I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed, or her children, or her chosen vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love them…I know that, had I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child, though equally dependent and friendless, Mrs. Reed would have endured my presence more complacently; her children would have entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling; the servants would have been less prone to make me the scape-goat of the nursery.
At the beginning of the novel, Jane describes her struggles as a dependent at Gateshead Hall. In this scene, Jane is locked in the red-room as punishment. Jane insists that her strong personality, plain looks, and refusal to accept mistreatment are what ultimately cause the discord between herself and the household. This description reveals to the reader how Jane’s mistreatment at Gateshead negatively affects her emotional well-being. However, Jane’s personality traits will serve her well later in life.
During these eight years my life was uniform, but not unhappy, because it was not inactive…I availed myself fully of the advantages offered me…but at the end of that time I altered…I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing.
Jane describes her life at Lowood school and her feelings at the end of the eight years she spent there. She recounts her strong work ethic, growth, and accomplishments, but then reveals that she is growing restless and ready to explore the world. Jane exhibits her adventurous and courageous spirit once again as she seeks freedom from the Lowood school life.
When Mrs. Fairfax had bid me a kind good-night…I remembered that after a day of bodily fatigue and mental anxiety, I was now at last in safe haven. The impulse of gratitude swelled my heart, and I knelt down at the bedside and offered up thanks where thanks were due…My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room no fears. At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly; when I awoke it was broad day.
Jane arrives at Thornfield to a warm welcome from Mrs. Fairfax and is immediately filled with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this new chapter in her life. Jane describes that she finally feels safe, comfortable, content, and hopeful. While acknowledging that her past life was cold and dark, Jane chooses to focus on her new situation with a thankful heart and renewed optimism.
It was not my habit to be disregardful of appearance, or careless of the impression I made; on the contrary, I ever wished to look as well as I could, and to please as much as my want of beauty would permit. I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer; I sometimes wished to have rosy cheeks, a straight nose, and small cherry mouth…
On the morning of her first day at Thornfield, Jane describes to the reader how she pays attention to looking her best without being too absorbed with physical appearance. She admits that she sometimes wishes she was more physically beautiful with specific sought-after features. This quote reveals basic details about Jane’s appearance, but also shows her own self-awareness.
“Ah! By my word! There is something singular about you,” said he; “you have the air of a little nonnette; quaint, quiet, grave, and simple, as you sit with your hands before you, and your eyes generally bent on the carpet (except, by-the-by, when they are directed piercingly to my face, as just now, for instance); and when one asks you a question,, or makes a remark to which you are obliged to reply, you rap out a round rejoinder, which, if not blunt, is at least brusque.”
As Jane and Mr. Rochester get to know each other, Mr. Rochester shares his observations of Jane. He describes her as charming, quiet, and humble, even comparing her to a “nonnette” or little nun. However, Mr. Rochester also points out that Jane will answer questions directly with strength and honesty. Mr. Rochester recognizes Jane’s character quickly and with accuracy. He admires the same personality traits in Jane that once angered other people in her life.
“I see, you laugh rarely; but you can laugh very merrily; believe me, you are not naturally austere, any more than I am naturally vicious. The Lowood constraint still clings to you somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your voice, and restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of a man and a brother—or father, or master, or what you will—to smile too gayly, speak too freely, or move too quickly; but in time, I think you will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be conventional with you; and then your looks and movements will have more vivacity and variety than they dare offer now. I see at intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-set bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were it but free, it would soar cloud-high.”
Here, Mr. Rochester continues to recognize and describe Jane’s true potential. Even though he is just getting to know her, Mr. Rochester can see that while Jane is still rigid from years at Lowood, she has the capacity to be relaxed and natural. He declares that by spending time with him, Jane will learn to laugh, explore, and move freely. Mr. Rochester even compares her to a bird held captive that will soar when free.
While arranging my hair, I looked at my face in the glass, and felt it was no longer plain; there was hope in its aspect and life in its color; and my eyes seemed as if they had beheld the fount of fruition, and borrowed beams from the lustrous ripple. I had often been unwilling to look at my master, because I feared he could not be pleased at my look, but I was sure I might lift my face to his now and not cool his affection by its expression. I took a plain but clean and light summer dress from my drawer and put it on; it seemed no attire had ever so well become me, because none had I ever worn in so blissful a mood.
Jane views herself differently now that Mr. Rochester has declared his love for her. Jane is reflecting on her thoughts and feelings the morning following Mr. Rochester’s marriage proposal, the moment when she realized he loves her as much as she loves him. Her outlook on life and her happy mood affect how she feels and therefore, how she views her physical appearance. Acceptance by Mr. Rochester leads to her own self-acceptance.
Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent expectant woman—almost a bride—was a cold, solitary girl again; her life was pale; her prospects were desolate…I looked at my love; that feeling which was my master’s…it shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle; sickness and anguished had seized it; it could not seek Mr. Rochester’s arms—it could not derive warmth from his breast. Oh, never more could it turn to him; for faith was blighted—confidence destroyed!
Here Jane describes how she feels after the truth comes out that Mr. Rochester cannot marry her because he is already married. Following the revelation of this deception, she feels lost and alone again. These lines dramatize her desperation at realizing that everything she felt before this news is lost to her. She has not only lost Mr. Rochester, but also her hope, dreams, and confidence in herself.
“You entered the room with a look and air at once shy and independent…ere long I found you full of strange contrasts…Very soon you seemed to get used to me—I believe you felt the existence of sympathy between you and your grim and cross master, Jane; for it was astonishing to see how quickly a certain pleasant ease tranquillized your manner…you showed no surprise, fear, annoyance, or displeasure, at my moroseness; you watched me, and now and then smiled at me with a simple yet sagacious grace I cannot describe.”
In the day following the revelation that Mr. Rochester is a married man, Mr. Rochester pleads with Jane to understand, forgive, and stay with him in some way. In his attempt to convince Jane to stay, he describes how he felt about her from the very beginning. Mr. Rochester’s insightful, accurate, and vivid description of Jane reveals to the reader that he genuinely knows who she is and he loves her deeply.
“Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life—if every I thought a good thought—if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer—if ever I wished a righteous wish, I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth…To be privileged to put my arms round what I value—to press my lips to what I love—to repose on what I trust; is that to make a sacrifice?...then certainly I delight in sacrifice.”
Jane and Mr. Rochester discuss their reunited love and future plans. Jane passionately declares that she wants nothing more than to spend her life with Mr. Rochester. In this declaration, Jane shows her genuine character as someone who treasures loving and being loved. She knows that having this kind of love and happiness is everything she has ever wanted.