How is religion presented in the novel Jane Eyre?
Angus Lau 11C (11)
As a clergyman’s daughter who lived in a highly religious Victorian society, Charlotte Brontë was able to witness the hollowness of religion with hindsight. People manipulated religion just to achieve their goals and justify their moral conscience. To condone the hypocritical nature of religion at the time, Brontë contrasted the ways in which characters such as Mr. Brocklehurst, St. John, and Jane Eyre utilized religion; the former two used religion as an excuse for their actions, while the latter employed religion as guidance by creating a spiritual connection with God.
Firstly, Brontë reflects the misuse of religion by depicting Victorian people’s blind preaching of religion. This is first evident from how Mr. Brocklehurst proclaimed that Jane had “a wicked heart” and “must pray to God to change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” when she remarked that “psalms are not interesting.” From how Mr. Brocklehurst immediately denounced Jane’s disinterest in the psalms without determining the reason, readers are able to infer that Mr. Brocklehurst’s connection to religion was shallow, as he was only concerned about people’s adoration for all aspects of religion, but not their understanding of religious values or ability to integrate religion into their morals. This idea is also displayed when he would gift two nuts to his son just because he chose “a verse of psalm to learn” over “a gingerbread-nut to eat” and would proclaim “I wish to be a little angel.” However, this is ironic as Mr. Brocklehurst was completely ignorant that his son only chose to learn the psalms because was fully aware that doing so would grant him a larger reward, exhibiting the facile nature of religion during Victorian times. Not only that, but Mr. Brocklehurst’s superstition that Jane genuinely had a “heart of stone” reinforces his naive attachment to religion as he only interpreted the teachings of the bible literally, not metaphorically.
Brontë further portrays people’s simplistic view of religion by showcasing how religion was not used to teach virtue, but manipulated as a mode for punishment. This is again reflected by Mr. Brocklehurst as he threatens Jane by forcing her to read “a book entitled the ‘Child’s Guide,’” which contained “an account of the awfully sudden death of Martha G -, a naughty child addicted to falsehood and deceit” so that she would be able to envision the punishments that would be inflicted on her if she breached such Christian values. From how Mr. Brocklehurst utilized religion as a weapon, but not as a facilitator for the teaching of integrity, readers are able to infer how Mr. Brocklehurst simply used religion as a means to inflict harm on others while cementing his authority as the headmaster of Lowood. Similarly, this is reiterated as Mr. Brocklehurst announced that “I have studied how best to mortify in them the...