Study Guide

Helen Burns in Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë

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Helen Burns

(Click the character infographic to download.)

Helen is Jane’s pious best friend at Lowood Institute. Helen is extremely intelligent, calm, and caring, but her most important aspect is her devout religious faith. If Jane Eyre were an allegory, Helen would basically be a walking version of the New Testament instructions to "turn the other cheek" and "bless them that curse you" and "love your enemies."

Constantly victimized by the nasty teacher Miss Scatcherd, Helen never seems to take offense at the way she’s treated and even tries to see things from Miss Scatcherd’s perspective. Jane is confused by Helen’s patient, loving response to mistreatment, but she’s also awed by Helen’s brilliance and knowledge. Of course, a character this virtuous really couldn’t make it very far into the novel without dying in a tragic yet beautiful way. Maybe it seems less like a formulaic plot device when you know that Helen was based on Charlotte Brontë’s sister Maria, who died young.

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