In Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, Jane tells herself "keep to your caste," to remind herself not to pine after Mr. Rochester. Does she think that she is inferior to Mr. Rochester because she is from a lower class? Are you surprised that spirited, free- thinking Jane should give herself that advice?
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In the first paragraph of chapter XVII, Jane finds herself counting the days of Mr. Rochester's absence. Mrs. Fairfax tells her that he could be gone a full year! It is at this that Jane realizes that she could be falling in love with him. She's surprised at the disappointment that she feels that he is gone. It can be inferred that she realizes that she is a normal woman with real desires, but she calls herself back from becoming an emotional basket-case because she was hired as a professional to do a job. It takes a lot of logic to bring a woman back to a professional attitude once she has felt love for her employer!
Within that first paragraph of the chapter, she says that she had made a mistake by starting to attach herself to his every movement. Then she specifically says that she does not "humble [herself] by a slavish notion of inferiority" (118). By this she means that she knows that she isn't a slave or lower than him as far as brains or self-worth are concerned. She simply recognizes that her place in England's caste system puts everyone in his or her place. If Jane remembers her place, then she shouldn't be deluded to think that she is entitled to anything other than a paycheck from Mr. Rochester. Such logic is necessary to protect one's heart, but it is also necessary to remain professional and to attend to one's duties. Again, she merely reminds herself to remain at her post and not to expect love from Mr. Rochester.
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