Within the work is a clear liberalization of Jane's ideas of spiritual fate and a challenge to the standards of the day, of a wife as a spiritual and physical subordinate to a husband.
Jane's insistence on a direct, unmediated relationship with her Creator uncovers a glaring inconsistency in Evangelical teaching that posed for women of faith a virtual theological impasse: Evangelicals championed the liberty of discernment and conscience for all believers, but also prized a model of marriage in which wives were spiritually subordinate to their husbands.
Given the religious and cultural context in which it was written, Jane Eyre proclaims what could be considered a message of radical spiritual autonomy for women. (Lamonaca, 2002, pg. 245)
Following in the line of her progression through the work the ending passage, including her no less than perfect description of her marriage to Rothschild is a picture of the demands of her autonomy and Bronte's radical ideas of independence for women and equality in relationships, so historically unequal.
I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest_blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character_perfect concord is the result.
(Bronte, 1922, p. 455)
As eloquently expressed by Gezari, Jane defends herself from the tyranny of others. She challenges family, school, and church. She is designing her own point-of-view, view being one of the most important themes in the work.
A the man Jane marries loses his sight, and even at the novel's end, when he recovers a portion of it, it is only to see according to Jane's tuition. Bront connects Rochester's blindness to acquisition of insight and to punishment, but it is above all a necessary concomitant of the novel's relentlessness in establishing Jane's point-of-view as not merely dominant but exclusive, either obliterating or containing all others.
(Gezari, 1992, p. 60)
Challenges to the convention of the time clearly demonstrate Jane's quest as one of the righteous heroine and the realistic religious follower. Though she may indeed demonstrate one of the most substantial of all example of the feminist ideal of her era, it is clearly the ideal of her time and not that of the modern woman or even the modern Christian woman.
Jane is the picture of what modern women would can absolute conservatism and yet the escape she finds in an equal relationship with a man whom she loves and who returns that love is one that we all probably seek.
Certainly, Jane's insistence upon her spiritual and moral integrity enables a stinging critique of society's expectations for women. Jane's religious convictions are presented as the primary force behind her resistance to conventional female subject-positions, whether as Rochester's mistress or as St. John's spiritual helpmate. (Lamonaca, 2002, pg. 245)
Regardless of her conservatism her story will linger as an ideal for the challenges of the convention of her time. She escapes her enclosures with eloquence and self-determination and chooses her path based on conviction and her own idea of right and wrong.
Bloom, H. (Ed.). 1987, Charlotte Brontee's Jane Eyre. New York: Chelsea House.
Bronte, C.1922, Jane Eyre. London J.M. Dent & Sons.
Gezari, J. 1992, Charlotte Bronte and Defensive Conduct: The Author and the Body at Risk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.