Jane Eyre explores the predicaments of those bound by law, conventions, and social status to lives not of their own choosing. Like Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre resents being controlled by inferiors but uses this resentment to generate energy necessary for her survival and rise to independence. The power of religion to enlighten or to corrupt finds expression in Jane’s reliance on heartfelt prayer and in the diametrically opposed vocations of Brocklehurst and St. John Rivers. In each case the social value of religion is depicted as part of the individual’s motives.
Perhaps the most socially sensitive issue in this novel is its implicit argument for women’s rights. In a parallel to Charlotte Bronte’s own life, Jane struggles for minimal recognition even though her artistic, social, and professional skills exceed those of most of her antagonists. It may be difficult for contemporary readers to understand the unjust predicament of women in the nineteenth century.