Archetypes in Jane Eyre

In this article you will learn about the archetypes in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, a classic novel of the Victorian period containing various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.

What are the Archetypes in Jane Eyre?

The story of Jane Eyre contains numerous literary archetypes, as well as fitting Jung’s beliefs about the collective unconscious and its manifestation through dreams, visions and fantasies.

In Jane we see the archetypal orphan on a quest to find her place in the world and losing her innocence in the process.

In the character of Ms Temple we encounter the archetypal nurturing mother figure and in Mrs Reed the archetypal villain against whom Jane must battle early in the novel but who ultimately proves to have a good heart.

In Mr Rochester we encounter the archetypal Byronic hero, the flawed and arrogant man who rejects societal norms yet behaves in a heroic manner, with emotion and intelligence.

Jane grows to become an archetypal feminist heroine – independent and willing to stand up for herself.

Together, they become archetypal star-crossed lovers – destined to be together and deeply in love but separated by society and ultimately doomed from the start.

Jane Eyre Book Summary

  • Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Bronte, the eldest of the Bronte sisters, and published in 1847.
  • Now considered ahead of its time due it’s handling of issues such as class, feminism, and religion, the novel was a great success at the time of publication.
  • The novel begins with Jane orphaned and living with her uncle Mr Reed.
  • On his death the Reed family treat Jane cruelly, ostracising her from the family.
  • As a punishment for defending herself from her cousin’s violence Mrs Reed banishes her to the ‘Red Room’ where her Uncle died. On becoming ill she is sent away to Lowood School
  • Life at Lowood School is harsh, with cold rooms, bad food and clothing and poor treatment from all but her friend Helen and mentor Miss Temple.
  • Many die during a typhus epidemic, including Helen. After six years at school Jane becomes governess to Adele Varens, in the care of a Mr Rochester at Thornfield Hall.
  • Jane and Rochester enjoy each other’s company but mysterious things occur at the hall, such as strange laughter at night, and Jane saves Rochester from a fire in his room.
  • Rochester goads Jane into revealing that she loves him and he proposes.
  • However, the ceremony is interrupted by Mr Mason, who reveals that Rochester is still married to his sister Bertha.
  • Rochester tells Jane he was tricked into marrying Bertha, who has inherited insanity, and it is her who has caused the mysterious happenings at the Hall. Jane refuses to remain with Rochester and leaves.
  • Jane loses her possessions on her journey and, starving, she collapses on the doorstep of the Rivers family.
  • St John Rivers rescues her and finds her a teaching position. St John knows Jane’s Uncle John and reveals he has died, leaving her a fortune.
  • It transpires that Uncle John is also the Uncle of St John and his sisters. Jane, overjoyed to have family, shares her fortune with them.
  • St John proposes to Jane but she rejects him.
  • She returns to Thornfield to find it ruined, learning Bertha set it on fire then committed suicide.
  • Rochester has lost a hand and his sight in the fire.
  • They reunite and are married, Rochester regaining the sight in one eye in time to see their newborn son.

Jane Eyre Archetype Examples

  • The orphan
  • The quest
  • The star-crossed lovers
  • Loss of innocence
  • The mother
  • The Byronic hero
  • The feminist hero
  • The villain

Want more literary archetypes?

Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.

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