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Jane Eyre Self-Awarness Essay, Research Paper
Charlotte Bronte was a strong-willed woman with extreme beliefs in self-awareness and individuality, a viewpoint that was tacitly condemned in those times. Throughout her novels Charlotte never failed to collide the main character with the discovery of her true worth. Jane Eyre was Charlotte’s most popular novels and happens to beautifully demonstrate the main character gradually becoming in touch with her true self through life lessons.
The journey of Miss Jane Eyre begins at Gateshead where she is in the care of her cruel aunt who treats her like someone off the streets. In the words of Maggie Berg, a critic who wrote Jane Eyre: A Companion to the Novel, Jane sees herself as a “rebellious slave” and “hungerstricken”. She is clearly the “scapegoat of the nursery” (pg. 47). In the eyes of her wicked aunt she was a “precocious actress” and was therefor regularly locked up like a dog. According to Berg the effect of these accounts drew attention to her self-dramatization. From the very moment Jane was able to read she was constantly attracted by the disguised portraits that she make for herself in books, ballads, and dolls. The recurring theme of self-awareness I saw in Jane Eyre started from the first time Jane saw herself in the mirror which consequentially gave her a fresh awareness of her own identity. When John “throws the book” at Jane Charlotte Bronte’s attempt was to both literally and metaphorically symbolize the deprivation he was instigating of any sense of herself and her rights.
According to Jacques Lacan, the first identity of oneself in a mirror is the most decisive stage in human development. It provides the “awareness of oneself as an object of knowledge”.
I had to cross before the looking glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessies’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travelers. (46)
Throughout her childhood at Gateshead Jane was treated in the most unjust manner, but never until she was locked up it the notorious “Red Room” had she ever admitted to hating her family. When she finally did get her hatred off her chest it yielded much relief, but was followed by intense guilt because such behavior is one that she was grown up not to condone within herself. Her guilt is what I believe to be her first lesson in her self-awareness. Every time she seemed to release herself, something I’ve always found to be healthy, she suppressed them with her guilt. Throughout the novel, like Berg commented, Jane projects her emotions of intense resentment that she doesn’t condone in herself and doesn’t like to admit. The crisis in the Red Room was a major lesson of self-awareness for Jane in the sense that it caused her to “fall from childhood innocence into recognition of her own potential evil.”
The Red Room crisis is recounted by Jane four times; each time differently as a result of the unexpected non-sympathetic attitudes she received from the listener of the previous account. The first account was most impassioned.
I shall remember how you thrust me back-roughly and violently thrust me back-into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day, though I was in agony, though I cried out, whole suffocating with distress, “Have mercy! Have mercy Aunt Reed!” I will tell anybody who asks me questions this exact tale. (68-69)
The second account was to the apothecary who didn’t yield too much sympathy, but the third, to Helen Burns was one of no tolerance or sympathy in the least bit. Helen firmly says, “Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs” (90). This turns out to be a lesson about herself that Jane chooses to take with her for the future progression of her identity. We know that she has progressed by examining the account of the same incident to Mrs. Temple for the fourth time.
I resolved in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate-most correct; and, having reflected a few minutes in order to arrange coherently what I had to say, I told her all the story of my sad childhood. Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful of Helen’s warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary. Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me. (102-3)
At Gateshead Jane undergoes a physical and spiritual transition away from her inner confinement. She is very strong-willed and decisive from what I’ve seen. For example when she explored beyond the gates at Thornfield she is unwilling to return to the “gloomy house . the gray hollow” (148). She sees all this through glass doors.
The Loowood School is Jane’s greatest transition. She confronts the harsh reality of physical survival and gets a sense of her own worth. The journey to the school begins in cold and darkness before dawn in the first month of the year, which symbolized a new birth for her. She is about to physically change her life, but she will also discover much about herself, helping to mold her self-identification. At the school she also becomes more adventurous.
Her discovery of herself at Loowood begins when Helen Burns tells her that she is too dependent on the approval of others. By always keeping this in mind throughout the story Jane is able to ignore the disapproval of others and live life the way she wants. In that respect she becomes a stronger person. The punishment Jane receives by Mr. Brocklehurst is a major visual presentation of herself. She had a superior position on the stool and all the “ladies” underneath her looked ridiculous. Berg commented that Jane’s bird eye view alters her perspective psychologically and she surprises herself by being so self-controlled. ” I mastered the rising hysteria, lifted up my head, and took a firm stand on the stool” (99). Jane is metaphorically “propped up” by the sympathetic glances of her fellow pupils. Here Jane learns another valuable lesson from Helen. “If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, whole your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends” (101), says Helen. From this she learns that being dubbed a liar doesn’t make her one. Berg exclaims that whatever label is pinned on her, her soul remains her own. To me it’s no wonder Helen Burns dies in the story. She seems to me to resemble the martyr in Jane’s life. Helen is Jane’s Jesus.
The consequence of being called a liar was being called innocent. Miss Temple believed her as did her fellow pupils. This was a turning point in her life because it gave her self worth having the approval of the majority of the school. Yet Jane was not satisfied with her view. She had expanded her self-awareness to such a great degree that the school was hindering her from expanding.
The first encounter of self-awareness Jane experienced at Thornfield is when the gypsy tells her she has “resigned to a feelingless universe because she won’t admit to her aspirations”. The oracle seems to tell Jane more than she is prepared to acknowledge. She does although declare herself capable of realizing her fantasies and creating her own reality.
Jane receives a summons from her dying aunt. Surprisingly, she returns. Berg believes this is because Jane senses that she must go back into her past to go forward into her future. Jane is willing to abide to the “sympathetic communication” that the oracle speaks about. I realized how much Jane grew in her self-identification by thinking about and contrasting what Jane would’ve done had she not transgressed in the manner that she did. She would have no sympathy and would not give her aunt the time of day had she not learned the life lessons about herself that she did. She learned the art of kindness and sympathy from for example Helen.
When Rochester tells Jane that he is to marry Blanch, Jane feels as if her whole world had crumbled. All her self-confidence she had gained and the new foundation she built for herself was torn down. But her self-awareness lessons through all her doubts away and gave her an even stronger self-confidence: “the vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway and asserting a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last: yes-and to speak” (280-81). What Jane says is an absolute denial of her previous portrait of herself as “disconnected, poor, plain.” She now recognizes that although she doesn’t have Blanche’s external features, she has something of much greater value “beneath the surface.”
Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton?-a machine without feelings? 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! (281)
Jane soon sees herself in great peril. Her husband was becoming her whole world, everything she new.
My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world; almost my hope of heaven. He stood between mea and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol. (302)
Jane is even afraid to look herself in the mirror. She no longer knows herself. Again she must become a stronger person and reflect on all that she learned about herself. She must leave Rochester. She needed this break in order to move farther in her addictive quest for her self. Once she was able to achieve integrity, and a sense of individual status, she realized that she was only truly a full person with Rochester.
Charlotte Bronte was a woman of strong beliefs; this cannot be stressed enough for it is too prominent in her novels to ignore. Often she would incorporate the modern view of society towards something and in her own way satirize it through her novels. An example is the oppressed status of women that Charlotte was a victim of in her own time. She declared that “a good woman can’t live without self-respect.”
‘Who in the world cares for you? Or who will be injured by what you do?’ pleads Rochester. ‘I care for myself’ answers Jane. ‘The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself ..’ (Ch. 27)
It is clear that Charlotte herself must have gone through Jane’s life lessons because the lessons and the form in which they appeared in Jane’s life seem too realistic and justifiable. The depiction of the model of a woman who undergoes self-awareness and identity is Jane Eyre, a woman who goes from believing herself plain and common to a strong-willed female who has her new found integrity, no boundaries, but most significantly, no limitations.
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