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The Role Of Religion In The Development Of Jane Eyre - Essay Example

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The Role Of Religion In The Development Of Jane Eyre

John Rivers. Critics have attributed this multitude of religious attitudes to the fact that Bronte herself had experiences with several Christian ideologies, from her Anglican father to her Calvinist schooling (Franklin 1995). Jane’s first experiences with Christianity that are dealt with in great detail in the novel begin with her schooling under the awful guidance of Brocklehurst. He is portrayed quite simply as a hypocrite. Brocklehurst is a man who chooses to control his flock rather than lead them and it is clear from the novel that he is more interested in the power he has as Lowood’s superintendent than in the actual care of his charges. His attitude is one of “fire and brimstone”; sinners are not forgiven, they burn in hell. He uses terror very well to control his charges; on meeting Jane and learning that she is supposedly a liar, he remarks “Deceit is indeed a sad fault in a child…it is akin to falsehood and all liars will have their portion in the lake burning with fire and brimstone.” His brand of Christianity is extremely harsh; he believes that “humility is a Christian grace”, which by itself is a faultless belief....
Brocklehurst is considered to represent the "hypocritical Calvinist" by several critics like Franklin (1995) and Vejvoda (2003), his character based on the Calvinist schoolmaster who taught Bronte herself . Certainly Brocklehurst's religion is a severe one based on the mortification of the "worldly sentiments of pride" and "the lusts of the flesh." However his hypocrisy is revealed by his selective application of the rules of his religion to those weaker and more powerless than himself. His attitude to women is unduly harsh and intruding, for example when he inspects the state of the girls' stockings and objects to their curls as immodest. The sheer cruelty his beliefs border on are in actuality completely opposed to the tenets of Christianity. Christ did indeed preach humility and virtue, but the love that should accompany it is conspicuously absent. Brocklehurst knows no love and is unqualified to look after the souls of any other human being, as is evidenced by Jane. His God is one she rejects completely; her innate sense of justice rebels at the mistreatment and hypocrisy that is meted out to the orphans in the name of God. Jane's development is clearly influenced by Brocklehurst though, if only to completely reject the faith that he follows. She sees that what is called charity and Christian behaviour by society is in essence nothing but a method to suppress and control. The treatment that the orphans are subjected to leaves a deeper impression on her though. It gives her the idea that poverty is something to be rejected and despised. This comes through towards the end of the novel when she is fleeing from Rochester and looking for shelter. The housekeeper treats ...Show more

Summary

Above and beyond all Christ preached the simple credo of love; love your God and love your neighbour. It is ironic therefore that in Jane Eyre Christianity is portrayed on the whole as a harsh and unloving religion…
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