What is the significance of religion in Jane Eyre?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Religion plays a strong and complex role in Jane Eyre. I will focus on two aspects of religion in the novel: deformations of Christianity as either hypocrisy or over-rigidity and true religious faith as a motivator of behavior.

Mr. Brocklehurst represents religious hypocrisy. As director of the Lowood School, he insists that the students practice the Christian virtues of humility and self-sacrifice. This means eating very poor food, often being hungry, being freezing cold, and having one's hair cut short. Girls like Helen Burns get very sick under this regime (she dies), and others suffer. Mr. Brocklehurst, however, lives with his family in great comfort with fine clothes and plenty to eat. He is one of those characters in English literature we really love to hate—and with good reason.

St. John is more complex. He is a good man and a good Christian who does plan to sacrifice his comforts going to India to convert the "heathen," but he is so cold and rigid in his Christianity that the idea...

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