Since the dawn of man, human beings have had religions. People establish religions as a means to define who they are. Religion is an essential aspect to identity. It sets moral standards and defines a person’s place in society. The novel Jane Eyre is a coming-of-age story. It begins with a young girl named Jane who, by the end of the story is a strong, independent woman. A major component of maturing is finding one’s identity, and Jane seeks to find her own identity as well. Throughout the novel, the theme of religion plays an important part in Jane’s maturation. She is faced with several main characters that give Jane examples of different ways people choose to follow their religion.
At Lowood Academy, Jane meets two important people who represent two very different types of Christians. The first, Mr. Brocklehurst, is a hypocritical, judgmental, and cruel man. He claims to “mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh” (Brontë, 57), by depriving them in even slight “privileges”. His own family, on the other hand, is vain and extravagant. The second person she meets at Lowood of religious significance is Helen Burns. Helen Burns accepts hardship, and is meek and passive in her Christian principles. “Hush Jane! You think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive…” (Brontë, 62).
Jane looks at both people and realizes that she is different from both of them and eventually decides not to adopt either of their beliefs.
The question often arrived what is religion? There are more than one answer to this depending on one’s culture, identity, ethics and beliefs. Religion can be found in different cultures and throughout the whole period of human history. There is evidence that shows signs of religion such as animal spirits in art and human burials that suggest the belief in life after death. There have been many ...
St. John Rivers is another religious figure that helps Jane understand herself better. St. John’s sole motivation in life is glory. He values his reputation over anything. “Literally, he lived only to aspire…” (Brontë, 375).
Also, St. John tries to make Jane go to India with him as a wife “We must be married – …” (Brontë, 390).
For a while, Jane is almost convinced to accept the proposal. At this point in the story, however, Jane has developed quite a strong sense of who she is. She decides to be loyal to herself and proves it by declining the proposal to be married. She understands how important it is to be true to who she is, and she becomes stronger because of this incident.
Jane eventually ends up rejecting all three models of religion. However, she does not lose her faith in God and maintains a strong sense of right and wrong. After she runs away from Thornfield, she depends solely on God to take care of her. “Remembering what it was – what countless systems there swept space like a soft trace of light – I felt the might and strength of God” (Brontë, 309).
In chapter 26, Jane asks God for comfort when her wedding takes a turn for the worst.
After meeting with all those people, Jane resolves in a place comfortable for her. She does not fall into any extreme of the details in her faith. She’s neither oppressive or abrasive as Brocklehurst, passive or indifferent to injustice like Helen, nor as self-glorifying as St.. John. Jane was able to finally find who she was. She was able to find her religion – her identity.