What is the importance of motherhood in Jane Eyre?

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For much of the novel, motherhood is extremely important because of the absence of a mother in Jane’s life. Given her status as an orphan, she lacks both parents, but her lack of a mother is shown as particularly poignant. Her aunt Mrs. Reed, a woman who should be serving as a substitute mother figure, utterly fails to care for Jane, treats her very cruelly, and sends her away to a horrible school.

At Lowood, Jane’s search for appropriate adult female role models is only partially fulfilled by Miss Temple. While she receives guidance and affection, the strong bond between mother and child is not fully forged with the headmistress.

In addition, Jane seems to be seeking a father figure, and the reader can see her first interactions with Edward Rochester fitting into the model of a paternal relationship. However, by coming to his home and acting as Adele’s governess, Jane also begins to function as an adult in her own right—a person who can interact with Rochester as a potential romantic partner.

Jane can identify with Adele’s motherless and displaced status because of her own situation while growing up. She understands what should be the proper way that a grown woman cares for a girl, including providing a positive role model. She determines to be there for Adele, but her desire to nurture the girl is thwarted. With Rochester’s deception exposed, Jane must leave Thornfield. After her further adventures, including her brief and unsatisfactory relationship with St. John Rivers, the mature Jane can return to become Rochester’s wife and properly fulfill a mother’s role for Adele.

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