Jane’s Escape from Thornfield: Driven by Reason or Passion?

Despite Jane’s occasional acts of rebellion, her character is usually defined by her practical nature. Throughout Jane Eyre, Jane is frequently reigning in her emotions to act with prudence rather than passion. When describing Jane, Mr. Rochester asserts, “The forehead declares, ‘Reason sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms…judgment shall have the last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision’” (Bronte 233). To many readers, Jane’s swift departure from Thornfield supports Rochester’s statement. After discovering that Rochester is already married, Jane knows she cannot follow her heart; as long as Bertha lives, Jane and Rochester’s relationship cannot continue. She ignores her inner voice, pleading with her to “…soothe him; save him; love him” (Bronte 365). Instead, Jane makes the reasonable choice: she decides to leave Thornfield. Although Jane’s assessment of her dire situation is undoubtedly pragmatic, the manner of her escape is driven primarily by passion.

In the past, Jane escaped unhappy situations in a reasonable way. When Miss Temple leaves Lowood, and Jane decides she wishes to follow suit, she devises a plan. She puts out an advertisement, and only leaves her current situation when a new one is guaranteed. Jane’s middle-of-the-night departure from Thornfield is wholly out of character. In a rush to escape Rochester, Jane’s preparations for her departure are inadequate. She has only twenty shillings and no destination in mind, yet she will not be delayed. Furthermore, Jane herself acknowledges that passion, not reason, guides her escape. She explains, “As to my own will or conscience, impassioned grief had trampled one and stifled the other” (Bronte 370). Although reason motivates Jane’s initial decision to flee, passion, in the form of anguish, guides her the rest of the way. At this moment, she does not exemplify practicality at all.  Rather, she loses her cool, logical exterior and becomes exponentially more realistic, as a heroine with a broken heart.

Works Cited

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Stevie Davies. London: Penguin, 2006. Print.

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