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How are ideas about religion examined through the characters of Mr Brocklehurst, Eliza Reed and St John Rivers?

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Introduction

How are ideas about religion examined through the characters of Mr Brocklehurst, Eliza Reed and St John Rivers? Religion is a strong theme throughout Jane Eyre, with Jane meeting religion in different forms through different characters in the novel. Bronte used the characters to represent how religion is often used in people's lives. One of the first strong religious characters that Jane encounters is Mr Brocklehurst, a fearsome and tyrannical man who uses religion as a justification for cruelty and neglect at his school Lowood where Jane spent many years. To Mr Brocklehurst his strong religious beliefs are a tool to control others. Jane meets her cousin Eliza again when they are both adults after Jane returns to the Reeds home to visit her dying aunt Reed, Eliza's mother. Eliza however uses her religion differently to Mr Brocklehurst. Jane's cold and earnest cousin decides to devout her life to God and becomes a nun because she is scared of living a wasted life, like her brother John. One of the main characters in the novel St John Rivers also leaves a very religious life. ...read more.

Middle

It is for this reason, I believe, that he never earns Jane's respect. With Mr Brocklehurst, as with Eliza Reed and St John Rivers, Jane is never persuaded to lead a religious life, as they all try to make her do. Eliza Reed, Jane's cousin, takes a different religious role to both Mr Brocklehurst and St John Rivers. Eliza's life is more private - she does not preach about her life as much as Mr Brocklehurst and St John Rivers. However, she does tell Jane that she hopes she will see some sense - meaning that Eliza sees Jane's much less-religious life as senseless. Eliza's use of religion is not to control people like Mr Brocklehurst, but rather to control herself. She lives by religious ways and rules so that she will not lead the same life her brother John led, which their mother described as 'sunk and degraded', and indeed John died very young. Eliza said to Jane 'that John's conduct... has been a source of profound affliction to her: but she had... ...read more.

Conclusion

However St John Rivers fails to impress Jane with his idea of going to India, even when he tries to make her believe that she was 'formed for labour and not for love'. This may be a good description of St John Rivers, but not of Jane. Jane is passionate and needs love, so she refuses his offer, and again this character, like the others, fails to make her devote her life to religion. In conclusion, all three characters are fiercely religious people, who have devoted their lives to God, for various reasons, but all three use religion as a form of control. Mr Brocklehurst uses it too control pupils at Lowood, by getting them to fear him. Eliza Reed uses it to control herself, believing that if she lives by religious rules, she will not be tempted to waste her life, like her disgraced brother John. Finally St John Rivers Rivers, although he is not a vindictive man, uses religion to control Jane, by trying to make her spend her life with him as a missionary in India. All three are also described as cold and this may be to do with their religion because Jane regards religion as a passionless existence. ...read more.

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