What is the central conflict of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The main conflict in Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, surrounds Jane's attempts to reconcile the world that often has no values to the code of values by which she lives her life.

This is most obvious in her relationship with the tormented figure of Mr. Rochester. She wants desperately to help him. She falls in love with him and wants to marry him. Yet when she discovers that he is married, albeit to a deranged wife, Jane cannot stay with Rochester, although she still loves him.

Her struggles are internal and external. Jane struggles inside to do the right thing (which is man vs self). Society (in the form of Bertha's brother) expects her to do the right thing in that Edward is already married (which is man vs society). Rochester still wants Jane (which is man vs man), but she cannot live with him in sin, and this brings the reader back to her internal conflict (man vs self).

Jane leaves and tries to forget Rochester and go on with her life. When St. John Rivers proposes, once again, Jane cannot ignore her conscience: she does not love him, so she says no. Then Jane hears Edward's voice on the wind, calling to her, an element of the supernatural. She returns to find Thornfield destroyed by fire and Bertha, the cause of it, dead. Now Jane and Edward can start a life together. The main source of Jane's conflict in the story has been resolved.