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In Jane Eyre, what is Helen Burns' religious attitude like?

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izzyg2003 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 23, 2014 at 3:28 PM via iOS

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In Jane Eyre, what is Helen Burns' religious attitude like?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted March 23, 2014 at 7:20 PM (Answer #1)

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Helen Burns is an extremely devout young person. She takes all the hardships and ill-treatment she receives at Lowood very calmly, and she never wavers in her religious faith. In effect, she plays the role of a martyr, presenting a meek and gentle face to the world and refusing to condemn those who mete out punishment to her. Indeed, she appears quite passive, but her spirit, evidently, is never crushed; her faith always sustains her, to the point of death, as is clear from her final conversation with Jane:

I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to him without any misgivings. God is my father; God is my friend: I love him; I believe he loves me. (chapter 9)

Helen, then, seems quite assured that God is looking out for her and will take care of her after death, too. God, to her, is both 'father' and 'friend'. Because she has such faith in God she endures all her troubles without complaint.

Helen exemplifies the passive, suffering side of religion: the kind of person who accepts all manner of hardships on earth as they believe that there is a better life to come in heaven. Her religious faith and gentle tolerance are unshakeable. Indeed, it might be said that she appears almost impossibly good, but such sweet, suffering devout characters - particularly girls - were certainly not uncommon in Victorian literature as a whole.

Helen's virtuous humility and gentleness form quite a striking contrast with Jane's passionate, rebellious spirit, but Jane admires her, even if she cannot quite understand where she is coming from. She leaves a lasting impression on the heroine of the novel.

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