Charlotte Brontë's character Jane Eyre is first introduced as a dependent of her unsympathetic and cold aunt, Sarah Gibson Reed. Jane's anger leads her aunt to sent her away to Lowood, a school for girls wheren the strict, unstimulating environment makes Jane feel quite alone and unhappy. Very worried about making friends, Jane becomes even more distraught when Brocklehurst arrives to inspect the school and humiliates Jane for an act of clumsiness. When another student, Helen Burns, comes to comfort Jane after the incident, she says,
Hush, Jane! you think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement: the sovereign hand that created your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble self, or than creatures feeble as you. Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits; that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us on all sides and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures, recognise our innocence . . . Why, then, should we ever sink overwhelmed with distress, when life is soon over, and death is so certain an entrance to happiness — to glory?"
1. How does the character of Helen Burns represent a religious mode of thinking? Why did Brontë choose to include Helen in the setting of Lowood, how does she offer a contrast to the education and indoctrination Jane is receiving there, as well as parallel some of the ideas Lowood enforces?
2. Helen consoles Jane by chiding her for being too "impulsive" and thinking "too much of the love of human beings". These are traits we have already seen as very strong within Jane's character. How does Jane internalize and respond to Helen's advice, and to this view, with its emphasis on meekness and patience?
Helen offers Jane comfort in the idea of death as a glorious "entrance to happiness". Why is this introduction of an idea important to the development of Jane's character? Also, how does this foreshadow the ultimate development of Helen's illness and subsequent death. When her friend passes away, still confident in her religious beliefs even at death's door, how does Jane re-evaluate the notions
Last updated 2 February 2004