mean ‘robot.’  This can connote with slavery and reliance; robots or automatons were not typically sentient and were governed by logic and not emotions. This can be symbolic of how Mr. Rochester believes Jane is without feeling, but it can also be metaphorical for Jane’s struggle between her conflicting emotions towards Mr. Rochester and her desire to gain independence.  She knows it is logical for her to leave, but her love for her master is holding her back.

The extract presents Jane as an independent woman through the lack of subordinate language within Jane’s passionate speech at the extract’s beginning.  For example, Jane does not address Mr. Rochester by his title or his name throughout her speech, which is effective, because it represents her growing assertiveness and her growing desire to not be submissive towards men and patriarchy.  However, this idea is quickly juxtaposed within the following lines of the extract: “yes, so, sir,”   (Jane Eyre, p. 223) which displays Jane once again addressing Mr. Rochester by his title.  This has the effect of demonstrating how Jane is struggling to break free of Mr. Rochester’s authority; despite her earlier impassioned speech that criticises Mr. Rochester, Jane still feels obligated to formally address Mr. Rochester, as this is the way she has been raised.  This notion is also seen in the scene of the novel, where Mr. Rochester reveals to Jane that he has been dressing up as gypsy fortune-teller and he requests that she helps him remove his costume, thus highlighting his reliance on her and expressing his vulnerability.  This is only emphasised through Jane giving the commandment “break it, sir,” (Jane Eyre, p. 177) which is a sentence that begins with an imperative.  This shows Jane taking control of the scene, as she is ordering Mr. Rochester to do something.  However, Jane also addresses her employer as “sir,” (Jane Eyre, p.177) which negates the control she just gained.  Jane finds it difficult to break free from the submissive nature she was socialised into.

The most prevalent example of Jane submitting to patriarchy, despite her rebellious protests is the fact that she agrees to marry Mr. Rochester, when he proposes to her.  Within the passage, there is evidence to suggest Jane’s intentions to be an independent woman, such as “I am no bird […] I am a free human being,” (Jane Eyre, p. 223) which demonstrates Jane’s defiance, as for one, she is directly contradicting Mr. Rochester.  The fact that Mr. Rochester addresses her as a “wild, frantic bird,” (Jane Eyre p. 223) implies that he thinks that Jane is a chaotic, abrupt individual.    She never thinks anything through and can be quite impulsive within her thought process.  This impulsiveness is seen initially within the first few pages of the novel, where Jane attacks John Reed.   This could be a commentary on the female stereotype of how women are ruled by emotion and not by logic; an idea that was commonly held in Victorian times.

However, despite the fact that Jane goes back and forth between being an assertive woman and submitting to patriarchy it can be argued that she eventually does come out on top.  She receives a £20,000 inheritance from the Rivers family, meaning she no longer has to depend on Mr. Rochester and it is in fact Mr. Rochester that becomes dependent on her.  It could be argued that even by marrying him; she has ascended to his social class and has become his equal. In essence, Jane Eyre has beaten the patriarchal Victorian society and finishes as an independent, self-reliant woman.

759 words


Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 1992)

*Author’s Notes*

This is the first essay that I had written as part of my English Literature degree.  It is a simple textual analysis of the below extract from Jane Eyre.  I didn’t do very well on it-only receiving a low 2:2, but hey, I had to start somewhere.

OPTION 1: Section from Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (Chapter XXIII)

‘I tell you I must go!’ I retorted, roused to something like passion. ‘Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton? – a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; – it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal – as we are!’

‘As we are!’ repeated Mr. Rochester – ‘so,’ he added, enclosing me in his arms. Gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips: ‘so, Jane!’

‘Yes, so, sir,’ I rejoined: ‘and yet not so; for you are a married man – or as good as a married man, and wed to one inferior to you – to one with whom you have no sympathy – whom I do not believe you truly love; for I have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn such a union: therefore I am better than you – let me go!’

‘Where, Jane? To Ireland?’

‘Yes – to Ireland. I have spoke my mind, and can go anywhere now.’

‘Jane, be still; don’t struggle so, like a wild, frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in desperation.’

‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.’


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