Happy As Jane
Jane Eyre is a happy, masochistic soul. She traverses the world in mock misery in anticipation of the next delectable appearance of poverty and deprivation. Her life fulfills what her soul relishes most; hardship and the subsequent emotional release that results in its overcoming. She is not someone to be pitied or sympathized with, as she is intimately acquainted with her nature, and feeds its desires at whatever the cost.
Jane speaks frequently of her low estate and status, so much so that the notion can hardly be forgotten by the reader. The many admirable aspects of her character such as principle, fortitude, insight, and courage are married to this curious fact, like an immutable necessity that must endure for her character’s evolution. It seems that, whatever the situation, her will’s bent was that “the burden must be carried; the want provided for; the suffering endured; the responsibility fulfilled.” Her fate and instinct always bring her into a dubious and temporary salvation, one that leads to some bizarre and unforeseen torment of soul, like the situation with Mr. Rochester and his bestial Creole wife. Perhaps that is how the readers are meant to view Victorian era humanity, with its many limitations to human existence; to live in this way means turning into something inhuman and unspeakable, despite outward appearances. Jane’s instinct to avoid the comforts and trappings of the era and to remain faithful to her principles, despite immense suffering, liberates her from such a horrific mental existence and provides her moments of incomparable mental insight and tranquility, something that none of the other characters enjoy. This is her masochistic tendency and something that must be cultivated to free her from society’s web.
Her most elevated joys seem to come to her at her lowest points. There is an agreeable charm to the way she confronts them; something desirable and irresistible. Her moment of total isolation and destitution on the moors, when the other characters in the story would be in anguish, she states that “nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness. To-night, at least, I would be her guest — as I was her child, my mother would lodge me without money and without price.” The instinctive and natural wisdom in the scene beautifies her character and evokes a kind of sympathetic envy from the reader; we wish we could realize such a state. This is Jane’s purpose: to guide humanity to its ultimate, elevated bliss from states of masochistic deprivation (as the only way possible). Her beauty lays in this wisdom and away from the prejudiced comforts and mores of society. Nothing is standard and acceptable in her behavior and is the throne of ultimate liberation.
Joy through deprivation is Jane Eyre’s legacy to humanity. An insightful and faithful self-masochism is the way to human happiness; something as desirable as it is personal. Her difficult life and travails were necessary for the achievement of freedom and she teaches that the trappings of human comfort and authority are things that must be avoided. If there is a final lesson to be taken away from her story, it is that we should pity ourselves more than Jane, if pity is necessary at all.