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Contrast Jane's and Helen's attitudes towards earthly love in Jane Eyre.  

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boripinga | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 3, 2009 at 1:22 PM via web

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Contrast Jane's and Helen's attitudes towards earthly love in Jane Eyre.

 

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 4, 2009 at 12:46 AM (Answer #1)

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As a result of her own inclinations and experiences, Jane believes that individuals should love those who are good to them, and resist those who are "cruel and unjust".  She feels that if "the wicked people would have it all their own way, they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would grow worse and worse".  Her philosophy is that of the Old Testament Biblical adage of "an eye for an eye and a tooth" - her sincere belief is that she "must dislike those who, whatever (she does) to please them, persist in disliking (her), (she) must resist those who punish (her) unjustly...it is as natural as that (she) should love those who show (her) affection, or submit to punishment when (she) feel(s) it is deserved".

Helen tells Jane that "heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and civilized nations disown it".  Helen believes that "it is not violence that best overcomes hate - nor vengeance that...heals injury".  She follows the teachings of Christ from the New Testament in the Bible to "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you".  Helen believes that life is too short to dwell on the wrongs that have been done to her, and so she lives "in calm", sincerely forgiving those who have sinned against her even as she abhors their actions.

Jane cannot understand Helen's way of thinking, because it would mean that she "should love Mrs. Reed, which (she) cannot do, and bless her son John, which is impossible".  Unlike Helen, she is unable to "distinguish between the criminal and the crime", and so cannot embrace the Christian ethic to love her enemies (Chapter 6).

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