For Love or for Reason
The upturned noses and well-to-do marriages of the nineteenth century hardly suggest of a woman dealing with much emotional stress during that time. However, both Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’ Hard Times present us with a strong female as a main character who, as a young girl with a troubled upbringing, finds herself emotionally unbalanced. Later life interaction with others finally brings about a sense of self-understanding, showing that life ought to be a balance between love and reason.
Plopped into the middle of the nursery at Gateshead, the opening chapters of Jane Eyre detail a second-class upbringing for young Jane amongst her wealthy relations. Aunt Reed’s only devotion to the child is the fulfillment of her late husband’s request. After repeated punishment and separation from the Reed children, with what feeling could Jane be left other than those of contempt for this household? These memories seem to be Jane’s earliest, and we can see from the beginning that Jane is strong-willed in her beliefs when she speaks out against Aunt Reed. “…[I]f any one asks me how I liked you,… I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty” (34). Although she is fed and clothed, Jane is hardly treated as the other children are, by the adults or the children alike. “Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to orders, spoke to me as little as possible; John thrust his tongue in his cheek whenever he saw me…” (23). In realizing this separation, Jane begins to set herself apart from the family and never develops any sort of familial love or appreciation. She is forced to become emotionally self-reliant, so her intrinsic reason and values are the things she holds most dear.
Only after being at the Lowood school for a time does Jane encounter love for other people in the form of Helen Burns and Miss Temple. Jane first establishes a relationship with Helen based upon the...