The novels Jane Eyre and Little Women are strikingly similar in many ways, and the characters Jane Eyre and Jo March are almost mirrors of each other. There are many similarities between Jane and Jo, and also some differences, as well. From childhood, although they find themselves in completely different situations, both girls experience many of the same trials in their younger years. Jane is an orphan who has no family to call her own, and lives with an aunt and cousins who despise and dislike her.
She was left penniless by the death of her parents, and is reminded daily by her house mates that she is inferior to them because of her circumstance. Jo grows up in a loving home with three adoring sisters and a mother, however, she also feels the absence of a parent, because her father is away at war. Jo is also poor, her father having lost all his money in an attempt to help a needy friend. In this way, both Jane and Jo are alike — they both long for the life they had before they were poor, although Jane longs more for the richness of a family while Jo and her sisters desire the material wealth and the return of their father.
However, in both cases, the girls’ longing for these “riches” influence their whole young adulthood — Jane clearly shows this the best when she refuses to become Mr. Rochester’s mistress later in life, because of her continuous search for a stable family life. Jane and Jo are also alike for other reasons. Both are mature for their ages, spending a great deal of time reading and thinking. They are both passionate and willful, although Jane shows her spirit more through occasional outbursts when provoked, while Jo is constantly losing her temper and making inappropriate comments.
Both are also plain children, Jane having no features to make her beautiful, and no features to make her unattractive, as well. Jo is a tomboy, and therefore rejects the “appropriate” dress and actions for a girl of her age, hiding her beauty because it is “unmanly. ” Later in life, Jane and Jo do many things that are similar, even though they are in different situations. After Laurie expresses his love to Jo and offers marriage, Jo rejects him, saying, “I don’t see why I can’t love you as you want me to.
I’ve tried, but I can’t change the feeling, and it would be a lie to say I do when I don’t. ” (331) Jane, too, rejects a marriage proposal from St. John Rivers because of the lack of love, as well, when she says, “… if I am not formed for love, then it follows that I am not formed for marriage. ” (756) Both believe that marriage without love would be unthinkable, and decline possible wealth (in Jo’s case) and opportunity (in Jane’s), rather than to marry someone they do not love in a romantic way.
As Jo puts it to Laurie, “I don’t believe it’s the right sort of love, and I’d rather not try it. ” (332) Jane’s need for a true family, and for the love that she’d never experienced, keeps her from marrying into an unromantic relationship. Jo, however, having had a close knit family, turns down Laurie simply because she sees him as her brother, and not as a lover. Another way in which Jane and Jo are alike is through their journeys away from the love of another person.
Jo leaves Laurie behind while she goes away to the Kirke’s to help him forget his love for her. After he proposes, Jo tells Laurie, ” I never wanted to make you care for me so, and I went away to keep you from it if I could. ” (331) Jane, on the other hand, leaves Thornfield to try to become independent of Mr. Rochester, and to forget her love for him. In this instance, although both are doing the exact same thing, they are doing it for different reasons — Jo to make someone forget her, Jane to forget someone she loves.
In contrast to each other, however, during their time away, Jo finds the man that she really loves and wants to marry, while Jane realizes that she cannot marry anyone other than Mr. Rochester. It is during this time that Jo meets the Professor and he falls in love with her, and Jane meets St. John and decides that she cannot marry someone she does not love. These journeys were essential to both girls, for they helped them to find (or rediscover, in Jane and Mr. Rochester’s case) the love that they felt they were missing.
The two women both marry men much older than them, perhaps because they are more mature and intelligent than other people of their same age. Jo is forced to grow up quickly through the death of her sister and her father’s absence, while Jane learns to grow up quickly through the loss of her parents and her unhappy childhood. However, they both still face obstacles when marrying — Jo must wait because she is marrying a poor man who must work to save up enough money for them to live well, and Jane because Mr. Rochester is blind when she returns to him.
In an essence, Jo has fininancial problems to face, while Jane has the physical. In the end, however, both are happy, Jo with her school for boys to provide income, and Jane because Mr. Rochester regains his sight. Both girls receive inheritances from a relative, which allow them to reach the contentment with their lives that they were both searching for. Jane finds herself with 20,000 pounds from an unknown uncle, which eventually allows her to return to Mr. Rochester as an equal, instead of as his hired help.
Since this is basically all Jane has longed for since leaving Mr. Rochester, her newfound wealth gives her the chance to be happy again. Her pride would never before allow her to return to Thornfield Hall before she could support herself and be the independent woman she wanted to be. Jo’s inheritance allows her to fulfill her ambitions, as well. She receives Plumfield from Aunt March’s death, and it allows her to open the school for boys that she had been dreaming of since she was small. Plumfield also allows her to finally marry Mr. Bhaer, because it supplies them with a place to live and with an income to support them both.
However, in contrast to Jane, Jo’s inheritance causes her to sacrifice some of the tomboyish independence by becoming a wife and teacher/mother. This is not neccesarily a bad thing — by losing some of her independence and tomboyish ways, Jo becomes more “ladylike” and “proper. ” Both Jane and Jo also decline trips overseas that could potentially change their lives — although Jo gives up her chance to go to Europe rather unitentionally. Jane refuses St. John’s marriage proposal, and therefore a trip to India to become a missionary.
In Jane’s case it is probably for the best, since she felt that by marrying him she would be “at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked — forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital … ” (753) Jane also refuses the oppurtunity to become Mr. Rochester’s mistress and live in France, because she feels that she must have a proper family life and not be a rich man’s mistress.
For Jo, it is her brusque words that keep her from her lifelong dream to travel overseas. Alcott writes, “By her next speech, Jo deprived herself of several years of pleasure, and received a timely lesson in the art of holding her tongue. ” (275) However, it is probably for the best for Jo, as well, because it keeps her at home for Beth’s sickness and death, and she never would have met Professor Bhaer had she gone to France. By refusing these offers, both Jane and Jo lead themselves to eventual happiness greater than what they would have found overseas.
It also seems to symbolically suggest the “plainess” of both the women — by refusing the elegant lifestyle of France or the exotic nature of India, and to instead remain alone at home, it shows a rejection of the fancy and material things in life. Both women eventually become teachers. Jane begins at Lowood where she was formerly a student, and then quickly moves on to Thornfield to become a governess. Jo begins as a governess at the Kirke’s, and then later opens her own school. In this instance, Jo and Jane are the exact reversal of each other.
Jane begins teaching to make money to survive, while it is one of Jo’s dreams. In the end, Jane gives up teaching when it is no longer neccessary for her survival, and Jo opens her own school for her and her professor as soon as she inherits Plumfield. Throughout Jane Eyre and Little Women, there are many similarities between Jane and Jo. Perhaps this is because they are both independent and strong-willed children, which leads them to the same sort of situtations in life. Their childhoods form the women that they grow up to become, which sets the similar scenes later in the novels.