In Chapter 6, Jane encounters Helen's creed. How is Helen's being a foil to Jane important to the novel?Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter 6 of Jane Eyre finds Jane regarding closely the student named Burns, who is very bright, recalling all of her lesson when asked; nevertheless she incurs the wrath of her instructor, Miss Scatcherd, who punishes her with the switch made of twigs.  When Jane finally has an opportunity to talk with her, she asks Helen why she so cheerfully endures the punishments that are dealt to her. Helen, the epitome of a Christian, tells Jane, "it is not violence that best overcomes hate - nor vengeance that...heals injury."  But, Jane has already disagreed, having said,

If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust, 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.

Later in the novel, Jane rejects Mr. Brocklehurst's and St. John Rivers's ideas of religion as well as Helen's.  Brocklehurst, of course, represents the hypocrisy and fanaticism of the Evangelicals; Helen the unpragmatic and too passive nature of the Christian, and St John Rivers the religion of glory and self-advancement.  Recalling Helen's passivity, Jane strikes out on her own, becoming a governess and asserting herself at Thornfield.  When she is proposed to by St. John Rivers, Helen rejects the proposal because she feels that would be made a wife only to serve her husband and be a reflection of his goodness.

Nevertheless, although Jane rejects the religions of others, she demonstrate a deep spirituality in her nature.  Consequently, she rejects Mr. Rochester's immorality and refuses to marry him until she returns to the burned Thornfield and he is a widower.  And, in Chapter 27, she credits God with having saved her from an immoral life.


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