A question about Jane Eyre??

What part does home and family play in Jane's life??

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    Jane does not experience a typical family life throughout the novel. Her various living arrangements led her through different households, yet none were a representation of the norm of family life in the nineteenth century. Through research of families in the nineteenth century, it is clear that Jane’s life does not follow with the stereotypical family made up of a patriarchal father and nurturing mother, both whose primary focus was in raising their children. Jane’s life was void of this true family experience so common during the nineteenth century. Yet, Jane is surrounded by men, who in giving an accurate portrayal of fathers and masculinity in the nineteenth century, fulfill on one hand the father role that had never been present in her life, and on the other hand the husband portrait that Jane seeks out throughout the novel.

    The reader first learns of Jane when she is an inhabitant of Gateshead. At Gateshead, Jane was excluded from the rest of the family. She was merely an outsider looking in on a nuclear family, excluding the father, who had died. We know that Jane’s Uncle Reed, the father and dominant figure of Gateshead, when alive, was a kind man. He was the guardian for Jane and when dying made his wife promise to always care for Jane. After his death, his wife resented the little girl and did not want to care for her. Knowing what we know of family life in the nineteenth century, we know that Jane’s life would have been much different if her uncle Reed had not died. Being the master of the home one can assume that he would have made sure that everyone in the household would have treated Jane well and with love and respect. A father’s authority was unquestioned. Once Mr. Reed had died, the masculine dominance was somewhat given to his son who did not care for Jane and made her life miserable by all of his cruelty and abuse. Although he did not rule the home, due to his young age, his authority as seen by Jane was unquestioned.

    Jane next lived at Lowood. This institution was anything but a true family unit. However, Jane sought out people to care for and who would care for her in return. Helen Burns and Miss Temple became very close to Jane. In ways like the mother of the typical family served as a moral guide and a nurturer, so too did Helen Burns, and to a certain extent Miss Temple. Jane sought love and a nurturing spirit and found them in these two women.

    At Thornfield, Jane is closely associated with the servants, as she is merely a governess. There was no established family unit at Thornfield. Although Rochester fits some descriptions of the father figure and master of the house, they had in no way established a family. In addition, Jane was an outsider here as well.

    While living with St. John, Mary, and Diana Rivers, Jane again found herself seeking, yet not finding, a true family. There was a loving relationship between the members of the home. However, it was still not a representation of family life in the nineteenth century. However, when Jane discovers that she has inherited money from her uncle, she demands that the siblings take her in as a family member forever, despite her lack of true familial association. This incident does show, however, Jane’s search and need for family life.

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