How are Jane Eyre, Mrs. Reed and Mr. Rochester characterized in the novel Jane Eyre?
From childhood, Jane is a passionate person who learns as she grows up to hide her turbulent emotions under a placid and controlled facade. But beneath that facade lies a seething cauldron of feelings. The child Jane attacks the cold Mrs. Reed quite vehemently, hurling emotions at her with "ungovernable" passion:
"You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently thrust me back—into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony, though I cried out, while suffering with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’"
Although the adult Jane will refer to herself as a "Quakerish governess," quiet and plain, she will understand herself as a person of extremes:
I know no medium [middle ground]: I never in my life have known any medium in my dealings with positive hard characters, antagonistic to my own, between absolute submission and determined revolt. I have always faithfully observed the one up to the very moment of bursting, sometimes with volcanic vehemence into the other...
We see some of her tendency to extremes when she thinks she would agree to have her arm broken at Lowood School if it meant people would like her, and when she runs wildly away across the moor after she finds out that Bertha Poole is Rochester's wife. Jane feels deeply.
Mrs. Reed is characterized, in contrast, as a cold woman lacking in empathy to the point that it makes her cruel:
Mrs. Reed's hands still lay on her work inactive: her eye of ice continued to dwell freezingly on mine.
“What more have you to say?” she asked rather in the tone in which a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is ordinarily used to a child.
We note the "icy eye" and that Mrs. Reed has no idea how to talk to a child with any warmth or caring. She does the letter of her duty in caring for Jane, but without any real connection to the child, and ships her off to boarding school as soon as she gets difficult.
Mr. Rochester, however, shares with Jane a passionate, feeling heart. He is also a commanding, intimidating person used to being in charge and used to having his way. He falls in love with and idealizes Jane. We see his passion as he curses his fate in being married to the mad Bertha, and his idealization of Jane in the following:
"Such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know [speaking of the mad Bertha]—such are the endearments which are to solace my leisure hours! And this is what I wished to have" (laying his hand on my shoulder): "this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon...
His attempt at a bigamous marriage with Jane shows his strong will and his desire to have his own way, even if it means hurting someone he loves.