In the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, God becomes the symbolic, father, brother, and caretaker of Jane. This motif or idea first appears when Jane sits on the deathbed of her close friend Helen and asks; Where is God, what is God? (Ch IX). Helen responds: My maker and yours who will never destroy what he created (Ch IX). At this moment, the idea is suggested that a tangible, personal, relationship with God may be had, and it becomes the basis for much of Janes reasoning throughout the novel. To Jane, God offers a perfect and intimate relationship that was never present in her life, one that she immediately becomes attached to. There is somewhat of an unspoken struggle throughout the novel for this position in Janes life. Gods role is often obscured or even replaced, first by Rochester, and finally by Janes newfound relatives: St. John Rivers, Mary and Diana. Ultimately, Jane finds the balance between her human and spiritual relationships in a romantic climax.
Before Janes romance with Rochester, she is steadfast in her ascetic lifestyle. Jane feels supported as an individual through her relationship with God. God is a source of sustenance and justification for the values that she had come to appreciate at Lowlwood; namely self-deprivation, modesty, and asceticism. She invokes the name of god often, considering him a peer or a witness to her daily struggles and worries, almost as a family member. I pray to God that Mrs. Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs. Reed (Ch XI) Jane states sincerely to herself after making plans to seek a position at Thornfield. Early in the novel, Janes sole source of reassurance is God. In the face of great difficulty or trial, Jane continues to consult God as a peer or parent. Love me then or hate me, you have my full and free forgiveness, ask now for Gods and be at peace (Ch XXIV) Jane asserts upon the deathbed of her hateful aunt Mrs. Reed. Here Jane faces a difficult moment with the support of God, almost in place of the assurance of a family. However a conflict quickly arises as a struggle for this position in Janes life occurs.
Jane subconsciously seems to seek this relationship in her life, filling the emptiness left by the absence of her own direct family. At Thornfield, Rochester quickly assumes a powerful and similarly important role in Janes life. While God substantiated Janes life with his omnipresence and moral standard, Rochester offers human companionship, financial security, and any degree of material comfort that Jane could possibly desire. Rochester provides a very tangible relationship, and Gods symbolic fatherly provision is swiftly overshadowed. Falling in love with Rochester, Jane forgets her devotion to God and to an ascetic lifestyle as she takes pleasure, although minimally, in the security and significance Rochester offers her. Jane shares a close relationship with Rochester; he shares his innermost thoughts with her at every opportunity. And this human connection or intimacy Jane finds seductive.
He stood between me and every thought of religion as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not in those days see God for his creature, of whom I had made an Idol. Jane has idolized Rochester, eclipsing entirely the sun or her past source of fulfillment: God. The statement I could not see God for his creature suggests that ultimately Rochester had replaced Gods role in Janes life, becoming her mentor, brother, father, lover. In her zealousness, Jane doesnt thank, or even mention God once during her romance with Rochester until it comes to a dramatic halt. When Jane discovers that Rochester is still married, she immediately cries out to God in lament. The material has failed Jane, and she returns quickly to supernatural or divine dependence. I lay faint, longing to be dead, only one idea still throbbed life like within me, a remembrance of God grieves Jane, at the news of Rochesters secret wife (Ch XXVI). Jane seeks support in this time of great emotional stress from God. looked for aid to one higher than man: the words God help me, burst involuntarily from my lips. Janes support and confidence are again from the divine, God seems to have resumed the role of Janes caretaker. God now symbolically occupies the role of her father, lover, and sole relation in the world.
According to Janes assumptions about God, she starts her ascetic lifestyle anew, fleeing the human camaraderie of her now shunned lover. Let me break away and go home to God (Ch XXVII). Jane faces considerable difficulty and starvation in her wanderings; she cries out to God. I can but die and I believe in God, let me try to wait his will in silence. Once Jane is delivered to a dry home, my dripping clothes were removedI thanked God, she appropriately resumes a pattern of life that she feels pleases the one now closest to her in her life: God. She lives sparsely and with little passion as a school teacher in exceedingly modest quarters. However, Jane soon inherits a considerable fortune and discovers relatives. At this point in the novel, again, God quickly disappears as a motif or a representation of Janes longing for relations. It seemed I had found a brother: one I could be proud of, -- one I could love; and two sisters (Ch XXXIII). Jane revels extensively in the comfort of her newfound family: St. John Rivers and sisters Mary, and Diane, generously furnishing their home with her new fortune. "Have I furnished it nicely?" she asks (Ch XXXI). The energy Jane feels in her new situation is clear; she quits her job teaching, keeps to the house of her relatives, and relaxes for extended amounts of time. Not mentioning or calling upon God once, as she had done constantly weeks before, it is clear that Jane had forgotten the relationship and intimacy she held with God. Her desire for relationship has presently been fulfilled by her discovered relatives. St. John Rivers sees this replacement, and criticizes her on this loss. "To the end of turning to profit the talents which God has committed to your keeping; and of which He will surely one day demand a strict account. Jane, I shall watch you closely and anxiously -- I warn you of that. And try to restrain the disproportionate fervour with which you throw yourself into commonplace home pleasures. Don't cling so tenaciously to ties of the flesh (Ch XXXIV). Although a fervent and perhaps overly passionate man himself, he recognizes the shift and the loss of Janes symbolic relationship with God. Planning to be a missionary and to marry Jane, he slowly pushes her with cult-leader-like authority back into a relationship with God. Jane, either seeing her divergence, or feeling crushed by his passion, decides to run away to Rochester.
Jane discovers that Rochester -- now physically disabled by an unsuccessful attempt to save his wife from throwing herself off the roof of the burning Thornfield -- has sought an intimate relationship with God as well. He can no longer depend on himself, being blind, and in some ways seeks to fulfill this deficiency with a dependence on God. Figuratively, It seems both Jane and Rochester now rely on God to compensate for their own shortcomings; Jane for her lack of family and Rochester for his physical disability and to some degree his own lack of relatives. My heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wiselyI supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to Him, I might soon be taken from this life, and admitted to that world to come, where there was still hope of rejoining Jane (Ch XXXVII). Ultimately, Jane comes to fulfill her desire for relationship, with both God and humanity in her marriage to Rochester. God plays an intimate role in both of their lives. Jane describes this accurately: I am not of those who live without God in the world, and only mind earthly things (ChXXXVII).
The novel ends on a mention of Christ: Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus, which is a quotation of St. John Riverss letter (Ch XXXVII). This symbolizes the significance and intimacy of God to all three characters, Rochester, Jane, St. John, and most significantly the final harmony in Janes life. She has found both a relationship with God and Rochester, both human and divine, living in the manner that she imagines God would approved of: an ascetic existence in Rochesters unfinished forest cottage. God has resumed the role of intimate confidant in Janes life, and she lives accordingly.
This unspoken conflict is resolved. Jane has integrated and accepted the symbolic relationship of God harmoniously with that which often caused her to stray from it: human companionship. God now plays an intimate role as father and caretaker, despite her previous conflict, straying to the tangible companionship of Rochester, and to the comfort of her relatives. Jane has successfully integrated this symbol into her life.