Jane Eyre begins with Jane as a child, an orphan living with her cousins and aunt, who is obliged to look after her niece following the death of her husband. Jane is treated like an outcast in the house that is supposed to be her home. Jane is treated as lesser human being because she is an orphan, even though from her good nature and the cruel nature of her aunt and cousins shows that she is clearly the better person. The cold setting at the beginning of the novel sets the stage for a major theme through out the rest of the novel, Jane’s quest to be loved. Jane’s quest is understandable as she does not know her parents and loses her uncle, the last person who loved her, at a very young age and is left in the care of his widow, a spiteful woman who sees Jane as a burden she has not choice but to endure.
Jane’s good-heartedness and independence become apparent in the early chapters. Despite her seemingly endearing personality, Jane is seen by a burden to everyone who is responsible for caring for her. First her aunt and then the staff at Lowood see Jane as trouble not because of who she is as a person but because there is nothing they can gain from treating her kindly as she is poor and an orphan. These were the harsh realities of society in the 19th century. Since Jane could offer nothing in return, those who could have helped her were not willing to and so Jane was forced to look inside herself for strength and support and to the secret kindness of a very few in her life. The unrelenting obstacles Jane faces through out her life, but this strengthened my regard for her because although at times her belief in herself wavers, her integrity and independence never does. The strength of Jane’s character is constantly being tested, from losing her beloved uncle and the abuse she gets at the Reed household to the way she is looked down upon at Lowood, but she always emerges stronger and just as sure of herself.
In the early parts of the novel, there is the idea that Jane does not feel a sense of belonging. While by blood, Jane is a member of the Reed family, she is outcast and finds friendship in Bessie, the household maid and the only person who regularly treats Jane with kindness in her childhood. Then when Jane becomes the governess at the Rochester household, she must act like a upper class women with proper manners so as to set a good example for Adele. Jane spends most of her days with Adele and at times Mr. Rochester and is sometimes invited to dine and socialize with Mr. Rochester’s wealthy friends. Therefore even though Jane is one of the employees in the household, she is separated from them in the way she spends her days. Yet the encounter with the beautiful socialite Ms. Blanche, who despises Jane and hopes to marry Rochester for his money, at the party shows that Jane is not part of their world either. For a large part of her life, Jane is unable to find a sense of belonging with anyone. Even those she feels she belongs with, Bessie and Mr. Rochester, are separated from her by the technicality of position in society.