Jane Eyre is a novel by Charlotte Bronte. It is the story of Jane, an orphan who is sent to live with her aunt and then her cousins. Jane is unhappy at first, but she soon comes to love and respect her cousin, Miss Temple. Miss Temple is a kind and caring woman who takes Jane under her wing and teaches her about life. Jane comes to view Miss Temple as a role model and an influence in her life.
“Jane Eyre” is set in the Victorian era, when women’s roles in society were limited and repressive, and class distinctions were pronounced. The educated but impoverished single women who wanted to work but could not afford it had one of the few respectable jobs open to them.
Jane Eyre, the protagonist, takes on such a role at Thornfield and it is here that she meets Miss Temple, who influences Jane in a number of ways. Miss Temple is one of the few adult female characters in the novel who Jane can look up to. She is kind, gentle and intelligent; everything that Jane aspires to be.
Jane says of her: “How good and true she was! I have never seen such a woman…She was full of empathy for my plight as a penniless, friendless orphan.” Miss Temple provides Jane with both emotional and practical support during her time at Thornfield. For example, when Jane is ill and everybody else abandons her, Miss Temple stays by her side and nurses her back to health.
Through her interactions with Miss Temple, Jane learns about female empowerment and comes to see herself as an equal to men. This is in stark contrast to the way she is treated by other male characters in the novel, such as Mr Brocklehurst, who calls her “a liar”, “a deceitful child” and “a cunning little beggar”.
Jane also learns that it is possible to have a close relationship with a man without being married to him, something that was quite taboo at the time. After Miss Temple leaves Thornfield, Jane says: “I had now learnt that relationships between men and women were not always founded on admiration or esteem.”
“Jane Eyre” is a novel about one woman’s journey through life, but it also depicts societal injustices such as poverty, lack of universal education, and sexual inequality. Jane’s situation and “dependent” position are brought to the forefront early in the narrative.
For example, when Jane falls ill at Gateshead and is confined to her room, Miss Temple is the only one who shows Jane any kindness. It is Miss Temple who brings Jane into the schoolroom to sit with the other girls during lessons and meals, although Jane is still not allowed to mix with them on an equal footing. In addition, it is Miss Temple who saves Jane from being further mistreated by Mrs Reed and her maid Bessie.
However, despite Miss Temple’s initial kindness towards Jane, Bronte makes it clear that Miss Temple is not entirely comfortable with Jane’s presence at Lowood. When Mr Brocklehurst arrives at the school and begins to make his inquiries, Miss Temple appears very nervous and uncomfortable.
This suggests that she is aware of the rumours circulating about Jane and is worried that Mr Brocklehurst will find out the truth. Indeed, when Mr Brocklehurst does discover that Jane is related to the Eyre family, he immediately orders her to be segregated from the other girls. Miss Temple does not protest against this decision, which further illustrates her lack of confidence in Jane.
It is not until Jane saves Miss Temple’s life during a fire at Lowood that she finally begins to gain her respect. From this point onwards, Jane becomes a much more central figure in Miss Temple’s life. She is given a position of responsibility as head girl and is even allowed to stay on at Lowood after she has finished her schooling. This reflects the growing trust and respect that Miss Temple has for Jane.
In many ways, Miss Temple is a mother figure for Jane. She provides her with the love and care that she never received from Mrs Reed. However, unlike a real mother, Miss Temple does not try to control Jane or dictate her choices in life. Instead, she allows Jane to grow and develop into her own person. In this sense, Miss Temple’s influence on Jane is very positive and beneficial. It is through Miss Temple’s guidance that Jane learns to become an independent and strong-minded woman.
Miss Temple is the kind and fair-minded headmistress of Lowood School, who plays an instrumental part in Jane Eyre’s emotional maturation. Helen describes Miss Temple as being “good and extremely clever,” adding that she was “superior to the rest because she knew a lot more than they did.” This characterization is even more telling since it was said by Helen, who herself is quite mature.
From Jane’s perspective, Miss Temple is “a kind and tender-hearted woman”. Miss Temple is the first adult female that Jane can truly respect and look up to. She provides Jane with a role model of how a lady should behave. For example, when Helen dies, Miss Temple shows great dignity, composure and self-control – something that Jane aspires to.
Charlotte Bronte uses Miss Temple to emphasise the differences between a good Christian woman and someone like Mrs Reed, who Jane cannot respect. This is significant because it helps Jane to develop her own identity and values.
Jane’s stay at Gateshead Hall was a torturous experience. She lived under domestic tyranny and was assaulted by her cousin John Reed on a regular basis. From the “very first recollections of existence,” Jane had been instructed to believe herself “on an equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed” and that it was her duty to be humble. She was labeled as a “discord” and someone who wasn’t worth noticing because she belonged to a lower class than the Reeds at Gateshead.
Even the staff treated her with contempt because of her “dependant” status, which was regarded without compassion in Victorian society. Her powerful desire to love and be loved was unfulfilled here. Jane was respected and regarded as an equal by Miss Temple at Lowood, and her desire to be loved and cared for was satisfied by Miss Temple and Helen Burns at Highwood.
Jane’s time at Gateshead may have been the cause of her feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, which were to stay with her for a long time. The abuse Jane suffered at Gateshead led to her feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, which were to stay with her for a long time. These feelings may have been the result of the domestic tyranny she was subjected to, and the continual abuse from her cousin John Reed. Jane was made to feel like a “discord” and an inferior person at Gateshead, which caused her to doubt her own worth.
Even the servants treated her with less respect than they did the other members of the family, due to her “dependant” status. It was only at Lowood, where she was treated with respect and as an equal by Miss Temple, that Jane began to feel like she was worthy of love and care. The positive influence of Miss Temple on Jane’s life was crucial in helping her to overcome the negative experiences at Gateshead.