In Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, how does Jane's character develop from Chapter XI to Chapter XIV?  

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The development of the title character in Chapters XI-XIV of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre is mainly a development from uncertainty and nervousness to self-assurance and confidence. When we first see Jane in Chapter XI, she is apprehensive about her new job, her new residence, her new co-workers, and her new employer. She does not know quite what to expect about her new position as governess at Thornfield. Early in Chapter XI, Jane describes herself as lacking tranquility and as feeling anxious:

It is a very strange sensation to inexperienced youth to feel itself quite alone in the world, cut adrift from every connection, uncertain whether the port to which it is bound can be reached, and prevented by many impediments from returning to that it has quitted.

However, after Jane arrives at Thornfield and is greeted by the friendly and considerate Mrs. Fairfax, she begins to feel more relaxed and comfortable:

“She treats me like a visitor,” thought I.  “I little expected such a reception; I anticipated only coldness and stiffness: this is not like what I have heard of the treatment of governesses; but I must not exult too soon.”

Jane enjoys the company of Mrs. Fairfax and hopes that Mrs. Fairfax will also feel the same about her. She tries to make herself look as attractive as possible, even though she does not consider herself an especially attractive person. She soon likes being at Thornfield, expresses curiosity about its owner (Mr. Rochester), and is frustrated when Mrs. Fairfax provides little sense of his character. In short, the longer Jane is at Thornfield, the more at home and more self-assured she feels. She is (admittedly) disturbed by the mysterious laughter she hears (laughter that Mrs. Fairfax attributes to Grace Poole, another servant).

By the beginning of Chapter XII, however, Jane has quickly taken charge of her young pupil and is confidently evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the girl’s character. Indeed, during the course of this chapter Jane expresses confident opinions on various topics, including the nature of children in general, the nature of goodness, her own commitment to truthfulness, her own restlessness and unconventionality, the need of all humans for action, the fundamental traits of human nature in general, and the rights of women to equal treatment and respect. Even when she accidentally meets Mr. Rochester, she seems unfazed, confident, and (in her words) “at ease.”

This pattern continues in Chapter XIII, even when Jane begins to interact with the mysterious Mr. Rochester, who in some ways intrigues her. In her conversations with him she shows good humor (as in discussing the "men in green") as well as surprising frankness (as in her comments on Mr. Brocklehurst). She also shows self-respect, intelligence, talent, modesty, and high aspirations (as when discussing her drawings). In Chapter XIV Jane is astonishingly frank in speaking with and to Mr. Rochester, partly because he encourages and even demands such frankness and displays it himself. She tells him that he is not handsome, disagrees with a number of his opinions, and even offers him advice about how to recover from mistakes he has made. Jane, in short, goes from being a very uncertain girl at the beginning of Chapter XI to a very self-confident young woman at the end of Chapter XIV.

 

 

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