The protagonist and narrator of Jane Eyre, Jane begins the novel as an angry, rebellious, 10-year-old orphan and gradually develops into a sensitive, artistic, maternal, and fiercely independent young woman. In each stage of the novel, Jane is met with fierce opposition from those around her, often because of her low social class and lack of economic independence. Yet, Jane maintains her independent spirit, growing stronger in her beliefs and ideals with each conflict; Jane's inferior position as a governess serves simply to heighten her thirst for independence, both financial and emotional. She rejects marriages to both Mr. Rochester and St. John because she understands she will have to forfeit her independence in the unions. Only after she has attained the financial independence and self-esteem to maintain a marriage of equality does Jane allow herself to marry Mr. Rochester and enjoy a life of love. This self-esteem is gained through Jane's making her mark in various worlds: Lowood, Thornfield, and particularly Moor House, in which she is valued for her humanity and values. Paralleling Jane's desire for independence is her search for a proper set of religious values. She rejects the extremist models of Brocklehurst, Helen Burns, and St. John, and eventually settles on a spirituality of love and connection. The novel ends happily for Jane: not only does she maintain her independence and live with the man she loves, she is able to overcome the social constraints of her position as governess and become a heroine with which every reader can relate.


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