Study Guide

Jane Eyre The Home

By Charlotte Brontë

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The Home

Volume 1, Chapter 6

Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this would have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted the separation: that wind would then have saddened my heart; this obscure chaos would have disturbed my peace: as it was I derived from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and the confusion to rise to clamour. (1.6.14)

Jane claims that, because she came from an unpleasant home where she felt unwelcome, she is excited rather than depressed by her situation at Lowood, symbolized here by the windy chaos outside the window.

We’re not sure, however, if we should believe her; even though her life at Gateshead was unpleasant, any change is distressing, especially for a child, and maybe she is mourning for the home she had before, even if it wasn’t too great. Jane’s first comment on her homelessness makes us realize that she’s not always a completely honest narrator, and we might have to dig deep to figure out her real feelings.

Volume 1, Chapter 8

Well has Solomon said:—"Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."

I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations, for Gateshead and its daily luxuries. (1.8.60-61)

Despite the fact that she doesn’t get enough to eat at Lowood and can be mocked and maligned by Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane prefers it to the red velvet curtains and cruelty of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead. Home, for Jane, isn’t just a roof over her head; it’s being accepted for who she is and having the opportunity to better herself.

Volume 2, Chapter 6

On a dark, misty, raw morning in January, I had left a hostile roof with a desperate and embittered heart—a sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation—to seek the chilly harbourage of Lowood: that bourne so far away and unexplored. The same hostile roof now again rose before me: my prospects were doubtful yet; and I had yet an aching heart. I still felt as a wanderer on the face of the earth; but I experienced firmer trust in myself and my own powers, and less withering dread of oppression. The gaping wound of my wrongs, too, was now quite healed; and the flame of resentment extinguished. (2.6.114)

Returning to Gateshead after she has been at Thornfield for six months and Lowood for eight years before that, Jane doesn’t have any sense of homecoming—but at least she no longer feels bitter about her childhood experience with the Reeds. She is able to see her aunt’s house again without fear, even though she’ll never feel like it was really a home.

Volume 2, Chapter 7
Jane Eyre

"Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I am strangely glad to get back again to you; and wherever you are is my home,—my only home." (2.7.34)

Given the way Jane doesn’t seem to connect to places, but to people and the way they do or don’t allow her to be herself, it’s not surprising that her "home" is established in terms of companionship.

How people feel when they are returning home from an absence, long or short, I did not know: I had never experienced the sensation. I had known what it was to come back to Gateshead when a child, after a long walk—to be scolded for looking cold or gloomy; and later, what it was to come back from church to Lowood—to long for a plenteous meal and a good fire, and to be unable to get either. Neither of these returnings were very pleasant or desirable: no magnet drew me to a given point, increasing in its strength of attraction the nearer I came. The return to Thornfield was yet to be tried. (2.7.8)

Jane has done plenty of going back to places, but not much actual going home. She’s never felt connected to a place, which is strange because there are only three places she remembers living. Perhaps returning to Thornfield will feel different; it’s possible that Jane has finally found the home she never had. It’s also interesting that she thinks she’ll only be able to tell what feels like home after leaving it and returning. In this novel, being away from home is the thing that makes it possible to know what home is.

Volume 3, Chapter 1

I skirted fields, and hedges, and lanes till after sunrise. I believe it was a lovely summer morning: I know my shoes, which I had put on when I left the house, were soon wet with dew. But I looked neither to rising sun, nor smiling sky, nor wakening nature. He who is taken out to pass through a fair scene to the scaffold, thinks not of the flowers that smile on his road, but of the block and axe-edge; of the disseverment of bone and vein; of the grave gaping at the end: and I thought of drear flight and homeless wandering—and oh! with agony I thought of what I left. (3.1.161)

Jane’s most courageous moral decision takes the form of abandoning the home she has found for herself with Rochester. Her decision to become homeless means that she is physically unmoored—but ethically grounded.

Volume 3, Chapter 2

I touched the heath: it was dry, and yet warm with the heat of the summer day. I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The dew fell, but with propitious softness; no breeze whispered. Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness. To-night, at least, I would be her guest, as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without money and without price. (3.2.6)

For at least a little while, Jane returns to the home that we can find in Nature—it’s almost like a garden-of-Eden thing. It also strikes us that going out onto the moors and trusting that Nature will care for you has an Israelites-in-the-wilderness feel. Jane even finds some manna—okay, berries, but close enough. Unfortunately, hunger will drive her back to "civilization" and houses.

Volume 3, Chapter 3
Diana and Mary Rivers

"And what business have you here?" she continued. "It is not your place. Mary and I sit in the kitchen sometimes, because at home we like to be free, even to license—but you are a visitor, and must go into the parlour." (3.3.72)

You know how, at parties, everyone always ends up in the kitchen, even if you put all the food and drinks in the living room? That’s what Jane did here—ended up in the kitchen because it seems like that’s where the action is. Diana’s trying to be kind by suggesting Jane go into the parlor, which implies that Jane is being treated as a high-class visitor, but actually she’s just reminding Jane of her own homelessness and the way she doesn’t belong at Moor House.

Volume 3, Chapter 5

My home, then, when I at last find a home,—is a cottage; a little room with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor, containing four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard, with two or three plates and dishes, and a set of tea-things in delf. Above, a chamber of the same dimensions as the kitchen, with a deal bedstead and chest of drawers; small, yet too large to be filled with my scanty wardrobe: though the kindness of my gentle and generous friends has increased that, by a modest stock of such things as are necessary. (3.5.1)

This is the first (and only) time in Jane Eyre that Jane actually has a little house all to herself that she can call home, and it won’t last very long.

Volume 3, Chapter 7
St. John Rivers

"You think so now," rejoined St. John, "because you do not know what it is to possess, nor consequently to enjoy wealth: you cannot form a notion of the importance twenty thousand pounds would give you; of the place it would enable you to take in society; of the prospects it would open to you: you cannot—"

"And you," I interrupted, "cannot at all imagine the craving I have for fraternal and sisterly love. I never had a home, I never had brothers or sisters; I must and will have them now: you are not reluctant to admit me and own me, are you?" (3.7.127)

So what would you do if you won the lottery? Move into a small house with three of your cousins so that you had somewhere to call home? Yeah, we didn’t think so. But that’s what Jane wants to do.

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