Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Though Jane and Helen differ in their understanding of life, what has the former already learned from the latter? What does Jane's effort to moderate her account of life with the Reed family tell us about the effect Helen and also Miss Temple (who fairly grants her the opportunity to defend herself) have had on her?

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Jane's friend at Lowood School. Though she dies early on in Jane's time at Lowood, Helen is perhaps the fourth-most important character in the novel for her symbolic value. Upholding the extreme Christian doctrine of tolerance and forgiveness at all costs, Helen serves as a foil to both Mr. Brocklehurst, with his cruel lack of Christian compassion, and Jane, with her anger at those who mistreat her. Helen espouses a Christianity in which faithfulness and compassion are rewarded in Heaven. Jane learns from Helen that it is better to forgive than hate. As an orphan like Jane, Helen believes that her true family is waiting for her in the kingdom of Heaven. With that in mind, she faithfully turns the other cheek when accepting all the cruel punishments handed down at Lowood. She faces especial torments from Mrs. Scratcherd, and, though Helen is distressed by the treatment, she remains unwavering in her beliefs. When Helen dies, Jane absorbs the lesson that the meek shall not inherit the earth. While Jane initially rejects Helen's brand of religion, she does incorporate it in her life later on, especially when she relies on the spiritual kindness of strangers after leaving Thornfield. Jane finds both Helen and Miss. Temple as kindred spirits who show her a better way to experience life.