In Jane Eyre, is Jane tolerant and where is there evidence of her tolerance?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Regarless of the definition of tolerant--the modern one of allowing for differences in people or the traditional one of meaning that puts up with or allows certain attitudes and behavior --Jane is no tolerant person. An independent spirit, she is the voice of her author, Charlotte Bronte, whose novel "Jane Eyre" takes a stand on relations between men and women, the treatment of women and children, religious faith and religious hypocrisy.

One example of Jane's lack of tolerance for the injustice of the treatment of the girls at Lockwood occurs in Chapter Six as Jane meets Helen Burns.  When Jane remarks that Miss Scatcherd is so cruel to Helen, Helen replies, "...Not at all!  She is severe;  she dislikes my faults."  To this Jane retorts,

'And if I were in your place I should dislike her. I should resist her, if she struck me with that rod.  I should get it from her hand.  I should break it under her nose.

Helen answers Jane's retort by saying that she could not bear the punishment for it would be too disgraceful to be "flogged and to be made to stand in the middle of a room full of people."  But Jane cannot abide by Helen's forbearance, or tolerance:

I heard her with wonder:  I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathize with the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser.  Still, I felt that Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes.  I suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the matter deeply:  like Felix, I put it off to a more convenient season.

Likewise, after Jane arrives at Thornfield, she does not tolerate being embarrassed by her false marriage to Mr. Rochester.  When she discovers that there already is a Mrs. Rochester, Jane departs from Thornfield.  Nor will she succumb to the wishes of her cousin, St. John Rivers, and marry him, joining him as a missionaries; instead, she tells St John that she cannot marry him, for she does not love him.  Nor does Jane forbear the hatred of her aunt who has sought to prevent Jane from receiving her inheritance.  When Jane asks her to now regard her with kindness and forgiveness, Aunt Reed will not, so Jane says,

Love me, then, or hate me, as you will, have my full and free forgiveness....(Chapter VII)

An independent spirit, Jane Eyre is her own person who demands respect on her own terms.  This voice of Charlotte Bronte is the voice of a very independent spirit that will not abide with hypocrisy and weakness.



scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

While Jane is tolerant, a better word to describe one of her key attributes is longsuffering. Readers see this quality from the novel's beginning as Jane endures and tolerates Mrs. Reed's mistreatment. She is also tolerant or longsuffering when she experiences the death of her dear friend and horrid treatment at Lowood under Mr. Brocklehurst.

After Jane matures and takes the position at Thornfield, her tolerance changes slightly. She is a rather objective observer of all that goes on at Thornfield and judges no one. Even after she falls in love with Rochester and is devastated by the discovery that his wife is still alive, she suffers through the situation and makes a way for herself with St. John and his family. In the end, Jane's longsuffering nature or her ability to tolerate great hardship and loss are rewarded when returns to Thornfield and reunites with a broken Rochester. It is key to note that only when Jane combines her tolerance with action and initiative that she finds true happiness.

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