Jane Eyre

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Themes and Colors
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
The Spiritual and the Supernatural Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Jane Eyre, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon

Just as Jane Eyre can be described as Jane's quest to balance her contradictory natural instincts toward independence and submission, it can also be described as her quest to find a balance between passionate feeling on the one had and judgment, or repression of those feelings, on the other. Through the examples of other characters in the novel, such as Eliza and Georgiana, Rochester and St. John—or Bertha, who has no control over her emotions at all—Jane Eyre shows that it's best to avoid either extreme. Passion makes a person silly, frivolous or even dangerous, while repression makes a person cold. Over the course of the novel, Jane learns how to create a balance between her feelings and her judgment, and to create a life of love that is also a life of serious purpose.

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Feeling vs. Judgment Quotes in Jane Eyre

Below you will find the important quotes in Jane Eyre related to the theme of Feeling vs. Judgment.
Chapter 4 Quotes
Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker)
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

During an interview between Jane, Mrs. Reed, and the headmaster of the Lowood school, Mr. Brocklehurst, Mrs. Reed warns Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane is a compulsive liar. Jane, almost in spite of herself, exclaims that Mrs. Reed is the real liar, and a despicable person besides. Up until this point, Jane has largely retained control of her feelings, keeping her despair and unhappiness inside (except, perhaps, for the one time she lashed out at John). Now she does not feel guilty for letting her feelings override her sense of propriety, but rather relieved and exuberant.

The rest of the book will take a more measured tone on the proper balance between feeling and judgment. Indeed, since Jane is a girl in nineteenth-century England, such shows of passion are to be considered shocking if not dangerous. Here, though, Jane is shown to be so repressed and so unhappy that a rude outburst is really her only chance to express herself, to regain some sense of her own person above and beyond the cruel way she's been treated. Her declaration of the truth about Mrs. Reed is the first time that she senses that things may not always remain as they were, and that she might be able to set her own standards for what is right, outside the confines of the Reed family. 

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Chapter 8 Quotes
I resolved, in the depth of my heart, that I would be most moderate … I told her all the story of my sad childhood. Exhausted by emotion, my language was more subdued than it generally was when it developed that sad theme; and mindful of Helen's warnings against the indulgence of resentment, I infused into the narrative far less of gall and wormwood than ordinary. Thus restrained and simplified, it sounded more credible: I felt as I went on that Miss Temple fully believed me.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Maria Temple, Helen Burns
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Jane, along with Helen Burns, has been invited into Miss Temple's office, where Jane is prompted to share her life story with her friend and their teacher. No one has ever asked her to do such a thing before, and in a way Jane's tentative narrative serves as a rehearsal for the story she is now sharing with us, a far larger audience of readers. But even as she is eager to share what has happened to her already in her short life, she is wary of offending yet another adult, or of "indulging" in resentment. Miss Temple and Helen are among the few people that have shown Jane kindness and the kind of love that usually comes from family, and she is worried that they may not believe her tale, and thus that she'll lose this cherished connection. It is by keeping track of her feelings, and being careful not to lose her temper, that Jane realizes she has the best chance of keeping these two women in her life.

Chapter 11 Quotes
While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a region, a laugh, struck my ear. It was a curious laugh; distinct, formal, mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it began again, louder: for at first, though distinct, it was very low. It passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to wake an echo in every lonely chamber; though it originated but in one, and I could have pointed out the door whence the accents issued.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Bertha Mason
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

Jane is attempting to settle into her new life at Thornfield, but as Mrs. Fairfax finishes up her tour, Jane hears something entirely unexpected in such a quiet, gloomy house: laughter. Here the supernatural quality of the scene is, paradoxically, described in careful, measured detail. Jane attempts to determine the exact qualities of the laugh, the exact properties of its pitch and location. Indeed, she is soon able to fix her judgment on the exact spot from which the sound is coming.

For now, Brontë keeps the reader, as well as Jane, in the dark regarding this mysterious element of Thornfield. Rather than showing the laugh to be a figment of Jane's imagination, this passage stresses her careful capacity of judgment, underlining the book's understanding of the supernatural and the real as not opposites but as mutually productive.

Chapter 12 Quotes
I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line—that then I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen—that then 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.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

Although Jane has found things to enjoy about her new life in Thornfield, and in her occupation as Adèle's tutor, she has not entirely shaken off the restlessness that encouraged her to leave her former school in the first place. Here, as Jane climbs to the highest point in the mansion, her physical steps mimic her more emotional desire to float up and away from the day-to-day duties and humdrum life to which she is condemned, largely because of her social class and gender, of course.

Jane is portrayed as eager, curious, and fascinated about the wide world around her. She is clear-headed in that she recognizes how little she knows about this world, despite feeling naturally attracted to it. Indeed, Jane is deeply frustrated by the disconnect between her desire to see more and learn more, and her understanding that such knowledge lies beyond her grasp. As her eyes survey the vast landscape before her, this vision serves as her only and partial means of truly experiencing something beyond her small reality.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do … It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker)
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jane continues to muse on the subject of her own position in society, she broadens her perspective to consider the lot of oppressed and marginalized groups in general. Jane recognizes that many other people are in worse situations than herself, but for her this fact only underlines the unfairness and despair to which an entire segment of the population is subjected. Indeed, Jane makes an analogy between those who are oppressed and rebel through political revolution, and those who struggle in more individual ways, through family and community structures that are smaller than those of a nation.

Jane also points to a paradox about the way that women's roles are defined at the time. In some ways, they are considered weak and fragile, and therefore unable to support themselves or to take on the same kinds of responsibilities or to show the same kind of independence as men. They would let their feelings overwhelm them, the argument goes. Yet at the same time, women are expected to curb outbursts of feeling - something they can only do if they use their full capacities of rational judgment. This paradox is one that Jane increasingly seeks to condemn, and that Bronte more broadly points out in this very prescient passage.

Chapter 17 Quotes
"He is not to them what he is to me," I thought: "he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine;—I am sure he is—I feel akin to him—I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him … I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever sundered:—and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him."
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Edward Fairfax Rochester
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

Jane has been relegated to a corner of the room at the party, where she can observe all that is going on between Rochester and his guests. Jane feels alienated from the wealthy, privileged women at the event. But as she observes Rochester with them, she realizes that she does in fact feel a profound kinship with Rochester, so profound that she believes he belongs with her far more than with people of his own class and social strata. 

Jane's affinity with Rochester is not one of rational, detached judgment, in which similarities and differences, appropriate distinctions and parallels, might be carefully considered. Instead it is something she feels emotionally. At the same time, Jane herself is careful to study and identify this blossoming feeling of love for Rochester; she doesn't get carried away by her feelings but rather respects their reality as she tries to figure out what it is that she feels, and what must be the result.

Chapter 20 Quotes
What crime was this that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner?—what mystery, that broke out now in fire and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night? What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey?
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Bertha Mason
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

Jane has accompanied Rochester to Grace Poole's upper-floor room, where they have found Mr. Mason bleeding and writhing. While Rochester goes to fetch a doctor, Jane is left alone with Mr. Mason and with her own thoughts. This chapter had begun with a frightening scream that had echoed through the mansion, and Jane now wildly begins to wonder what might be the source of such a cry.

In a series of questions, posed far more out of anxiety and fear than out of a scientific desire to get to the bottom of the mystery, Jane becomes progressively more eloquent and descriptive, even if morbidly so. She calls the source of the scream a "mystery," "creature," and "voice," thus underlining how she has only the vaguest sense of what has taken place. The book leaves us, too, in suspense: will the novel now turn even more to the assumptions of Gothic fiction, and embrace the supernatural, or will it remain within the realm of realistic prose? 

Chapter 24 Quotes
He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Edward Fairfax Rochester
Page Number: 316
Explanation and Analysis:

At first, Jane is thrilled by the prospect of marrying Rochester, with whom she is so in love. But little by little, the gaps between their social stations and their assumptions about proper gender roles begin to grow clearer. Here, another problem arises: the fact that Jane so adores Rochester that he begins to take on the nature of an idol, someone to be worshipped instead of God.

As narrator, Jane is looking back on her earlier self, and in passages like this, narrator-Jane shows a disapproval and even regret towards character-Jane. According to her Christian beliefs, only God can be worshipped and idolized: idolizing anyone else, indeed, is a great sin. In addition, putting Rochester on such a pedestal will prevent Jane from embracing her own independence, a value that she has held dear for so long. This disconnect between what narrator-Jane knows to be true and what character-Jane cannot help from doing and thinking will inevitably have to be resolved.

Chapter 26 Quotes
What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Bertha Mason
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:

Finally, for the first time, Jane lays eyes on the source of all the strange happenings and mysterious sounds that have seemed to haunt Thornfield. But this first sight fails to substantially clarify the situation, or help Jane understand who this person is - even though she knows intellectually that it must be Bertha Mason, Rochester's legal wife. 

Bertha is described not in human but in animal terms. Indeed, it is the inability to describe her as a woman that locates the source of her insanity. Jane may have pressed at the borders of what is permitted and is not among women, especially of a particular social class, but she now witnesses someone who has thrown all those strictures out entirely. As Bertha fails to act as a proper woman, as a proper wife to her husband, the book has no way left to describe her other than by considering her non-human, making an analogy to the animal world. 

Chapter 28 Quotes
This was the climax. A pang of exquisite suffering—a throe of true despair—rent and heaved my heart. Worn out, indeed, I was; not another step could I stir. I sank on the wet doorstep: I groaned—I wrung my hands—I wept in utter anguish. Oh, this spectre of death! Oh, this last hour, approaching in such horror! Alas, this isolation—this banishment from my kind!
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker)
Page Number: 385
Explanation and Analysis:

After wandering in the wilderness, weak from exhaustion and hunger, Jane finally follows a distant light to its source: but when she arrives at the door of the home, the servant refuses to let her in, and locks her out. Although Jane has tried to remain stoic until now, this show of unkindness is the last straw. She breaks down, finally allowing her feelings to overwhelm her careful poise and judgment as she weeps and groans.

The wanderer in the wilderness is a trope - an often-repeated literary device - that can be found in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible: both Job and Jesus are sent into the wilderness at one point to battle temptation. Jane's time in the wilderness is similarly her moment of greatest struggle, when her embrace of independence no longer is characterized by an exhilarating sense of freedom but actually threatens to destroy her. As Jane, narrating, recalls her thoughts at her darkest moment, the use of repeated exclamations and dashes highlights the tone of acute despair. 

Chapter 37 Quotes
I will be your neighbor, your nurse, your housekeeper. I find you lonely: I will be your companion—to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate, so long as I live.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Edward Fairfax Rochester
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 502
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jane reunites with Rochester, she exhibits a complex and nuanced, if not ambivalent, understanding of the relationship between love and independence - one that has been affected by her time at Thornfield but also by the revelation that she is now financially independent. Here, Jane calls Rochester her master, as she was accustomed to do when she served as his daughter's governess. As she vows to be his "nurse" and "housekeeper," she also seems to accede to proper gender roles and even embrace this role of subservience.

However, other ways that Jane characterizes this relationship transform her vow into one of a relationship between equals. To be Rochester's neighbor or companion is not to submit to him as a woman to a man, but rather to consider each person as mutually necessary and mutually fulfilling. Jane continues to rely on some of the assumptions of her time in terms of family and gender roles, but she also carves out a more unique, progressive place for herself and Rochester based on her own beliefs and desires.