JANE EYRE: Protagonist and narrator
"'I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad -- as I am now.'" Volume 3, Ch. 27 (408)
This passage takes place after Rochester's wife has been discovered, preventing his marriage to Jane. Here, Jane defiantly tells Rochester that she does not need him or anyone else to care for her. This reveals that she is most content when she is not a burden to anyone. She shows how important self respect and virtue are to her; she refuses to forsake her principles, although it would be easy to do so in her delicate mental state. Jane admits that she is mad after such a trying ordeal; the fact that she can recognize and admit this shows her strong sense of self.
"I know no medium: I never in my life have known any medium in my dealings with positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own, between absolute submission and determined revolt. I have always faithfully observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting, sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other." Volume 3, Ch. 34 (499)
This passage deals with Jane's submission to St. John in agreeing to go for a private walk with him. This not only foreshadows her passionate refusal to his proposal, but looks back to her life leading up to this moment, explaining her other outbursts that have appeared throughout the novel. Her declaration that she knows no medium emphasizes her conviction -- her feelings and beliefs are never lukewarm.
Key characters of Jane's childhood
BESSIE: Gateshead Nurse
“Bessie Lee must, I think, have been a girl of good natural capacity; for she was smart in all she did, and had a remarkable knack of narrative: so, at least, I judge from the impression made on my by her nursery tales. She was pretty, too, if my recollections of her face and person are correct. I remember her a slim young woman, with black hair, dark eyes, very nice features, and good, clear complexion; but she had a capricious and hasty temper, and indifferent ideas of principle or justice: still, such as she was, I preferred her to any one else at Gateshead Hall." Volume 1, Ch.4 (88)
Throughout the novel, Jane shows regard for beauty. The way she remembers Bessie as "pretty" with "very nice features" reinforces Bessie as a light in her unhappy childhood at Gateshead.
MRS REED: Jane's Aunt
“Mrs. Reed and I were left alone: some minutes passed in silence; she was sewing, I was watching her. Mrs. Reed might be, at that time, some six or seven-and-thirty; she was a woman of robust frame, square shouldered and strong-limbed, not tall, and though stout, not obese; she had a somewhat large face, the under-jaw being much developed and very solid; her brow was low, her chin large and prominent, mouth and nose sufficiently regular; under her light eyebrows glimmered an eye devoid of ruth; her skin was dark and opaque, her hair nearly flaxen; her constitution was sound as a bell--illness never came near her; she was an exact, elver manager, her household and tenantry were thoroughly under her control; her children, only, at times defied her authority and laughed it to scorn; she dressed well, and had a presence and port calculated to set off handsome attire." Volume 1, Ch 4 (94)
Jane recollects Mrs. Reed with strong, masculine words--robust, stout, solid. Jane describes her very specifically, but in a cold, matter-of-fact way. This emphasizes Mrs. Reed's harshness, her lack of compassion, and her coldness toward Jane.
MR. BROCKLEHURST: Lowood's Manager
"I looked up at--a black pillar!--such, at least, appeared to me, at first sight, the straight, narrow, sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug: the grim face at the top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft by way of capital." Volume 1, Ch 4 (90)
Jane describes Mr. Brocklehurst as a black pillar and an erect shape. This image emphasizes his power and his rigidness. The description of his face as a "carved mask" is suggesting that he is pretending to be something that he is not. This foreshadows his hypocrisy that becomes so evident in his visits to Lowood.
MISS TEMPLE: Lowood's Headmistress
"Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes, with a benignant light in their irids, and a fine penciling of long lashes found, relieved the whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of a very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the fashion of those times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets were in vogue; her dress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple cloth, relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet; a gold watch (watches were not so common then as now) shone at her girdle. Let the reader add, to complete the picture, refined features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air and carriage, and he will have, at least as clearly as words can give it, a correct exterior of Miss Temple." Volume 1, Ch 5 (108)
Jane's regard for beauty comes out very strongly in this passage. The meticulous details about Miss Temple's appearance, right down to her eyelashes and her watch, show how enchanted Jane was with her. In addition, there are many allusions to light and whiteness, which foreshadows Miss Temple's purity and goodness.
HELEN BURNS: Jane's first friend and confidant at Lowood
"The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of her beloved instructress, or perhaps more than all these, something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her. They woke, they kindled; first, they glowed in the bright tint of her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss Temple's--a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor penciled brow, but of meaning, or movement, of radiance. Then her souls sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot tell: has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous enough to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence? Such was the characteristic of Helen's discourse on that, to me, memorable evening: her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence." Volume 1, Ch 8 (137)
Jane describes her close childhood friend Helen in a very interesting way, using words that emphasize brightness and warmth--kindled, glowed, lustre, radiance, etc. This coincides with Jane's fiery personality while showing how powerful and beautiful Helen appears to Jane in this moment. Jane seems bewitched by Helen, especially with the emphasis on "her powers" that have been roused within her. Helen's mind, heart, and spirit are all given significant attention in this passge, suggesting that, while she is physically weak, she is strong in these areas. In the novel, Helen and Jane embody different belief systems: Helen represents a more "appropriate child" than Jane. She has a Christian sense of duty while Jane has no sense of duty. Her patience influences Jane's temper. Additionally, her older age and maturity cause her to view obstacles as lessons. Helen represents the perfect Victorian heroine in her acceptance of her own life, duty, and fate.
Key Characters of Thornfield Hall
MRS. FAIRFAX: Housekeeper of Thornfield Hall
"A snug, small room; a round table by a cheerful fire; an arm-chair high-backed and old-fashioned, wherein sat the neatest imaginable little elderly lady, in widow's cap, black silk gown and snowy muslin apron: exactly like what I had fancied Mrs. Fairfax, only less stately and milder looking. She was ocucpied in knitting; a large cat sat demurely at her feet; nothing in short was wanting to complete the beau ideal of domestic comfort." Volume 1, Ch 11 (162)
This passage foreshadows Mrs. Fairfax's position as a houskeeper and not the owner of Thornfield Hall, as Jane first assumed. Her plain, expected appearance emphasizes her traditional ways. The fact that she is knitting alongside a cat gives her some warmth, foreshadowing the warmth that Jane begins to feel for her.
ADELE VARENS: Mr. Rochester's ward and Jane's Pupil
"I looked at my pupil, who did not at first appear to notice me: she was quite a child, perhaps seven or eight years old, slightly built, with a pale small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to her waist." Volum 1, Ch 11 (168)
Adele's failure to immediately notice Jane foreshadows her somewhat selfish ways. The redundancy of curls emphasizes Adele's preoccupation with extravagent things and superficial beauty.
MR. ROCHESTER: Jane's Employer and Master of Thornfield Hall
"Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr. Rochester, his foot supported by the cushion; he was looking at Adele and the dog: the fire shone full on his face. I knew my traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw--yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake. His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonized in squareness with his physiognomy: I suppose it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term--broad chested and thin flanked; though neither tall nor graceful." Volume 1, Ch 13 (190)
In this passage, Jane gives a lengthy description of Mr. Rochester's appearance. She is not attracted to him, saying that his nose is not beautiful, his features are grim, and his figure is not graceful; despite his lack of beauty, Jane is transfixed with him. This strange transfixion foreshadows their future relationship, where Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester despite the fact that he often treats her with indifference.
GRACE POOL: Servant at Thornfield Hall, caretaker of Bertha Mason
"The door nearest me opened, and a servant came out,- a woman of between thirty and forty; a set, square-made figure, red-haired, and with a hard plain face: any apparition less romantic or less ghostly could scarecely be conceived." Volume 1, Ch. 11 (175)
Jane describes Grace as sturdy and strong with words like "set," "square-made," and "hard." This foreshadows Grace's true position as Bertha's caretaker. Although Jane later begins to believe that Grace is mad, this initial observation that she is neither romantic nor ghostly foreshadows the truth that Grace is not the mad woman of Thornfield Hall.
BERTHA MASON: Mr. Rochester's first wife and the "madwoman in the attic"
Her existence is known to few and she is being kept secretly in Thornfield Hall under Grace Poole's care-- "In the deep shade, at the further end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell; it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing; and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face." Volume 2, Ch. 26 (380)
Bertha's running backward and forward emphasizes her restlessness and discontent; her hostile animal-like behavior emphasizes her madness and anger, and perhaps her jealousy of Jane.
Key Characters of Marsh End
St. JOHN RIVERS: A clergyman that rescues and shelters Jane after she leaves Thornfield Hall; he is also Jane's cousin
"[He] was easy enough to examine. Had he been a statue instead of a man, he could not have ben easier. He was young -- perhaps twenty-eight to thirty -- tall,slender; his face riveted the eye: it was like a Greek face, very pure in outline; quite a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin. It is seldom, indeed, an English face comes so near the antique models as did his. He might well be a little shocked at the irregularity of my lineaments, his own being so harmonious. His eyes were large and blue, with brown lashes; his high forehead, colourless as ivory, was partially streaked over by careless locks of fair hair." Volume 3, Ch. 29 (438-439)
Jane examines St. John as if he were a statue, foreshadowing his cold, stoic demeanor. His "pure" features emphasize his Christian devoutness. Jane compares him to Greek and Athenian "antique models," distancing him from herself and foreshadowing their lack of chemistry. This is further emphasized by the way Jane compares her irregular features to his harmonious ones. It is also worth noting that St. John's fair, elegant features are a stark contrast to Mr. Rochester's.
DIANA AND MARY RIVERS: St. John's sisters and Jane's cousins
"I thought them so similar I could not tell where the old servant (for such I now concluded her to be) saw the difference. Both were fair complexioned and slenderly made; both possessed faces full of distinction and intelligence. One, to be sure, had hair a shade darker than the other, and there was a difference in their style of wearing it: Mary's pale brown locks were parted and braided smooth; Diana's duskier tresses covered her neck with thick curls." Volume 3, Ch 28 (426)
Jane describes the sisters together, emphasizing their closeness and their many similarities. Their slightly differing styles of hair foreshadow the differences in their personalities: Mary's smooth, reserved style represents her quiet, gentle ways; Diana's free flowing curls represent her lively, assertive nature.