Fate or Free Will: Jane Eyre discussion points

Chevy Chase Library

Fate or Free Will: Jane Eyre discussion points

Fate and Free Will in Charlotte Bronte’s "Jane Eyre"
(Meeting on March 28 at 7 p.m.)

For this session, read the passages below.  Consider Jane’s story in terms of the elements that determine human personality and destiny.  How does the interplay between the elements of Jane’s strong character, her upbringing, and her close relationships shape the course of her life?  Can we view Bertha (the madwoman in the attic) as an alternate view of Jane’s fate? How do we read Jane’s “good fortune” when she receives her windfall inheritance?
Relevant passages:
“’If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust; the wicked people would have it all their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should — so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.’”
- Jane to Helen Burns, Chapter 6

“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth.”
- Jane, Chapter 12

(Jane): “'You are human and fallible.'
(Rochester): 'I am: so are you--what then?'
'The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the divine and perfect alone can be safely intrusted.'
'What power?'
'That of saying of any strange, unsanctioned line of action,--'Let it be right.'’
‘'Let it be right'--the very words: you have pronounced them.'
'May it be right then,' I said, as I rose, deeming it useless to continue a discourse which was all darkness to me; and, besides, sensible that the character of my interlocutor was beyond my penetration; at least, beyond its present reach; and feeling the uncertainty, the vague sense of insecurity, which accompanies a conviction of ignorance.”
- Jane and Rochester, Chapter 14

"’You never felt jealousy, did you, Miss Eyre? Of course not: I need not ask you; because you never felt love. You have both sentiments yet to experience: your soul sleeps; the shock is yet to be given which shall waken it. You think all existence lapses in as quiet a flow as that in which your youth has hitherto slid away. Floating on with closed eyes and muffled ears, you neither see the rocks bristling not far off in the bed of the flood, nor hear the breakers boil at their base. But I tell you--and you may mark my words--you will come some day to a craggy pass in the channel, where the whole of life's stream will be broken up into whirl and tumult, foam and noise: either you will be dashed to atoms on crag points, or lifted up and borne on by some master-wave into a calmer current- -as I am now.’”
- Rochester to Jane, Chapter 15

(Rochester): "’Jane, be still; don't struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.’
(Jane): ‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.’
Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
‘And your will shall decide your destiny,’ he said: ‘I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions.’
‘You play a farce, which I merely laugh at.’
‘I ask you to pass through life at my side--to be my second self, and best earthly companion.’
‘For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by it.’”
- Rochester and Jane, Chapter 23