Jane Eyre follows the story of an orphan girl from childhood to adulthood during which she overcom
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Jane Eyre follows the story of an orphan girl from childhood to adulthood during which she overcom

Course Number: ENG 272, Spring 2008

College/University: Wellesley College

Word Count: 1302

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<a href="/keyword/jane-eyre/" >jane eyre</a> : Religious or Spiritual? <a href="/keyword/jane-eyre/" >jane eyre</a> follows the story of an orphan girl from childhood to adulthood during which she overcame a great number of difficulties and stayed true to herself even in the face of adversity. Jane did this by adhering to practicality and spirituality rather than...

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<a href="/keyword/jane-eyre/" >jane eyre</a> : Religious or Spiritual? <a href="/keyword/jane-eyre/" >jane eyre</a> follows the story of an orphan girl from childhood to adulthood during which she overcame a great number of difficulties and stayed true to herself even in the face of adversity. Jane did this by adhering to practicality and spirituality rather than religious practices. She started off as a child questioning God and authority but with the passage of time her belief in God became stronger and that in other worldly authorities became weaker. Jane did not follow religion as a chore but as something in which she had real interest. As her devotion to the spiritual aspect of the religion became stronger she became more centered, confidant and mature. However, she did not believe in imposing religion on anybody and therefore had a disregard for the clergy of the likes of Mr. Broklehurst and St. John. Even as a child of ten years of age, Jane had a clear concept about punishment in religion and how to avoid it. When Mr. Broklehurst asked her about hell she knew what it is and had an idea of evading that place. Thus, even at a young age she believed more in herself than in religious doctrines and thought that by achieving the feat of not dying based on her own strength, she could avoid hell. Jane had already read the Bible and had chosen favorites among the chapters. However, it seems that she regarded these chapters as interesting reads rather than objects of worship and veneration as is expected from a young child who has been taught religion in a traditional way. Jane, thus did not have faith in religion and God as a young child and in times of need she preferred to rely on her own abilities rather than on Divine intervention. When Jane came to Lowood, religion was used as a tool to silence the children of that institution. From Mr Broklehurst's different standards of dress and hair 1 for his family and the Lowood students, it seems that religion was only for the poor and the rich are exempt from it. Mr. Broblehurst starved the children and justified it by quoting the bible and saying to Ms Temple, &quot;His divine consolations, &quot;If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye.&quot; Oh, madam, when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls!&quot; (Chapter 7) He ordered to have the hair of the girls cut by saying, &quot;&quot;I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh&quot;. (Chapter 7) Mr. Broklehurst thus had different standards of appearance for his family and the students. He seems to be operating on the principle that as the poor don't have wealth they should not have any right over the other worldly qualities like beauty. Religion was imposed on the students so strictly that it prevented them from the natural activities of sleeping and eating. Whenever Bronte describes the prayers, hymns or sermons they are mostly preceded with the word &quot;long&quot;. This rigid style of following the religion, made religion less than a spiritual practice and depreciated it to the level of a tedious chore. Thus it seems that the imposition of religion is used by the people in authority to abuse their control over the less fortunate and that made the poor even more distant from it. However, it was also at Lowood, particularly due to Jane's association with Helen that Jane embraced the true belief in the religion. Helen was someone Jane looked upto and was greatly impressed with. Helen was very devout and had a very spiritual and optimistic view of the religion. She told Jane, &quot;&quot;I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me.&quot;(Chapter 9) When Helen 2 was alive Jane still questioned God and His power but after the death of Helen we see the transition of Jane into a spiritual lady. She was frequently shown thanking God and praying to Him for help and guidance. And the advice which Helen gave her before she died, Jane repeated to Mr. Rochester, &quot;Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there.&quot; (Chapter 27) This in fact sums up Jane's religious beliefs; she is more focused on the spirituality of the religion rather than the practice itself. She believed that a person can make their own destiny with the help of God and does not need the help of others. Bronte does not represent the religious authorities in this novel in a very good light. All the clergymen are represented in a negatively, the primary examples of which are Mr. Broklehurst and St. John. Mr. Broklehurst is represented as a miser who believes that poor should be subdued as much as possible. He is a hypocrite and the principles of humility and lack of pride he imposes on others, he does not follow in his own household. St. John is shown as a very odd character who really believes that he is actually doing good in the world. At first he seems like a kind man as he takes Jane in but the way he dominates over Jane and tries to convince her to go to India with him made him look like a tyrant. He believed that he is on this noble mission to save the world and convert Indians to Christianity. However, Jane's reply to him &quot;I do not understand a missionary life: I have never studied missionary labours&quot;. (Chapter 34) makes it very clear that Bronte does not approve of his mission. This shows Bronte's dislike of the English forcing people in their colonies to accept Christianity. Apart from these two, other people who have devoted all their lives to religion like Eliza are also not portrayed positively. Bronte seems to believe that religion is between God and man and the so called religious 3 intermediaters are not as religious as they make the common man believe. They follow the religion, not because they like it but because they perceive it as their duty so it is better to rely on only oneself and God when it comes to religion. Bronte through this novel puts great emphasis on spirituality rather than religious practices. Bronte believes that the person himself should be the judge of right or wrong as Jane does when she goes to visit her aunt , &quot;I had once vowed that I would never call her aunt again: I thought it no sin to forget and break that vow now&quot;.(Chapter 21). The way Bronte portrays the religious authorities and then Jane, who has a strong belief in God and in her own principles which does not get swayed even for Mr. Rochester's love and the fact that she was alone in this world and had no one to turn to makes you to choose Jane's way of practicing her faith rather than the conventional way of the clergy . At distressing times, she turned to God. Turning to God means that she organized all her inner strength and confidence and followed what she thought was right. I feel Bronte is trying to show that we are so much stuck on the duty and chores related with religion we they have forgotten the essence of the religion- the essence of every religion is spirituality, something which comes from within, which comes from the heart just like Jane said to St. John &quot;Oh! I will give my heart to God&quot; (Chapter 34). 4

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