How is the archetypal "journey," the literal and metaphorical, in Jane Eyre best explained?I am having trouble understanding the significance of this archetype in Jane Eyre and would really...

How is the archetypal "journey," the literal and metaphorical, in Jane Eyre best explained?

I am having trouble understanding the significance of this archetype in Jane Eyre and would really appreciate some explanation of it.

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Let us look at the novel in a slightly different way for one moment. When the novel begins, we are presented with a young, orphaned girl who is trapped in so many different ways, not least by the weather, as the opening sentence of the novel reminds us:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner... the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question.

As the novel develops we see Jane is imprisoned by her position in society as an orphaned outcast, and also imprisoned by the power of her own emotions, which is indicated in the way that she loses control in the famous "red room" incident. However, what is crucial about the way the novel is structured is that there appear to be five distinct stages in Jane Eyre's growth that are linked to her physical journey through life. Each stage/location has something important for Jane to learn, until finally, when we see Jane at the end of the novel in Ferndean, she has progressed through both a literal journey and a metaphorical journey towards establishing her own character and sense of self. The way in which her uncle's death has made her a lady of independent means and her own ability to maintain a tension between an excess of duty and responsibility on the one hand and an excess of passion and feeling on the other hand means that she is able to get the happy ending that she deserves, marrying Mr. Rochester and finally carving out a place for herself in the world where she belongs. This is the archetypal journey that Jane endures during the course of the novel.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically, the "archetypal journey" for Jane Eyre is a metaphor for her growth and development as an independent woman.  
       As basis for this "journey," Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, contended that people shared in what he termed a “collective unconscious.”

Here lay dormant all of the knowledge we, as humans, needed in order to know who we are and what is valuable and worthwhile in life. Although we vary greatly in our conscious attitudes and goals, our unconscious minds, revealed through dream studies and psychological research, are quite similar the world over.

Thus, Jane Eyre's journey is an existential one that has its beginnings as a non-entity who must be boarded by Mrs. Reed, to a young girl who seeks an individual identity by rejecting the passivism that her friend Helen suggests.  On the other hand, Jane does acquire much of the Christian values of humility, patience, and forgiveness from her friend.  These virtues serve Jane well in her experience at Thornfield Hall as she finds herself confronted with the polarities of reason and passion, absolute and relative morality, and, finally, love without marriage and marriage without love. After all of her experiences in her journey of life, Jane Eyre emerges from the "dormancy of knowledge." Once a forlorn child who sought friendship and love, Jane Eyre as a woman of great individuality, strong and independent, yet passionate, caring, and fiercely loyal.