What is the significance of the characters' names in the novel Jane Eyre? How does the name affect the way readers view the reader?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question petains to the "rhetorical" power names:  the sound of a character's name or perhaps its origin or what it might allude to--all of these convey meanings that add to our understanding of the character. Mrs. Reed’s name suggests her strictness, a “reed” being a tool that punishes children by whipping them. Mr. Brocklehurst’s same, with the “k” sounds in the middle, also sounds harsh, but it also sounds pompous, which in fact he is. Helen Burns is a passionate girl; in some ways she “burns” with life, and of course she dies from a fever as well. Blanche might sound elegant, but the name half-rhymes with “bland,” which she certainly is, for she lacks the strong moral compass that guides Jane. As for Jane, yes, her name is plain, but “Eyre,” although it too sounds plain in that it consists of a simple syllable, also conveys an ethereal quality in that it is a homonym with “air.” Insofar that “eyre” is also a system of justice in Medieval England, perhaps her name brings with it suggestions of the fairness and the sense of right she seeks and represents. Bertha originates from a German word that means “bright,” which is ironic in terms of the way Rochester has locked her up so that she now lives in the dark. Try using the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) or other online dictionaries to search for meanings of these words. I provide a link below.

podunc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will add two more: Miss Temple, who is a beacon to her students and worshiped by them, and St. John Rivers, Jane's cousin. St. John is clearly linked to St. John the Apostle, who wrote five books of the New Testament. The New Testament's final book of Revelation ends with the words, "Come, Lord Jesus." St. John Rivers' final letter to Jane ends the novel with these same words.

The surname "Rivers" might also allude to John the Baptist who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. This story can be found in Matthew 3.

ellenmay29 | Student

Also 'Eyre' derives from the Old French word 'errer,' - 'to travel.'- which may refer to her wanderlust, a trait which estabishes her as a romantic figure.

Also 'Helen' means 'Reed', and because fire is often symbolic for positive destrustion in Jane Eyre 'Reed Burns' may be emblamatic of Helen destroying Jane's dependence on the Reed's and the negative traits they had left behind in her.

princetongirlupz | Student

well when we take the name MARIA TEMPLE,Maria is the name of jesus's mother and temple is a place which is considered sacred so the name itself demonstrates the character;fair,pleasant,kind,sacred.

the name HELEN BURNS is more like a sentence her name tells that she is suffering and the character is provoken in there too as Helen suffers from consumption.

thats all i can think of!!!

sahilamini | Student

The name “Helen Burns” can be linked with the element of Fire. Helen means “torch” and “light bearer”. Helen`s surname “Burns” refers to how fire burns. Helen is described as a religious, patient and forgiving girl who illuminated the truth for Jane. She silently suffers punishment and dies at the hands of nature. Her name suggests the idea of a person who teaches value, true meaning and puts light on uncertainty. To Jane, she teaches her to control her passion and “love your enemies”. Helens name sounds like Hell burns, saying it backwards indicates “Burns in Hell”, showing her religious character. Helen burns, in some ways, “burns” with life and is tolerant and forginving. She dies from fever as well.


juliagorl | Student

If you read Hellen Burns backwards, it says Burns in Hell- showing her religious character

sirinee | Student

"Plain Jane " , Jane is not beautiful , and as a vectorian woman she has to fight for gaining social respect and  meet a matsh _a gentelman caller . 
the surname "Eyre" connotes "air" , thereby the yearn for freedom , flee , liberation.. , for a life without obsatcles without restrictions that are the resul tof her pale  physiognomy.

katanicbk | Student

I want to add something also, 'Jane' is an ordinary, common name. It shows that it can be every women living in that area, fighting for freedom in the society.

Her surname 'Eyre" is the reminiscent of eye. It indicates that she will become an eye for Mr. Rochester who will be blind. Besides we see everything from the eye of Jane Eyre. There is the first person narrative.

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Jane Eyre

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