Jane Eyre

Surrogate Mother Figures in Jane Eyre

Jane’s marginal status as an orphan is partially obviated by various parental figures that appear throughout the novel. For example, Bessie and Miss Temple play very maternal roles and take Jane under their wings when she is wrongfully accused. However, while Miss Temple was incredibly important to Jane during her time at Lowood, she becomes lost to Jane after her marriage to a clergyman. Only Bessie, the housemaid at Gateswood, manages to sustain an ongoing relationship to Jane. Despite her minor role in the novel, Bessie is all the more important because she was the first mother figure for the beleaguered Jane. She is the only model of female kindness seen by Jane as a child. Jane is enormously grateful for her attention – and the reader suspects that Jane’s fate might be very different without it.

The reader first encounters Bessie when she and her foil Miss Abbot are called upon to respond to Jane’s outburst against John. The difference in language and tone between Miss Abbot and Bessie is immediately evident. Whereas Miss Abbot is quick to condemn Jane for being “an underhanded little thing” and remind her to repent lest “something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney” (10), Bessie is more even-handed. At the...

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