Hamlet struggles in the play to express his individuality, or his sense of himself. He is in many ways an intellectual who is devoted to his studies, but he is forced, by dint of events beyond his control, to give up the life of a scholar that he has formerly led and to devote himself to avenging his father's death at the hands of Hamlet's uncle, Claudius. In his famous soliloquy that begins with "to be or not to be," Hamlet struggles with the question of how to live life. In living life, he has to give up a great deal of himself and his individuality and submit himself to the vicissitudes of fortune. In so doing, his individuality is often erased; however, the only other alternative is death, which is the ultimate destroyer of individuality. In Hamlet's quest to live an authentic life and express his individuality, he is often defeated.
Jane Eyre is more successful at expressing her individuality, or her self-worth and her right to live the life she wants. She continually fights for the way she wants to live. For example, she defies Master John Reed when she is just a girl. When he flings a book at her, she fights back with words, and she refuses to be intimidated by a person who is her superior by dint of his gender and class status. Later, she is able to express to Mr. Rochester the type of relationship that she wants; she refuses to accept his proposal of marriage, even though she loves him, because he is still married to Bertha. Jane only accepts Rochester when he is free to marry, and she marries him very much as an equal. Throughout her life, Jane expresses her desires and wants with a sense of her self-worth, even though she lives in a society that demeans her as a woman without means.