How does Bronte address the theme of loneliness in Jane Eyre especially in the soliloquy in Chapter 4?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In general, almost all of the main characters in Jane Eyre are lonely.  How the characters respond to their need for human companionship is what causes the novel's conflicts.  Jane is obviously lonely because she has no one.  As a young girl, she loses everyone who was special to her through death or other cruel circumstances.  When Jane arrives at Thornfield, she is still lonely.  As a governess, she doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the staff, and it takes her a while to develop a bond with her ward.  Likewise, Rochester is obviously an extremely lonely character who must escape the isolation of his house in order to survive.

Specifically, in Chapter 4, there are several passages which could be considered soliloquies on Jane's part, and they discuss the idea of isolation.  Arguably, the most effective treatise on the effects of loneliness occurs near the beginning of the chapter.  Jane describes how she is excluded from all of the family's festive holiday activities, and throughout the excerpt she demonstrates that a person can be lonely and isolated even when others are physically present.  She admits,

"I had not the least wish to go into company, for in company I was very rarely noticed" (30).

In some sense, Charlotte Bronte suggests that it is almost worse to be knowingly ignored than it is to be lonely simply from a lack of humans in the vicinity.  The latter implies no rejection as does the former.

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Jane Eyre

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