What role does Jane's unclear social position play in determining the conflict of her story?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jane's unclear social position drives her internal conflict, as well as much of the novel's external conflict.  Orphaned as a young girl, Jane begins the novel in a precarious social position.  She is never fully accepted into her "adopted" family, and when she goes to the girls' school, she has no idea what her future might hold.  Her plight continues when she enters into Mr. Rochester's employment.  At first, it seems clear that she is one of the staff, but even then a governess from Jane's time was rather isolated from the rest of the staff.  When she and Rochester develope a relationship, her social position teeters ever more between various classes.  Is she still an employed governess, or is she the fiancee of a rich noble?

Because Jane does not know where she fits in society, she doesn't really know herself or even what her goals should be.  Additionally, others don't reallly know what to do with Jane.  Some try to treat her like one of the family, while others use her awkward status to belittle her.

When Jane finally develops into her true self and finds answers to her past, all of the other conflict resolves itself, and she rightfully holds her own socially.

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Jane Eyre

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