Jane Eyre – Short Paper #2

A short paper I wrote for my Critical Readings class on Jane Eyre. I’ve also included the graded version of the paper with the professor’s notes.

Date: Monday, January 30, 2006,

Short Paper #2 – Jane Eyre


The novel Jane Eyre contains many literary themes, motifs and symbols. The most blatant of those elements is religion. Bronte quotes liberally from the bible and gives biblical sounding names to characters: Miss Temple, St. John, Mary. However, prevalent as the Christian influence may be, religion does not have the greatest impact on Jane’s formation and is not the driving force behind Jane’s behavior. What is that driving force is Jane’s constant search for parental
figures, primarily mother figures. Jane grew up orphaned. She had a family of course, but those people were strangers to her; they did not provide a warm and loving family atmosphere: Jane was an emotional prisoner in her own house. From this prison Jane took nothing except the need to feel loved and to belong to someone.

The first such mother figure was Jane’s friend at Lowood, Helen Burns. Helen was also a student, but several years older than Jane. Helen became Jane’s first and only friend among her classmates. Helen was a young girl herself, maybe thirteen or fourteen, but was, nonetheless, in Jane’s eyes, an experienced and mature girl to be emulated and revered. Jane admired Helen for her inner strength, her kind way, her patience and her intelligence. Jane couldn’t understand why Helen would tolerate her punishment with quiet acquiescence: Helen would fetch the rod she was beaten with and not make a sound while she was being whipped. When it was over Helen would explain that it was punishment she had earned and so had no right to complain. The much ridiculed and despised Helen Burns provided the love and companionship desperately needed by Jane; but she also continued the pattern of people entering Jane’s life and then
quickly leaving.

The second motherly figure for Jane was a teacher at Lowood, Miss Temple. Miss Temple was the kindest of the teachers, as well a being the teacher who most understood the plight of the students. Temple was demanding like the other teachers, but far less severe in her punishment of the students. Perhaps this was because she not much older than they: maybe eighteen or nineteen. But what really separated Miss Temple from the teachers and administration at Lowood was the fact that she looked as the girls there as human beings and especially as girls. She resisted Mr. Brocklewurst whenever she could and she protected the girl’s rights to have food. Miss Temple went out of her way to be kind to Jane; after being publicly scolded by Brocklewurst Miss Temple had Jane to her room for a snack. It is the acts like these that separate the people who do well from those that merely mean well.

 The third mother figure for Jane was a teacher at Lowood, Miss Temple. Miss Temple was the kindest of the teachers, as well a being the teacher who most understood the plight of the students. Temple was demanding like the other teachers, but far less severe in her punishment of the students. Perhaps this was because she is not much older than they: maybe eighteen or nineteen. But what really separated Miss Temple from the teachers and administration at Lowood was the fact that she looked as the girls there as human beings and especially as girls. She resisted Mr.
Brocklewurst whenever she could and she protected the girl’s rights to have food. Miss Temple went out of her way to be kind to Jane; after being publicly scolded by Brocklewurst Miss Temple had Jane to her room for a snack. It is the acts like these that separate the people who do well from those that merely mean well.

The fourth mother figure for Jane was Adele, Jane’s eight year old charge at Thornfield. Adele represented a role reversal for Jane, as Jane now became the mother figure to a child who has no parents. Like Miss Temple was to Jane, Jane became the strict but loving guardian of a child who, it seemed, life had given up on. Adele and Jane got along well because they are both headstrong and outspoken. They grew close and Jane began to love Adele like she was her daughter. Jane tried to get Rochester to spend time with Adele and wanted to protect her from Blanche Ingram. Jane
also told Rochester repeatedly “I need to leave Adele and Thornfield”, implying that it would hurt her to leave Adele as much as to leave him.

The final two mother figures to Jane are her cousins, Diana and Mary. Jane looked to them for pity after fleeing Thornfield, and they took Jane in and cared for her. At first Jane spent a lot of time seemingly worshipping them; i.e. sitting at their feet and looking up to them; before their relationship turned sisterly. 


The graded version with notes. Notes are in bold.

The novel, Jane Eyre, contains many literary themes, motifs and symbols. The most blatant of those elements is religion. Bronte quotes liberally from the Bible and gives biblical sounding names to the characters: Miss Temple, St. John, Mary. However prevalent  the Christian influence may be, religion does not have the greatest impact on Jane’s formation and is not the driving force behind Jane’s behavior. But what is that driving force is Jane’s constant search for parental figures, primarily mother figures. Jane grew up orphaned. She had a family of course, but those people were strangers to her; they did not provide a warm and loving family atmosphere: Jane was an emotional prisoner in her own house. From this prison, Jane took nothing except the need to feel loved and to belong to someone (so important that it almost caused her to marry St. John, no?).  This is a nice intro and I like the turn you make from the obvious religious stuff to what you’re actually going to talk about!

            The first such mother figure was Bessie, the maid at Gateshead. Bessie was the only person at the house who paid attention to Jane, and was also the only person to care about?  Jane’s physical and emotional condition.

Bessie defended Jane after the incident of the red-room and years later visited Jane at Lowood. (can you say a bit more about Bessie?)

            The second mother figure was Jane’s friend at Lowood, Helen Burns. Helen was also a student, but several years older than Jane. Helen became Jane’s first and only friend among her classmates. Helen was a young girl herself, maybe thirteen or fourteen, but was, nonetheless, in Jane’s eyes, an experienced and mature girl to be emulated and revered. Jane admired Helen for her inner strength, her kind way, her patience and her intelligence. Jane couldn’t understand why Helen would tolerate her punishment with quiet acquiescence:

Helen would fetch the rod she was beaten with and not make a sound while she was being whipped. When it was over, Helen would explain that it was punishment she had earned and so had no right to complain. The much ridiculed and despised Helen Burns provided the love and companionship desperately needed by Jane; but she also continued the pattern of people entering Jane’s life (her parents, Uncle Reed, Bessie) and then quickly leaving.

            The third mother figure for Jane was a teacher at Lowood, Miss Temple. Miss Temple was the kindest of the teachers, as well a being the teacher who most understood the plight of the students. Temple was demanding like the other teachers, but far less severe in her punishment of the students. Perhaps this was because she is not much older than they: maybe eighteen or nineteen. But what really separates  Miss Temple from the teachers and administration at Lowood is  the fact that she looked as the girls there as human beings and especially as girls. She resisted Mr.

Brocklehurst whenever she could, and she protected the girl’s rights to have food. Miss Temple went out of her way to be kind to Jane; after being publicly scolded by Brocklehurst, Miss Temple had Jane to her room for a snack (awk). It is the acts like these that separate the people who do well from those that merely mean well(nicely put).

            The fourth mother figure for Jane was Adele, Jane’s eight year old charge at Thornfield. Adele represented a role reversal for Jane, as Jane now became the mother figure to a child who has no parents. Like Miss Temple was to Jane, Jane became the strict but loving guardian of a child who, it seemed, life had given up on.(nice) Adele and Jane get along well because they are both headstrong and outspoken. They grew close and Jane began to love Adele like she was her daughter.

Jane tried to get Rochester to spend time with Adele and wanted to protect her from Blanche Ingram. Jane also told Rochester repeatedly “I need to leave Adele and Thornfield”, implying that it would hurt her to leave Adele as much as to leave him.

            The final two mother figures to Jane are her cousins, Diana and Mary. Jane looked to them for pity after fleeing Thornfield, and they took Jane in and cared for her. At first Jane spent a lot of time seemingly worshipping them; i.e. sitting at their feet and looking up to them; before their relationship turned sisterly. 

 

You have a nice interesting and unique topic here, and I think that you’re right to suggest that Jane is on a constant search for mother figures.  I would incorporate a few more quotes into the paper—evidence is important.  Also, there are a few verb tense problems—when writing about literature, you want to stay in the present tense.  There are a few spots where you could push the analytical complexity—adding quotes usually helps with that, but overall, good work!

B+

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