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Explore the Theme of Education in Jane Eyre.

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Introduction

Explore the Theme of Education in Jane Eyre Jane Eyre is a Gothic novel written by Charlotte Bront�, which recounts the life story of a young heroine who faces the challenges of society and family to finally achieve happiness. The Gothic novel is a type of Romantic fiction which was popular in English literature in the 18th and early 19th centuries, examples including Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bront�. The Gothic novel often follows this pattern: a beautiful, young, passive and helpless heroine is abducted from her parents' home by a dark villain who imprisons her in his castle, a location haunted with fear, madness and mystery. Following a period of danger and adventure, the beautiful heroine is rescued by her hero, usually a "nice" fair young man, who returns her home safely. The influence of the Gothic novel is not hard to find in Jane Eyre. Thornfield contains many Gothic features, most notably in the third storey: narrow, low and dim, with only one little window at the far end, and looking, with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard's castle. A handsome young man, St John, and a dark, rough one, Mr Rochester, compete for Jane's attention, as fits the traditional pattern for the Gothic novel. However, the interesting aspect is the way in which Charlotte Bront� turns the Gothic tradition upside down. St John proves far more dangerous to her than the dark, rough, imperfect, but ultimately more attractive Rochester, with whom she can be herself. Another traditional aspect of the Gothic novel which Bront� contradicts is that Jane, though small and physically weak, is far from passive. Her strong drive towards independence, towards determining her own course through life according to what she feels to be right, is one of her most important characteristics. Jane is also quite plain: Bessie comments that she was no beauty as a child. ...read more.

Middle

Jane learns a lot from her experiences at Lowood, and not just from her academic learning: Helen Burns and Miss Temple have a profound effect on Jane. Helen teaches Jane a great deal about patience, tolerance and restraint. From Helen, Jane learns the qualities and values of her Christian religion, and she learns to be less passionate and more accepting of her situation in life. The inscription on Helen's grave stone (which is put there by Jane), Resurgam (meaning "I will arise"), could almost be a "motto" for her approach to life, as she rises again from every challenge. Jane has a deep admiration of Miss Temple, in awe of her looks and her grace. For Jane, Miss Temple's presence is what makes the hard life at Lowood bearable. Miss Temple is more than just a teacher to Jane. Through her friendship and example, Jane is not only re-educated, but her character is shaped as well. When Miss Temple leaves Lowood to get married, Jane finds that she has no reason to stay there. Looking at her surroundings, the influence of the natural landscape invites her to become adventurous again and reawakens her desire for liberty. It is this desire for liberty that leads her to Thornfield. Jane appreciates that she will have to settle for servitude, but realises that by taking control of her own destiny, she will become more independent. Jane's situation at Thornfield is certainly more privileged than any other she has experienced in her life, but she is still not entirely independent, and still wishes to go out into the world and have new experiences: I longed for a power of vision...which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I heard of but never seen...I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach. ...read more.

Conclusion

The novel takes me on an emotional rollercoaster ride: there are ups and downs, sharp twists and loop-the-loops, and, ultimately, when the ride finishes, I find that I enjoyed the experience and want to have another go (which, incidentally, I did). Education is an important theme in the novel of Jane Eyre for the reason that Jane's life revolves around education: first at Gateshead, where her choice of reading material is used to symbolise her emotions; then at Lowood, where she is taught both academically and personally; subsequently, at Thornfield, she learns a great deal about her own emotions and also about society; and finally in Morton, where she learns languages with Diana, Mary and St. John Rivers, in addition to gaining independence and autonomy as the teacher at Morton school. Jane Eyre is a challenging read because of the archaic style and language, along with the situations and ethics which are quite alien to the modern reader. However, there is a great deal that can be learned from reading Jane Eyre about Victorian society and values. The novel not only shows us the 19th century world, but also invites the reader to empathise with Jane's situation. There is throughout Jane Eyre a murmuring against the comforts of the rich and against the privations of the poor, and the main themes in the novel remain current: feminism, and the advantages of education (a theme which is also seen in many of Charles Dickens' novels). In my personal opinion, Jane Eyre is a remarkable novel. It shows how intellect and unswerving integrity may win their way, and has an overall positive message: if you are determined, you can reach your goals. I think that this is an important lesson for life, and, apart from anything else, Jane Eyre is a thoroughly enjoyable read which I would gladly recommend to others. Jo Harris 10Bg JWa 01/05/2007 - 1 - ...read more.

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