What Is Helen's Role In Jane Eyre

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Helen Burns’s memorable, albeit short-lived role in Jane Eyre proves to be incredibly influential on young Jane during the rest of the novel. Helen serves as Jane’s first direct interaction with strong faith in someone her own age. Helen embodies an incredibly passive faith, believing that she will be rewarded in heaven for her suffering on Earth. She goes as far to say, “...do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you” (Bronte 70). And being a student at Lowood, the boarding school where Jane first makes her acquaintance, she is quite familiar with suffering. All of the students, in fact, are familiar with the sacrifice and self-deprivation present in many aspects of their life, such as their diet of “burned porridge” and “strange…show more content…
Taking a leadership role amongst Charlotte’s siblings after the death of their mother, Charlotte saw her sister much in the way Jane perceived Helen; beautiful and angelic, yet frustratingly unobtainable. Maria was well read and beginning to show a passion for literature by age six, something Charlotte greatly looked up. Maria is cited as first introducing Charlotte to reading novels as well as first inspiring her to being writing her own. Tragically, Maria died, after having contracted tuberculosis while she and her sisters were away at Cowan’s Bridge boarding school. (Charlotte Bronte 158) This event shook young Charlotte, only nine years old at the time, and losing her second “parent.” (Her father was still alive, but he not play an active role in the children’s lives, especially while they were away at school.) She became forced to take the motherly role of her sister and protect her other siblings as well as teach them. (Charlotte Bronte 159) Her untimely demise, as well as her motherly role, influenced Jane’s creation of the character of Helen Burns, who shared both of those defining characteristics. Helen’s extreme faith, while not completely linked to Charlotte’s sister, is believed to stem from a combination of Charlotte seeing her sister as a martyr, dying to save her sisters from the suffering that was their boarding school, and the idealization…show more content…
Helen was designed to show the struggles of the many people who lived in such conditions that their greatest wish was to be in heaven. They had abandoned hope of improving their social class and rather sought to remain as faithful as possible. Helen’s quiet, almost angelic, piety was a symbol to those people of strength and sacrifice. Her death especially proved her strength as well as solidifying her connection to Maria. Helen, through the mix of these two things, became a combination of tragedy as well as victory, a memory of her sister and inspiration to all those like
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