Based on the way Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë ends, why might Jane be considered the first modern fictional heroine?

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What makes Jane so throughly modern is that she lives life on her own terms and no one else's. She has a very strict moral code, and she follows that code to the letter, come what may. Although she has strong feelings for Mr. Rochester, she's not prepared to compromise her integrity by agreeing to be little more than a glorified concubine.

Jane is still firmly attached to the prevailing moral standards; she believes in the sanctity of marriage and has a great regard for the institution of family. But what she won't do is get married simply for the sake of it; she will marry for love. In this, she is a true modern heroine, a strong, independent-minded woman who has found a way to live the kind of life she wants in a society profoundly hostile to the very notion of women's rights.

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At the end of the novel, Jane Eyre reunites with and marries Rochester after Thornfield burns to the ground and Bertha dies in the blaze. Jane could be considered the first modern heroine because she and Rochester unite as equals. Earlier, when Rochester proposed a faux, bigamous marriage to Jane, events would have left Jane both dishonored and at Rochester's mercy, and even had Rochester been free, she, as the poor governess, would have been the "lower" of the two, the recipient of far greater favors. By the end of the novel, however, circumstances have changed. Rochester has lost a hand in the fire and is initially blind though later he will recover some sight. His disabilities make him dependent on Jane, equalizing the relationship. Further, Jane no longer has to fear a false marriage, for Bertha is dead. Jane could be seen as a modern heroine in determining her own fate: earlier, in leaving Rochester to make her own way in the world, and at the end in freely choosing to marry him after having established her independence.  

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