Love and Restraint: Jane’s Struggle to Strike a Balance

Throughout our time reading the novel as a class, we have discussed at length Jane Eyre’s struggle for love throughout her life. Growing up in a rather loveless environment is what created and fostered her strong desire to be loved and to give love to others. However, during her time at Lowood she was educated in the culture of restraint. Under the reign of Mr. Brocklehurst the girls were constantly reminded of their duty to remain subdued and frugal. As a result, Jane during her formative years was given very little affection from anyone, and learned to restrain her emotions and be a dutiful Christian. She did not have the pleasure of a happy childhood nor the privilege of growing up surrounded by family members who cared for her, and as such she sought love and affection from different sources. Her relationship with Helen Burns and Ms. Temple are reflections of her desperate attempt to love, and when she no longer can receive their comforts she becomes restless and leaves her position at Lowood. She will not stay long where she feels she has no one.

Throughout Jane’s time at Thornfield, she must once again contain her emotions and suppress her growing affection for Mr. Rochester. She convinces herself that he does not return her emotions, despite him calling her to his side often and confiding in her at different times throughout her stay there. She has a constant inner monologue throughout the novel where we hear her trying to constrain herself and prevent herself from feeling emotions too strongly, or letting them show at all.

Jane’s struggle is not a new one-especially for the 19th century woman who was becoming more recognized in society but at the same time struggled with the solidified gender roles that permeated society at the time. A woman had her own sphere, and was as such contained within it. Jane lives a life of containment, she must conceal her hurt, her love, and even her suspicions in the case of Mr. Rochester all in order to appear as a model child, student, governess, and ultimately a model woman. This commitment to being a demure, quiet woman takes a toll on Jane, and she struggles throughout the novel with trying to find a balance between showing emotion and keeping herself in check. With Mr. Rochester, the effort of trying to hold everything is exhausting, and she doesn’t question him or his motives at all. Even when she sees Mr. Mason attacked and is pressed into service by Rochester, she never questions him for details or tries to pry. Jane knows her role and her position, but that does not mean that she doesn’t struggle with it throughout the novel.

Only at the end of the novel, when Jane sees Mr. Rochester in his elderly state does she feel that she can marry him. Additionally, he is free from the ties of Bertha Mason. However only when Rochester’s stature has been diminished and he is on the edge of blindness does Jane agree wholeheartedly to marry him. Jane even remarks on how they live equally now in their respective roles. Perhaps it is because Jane no longer feels she must restrain herself, since she now is physically superior to Rochester in that she is still healthy and young. Or it may be that now she feels once he has been made to be dependent on her as well can they truly be equal.

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