The Marxist theory focuses on the opressed and the opressors, with the latter stifiling and tyranically ruling over the former. The opressed generally rise up and retaliate against their opressors or attempt to escape, and this theory fits Jane Eyre perfectly.
One of the first notable things in Jane Eyre comes before even page one. On the title page, it is noted that Jane Eyre is an autobiography by the fictional Jane Eyre herself. While this is not inherently possible taken outside of the fictional England that the story takes place in, given that Jane is not a 'real' person, Jane Eyre in a sense IS an autobiography of Charlotte Bronte, the author and more-or-less real life Jane Eyre. In Bronte's novel, her views are expressed through Jane, and many of Jane's troubles parallel Bronte's. Bronte was orphaned at a young age and became the vitcim of the opresson of social classes, much like the orphaned Jane is forced to endure life with her rich and spoiled aunt and cousins. A "rain so penetrating" reflects Jane's dismal situation of her residence at Gateshead where her cousin John Reed "[buillies] and [punishes her]... continually," where her aunt dispises her, and where the entire household thinks of her as "less than a servant" (Bronte 1,11,14). For the first handful of chapters, Jane is unfairly and continually opressed by the Reed family. They send her to the red-room, a makeshift, eerie prison, abuse her physically, and verbally acuse her of alleged wrongdoings. Finally done in by all of this injustice, Jane stands up for herself and retaliates against her most prominent opressor, her aunt, Mrs. Reed. In a "passion of resentment," Jane shouts at her aunt, calling her "bad, hard-hearted," and "deceitful" (Bronte 47-48). This first retaliation begins the growth of fierce independance in Jane's character, and it hardens her already strong will as well. Jane also makes the decision to escape her opression and leave Gateshead and go to Lowood, a institutional school for orphaned girls. Although Jane fares better at Lowood than Gatheshead, she continues to be opressed even in her new enviornment. The head of the institution, the highly religious, hypocritical, and pharisee-like Mr. Brocklehurst, humiliates her in front of the entire school. "Falsely accused," Jane sits, reflecting on her pitiable condition, feeling "the impression of woe" (95-96). Just as before, however, these trials and tribulations only act as a refining fire for Jane; she becomes more and more independent, as evidenced by the fact that she becomes a teacher at Lowood for two years and then takes it upon herself to advertise herself as a governess after the two years of teaching. In these first ten chapters, Jane is opressed by family and teachers, women and men, but in spite of these opessors, Jane grows stronger and independant, and she rises up against her enemies and escapes both opressing settings and scenarios.
Quotes providing examples of Jane's opresson or her retaliation:
"You are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none..." (Bronte 12).
"'Wicked and cruel boy!' I said. 'You are like a murderer--you are like a slave-driver... (Bronte 12).
"[Lowood was] surrounded with walls so high as to exclude every glimpse of prospect [of escape]" (Bronte 65).
"And if I were inyour place I should dislike her; I should resist her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I sould break it under her nose" (Bronte 76).
"This girl, this child, the natice of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut--this girl is--a liar!" (Bronte 91).
"I [desire] liberty... I have served here eight years... now all I want is to serve elsewhere... Can I not get so much of my own will?" (Bronte 117).
As the book continues, Jane enters her "Thornfield Experience." In this section of the book, Jane is not necesarily opressed by individuals, as her master, Mr. Rochester, is very kind to her, but she is opressed rather by social classes and their effects. Jane soliloquizes about the unhappy and unfair life of a Victorian woman, speaking of how "it is thoughtless to condemn [women], or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex" (150). Rochester, however lifts this typical opression of women, a lingering "Lowood constraint," as he puts it, from Jane. He wishes to see her as an equal, and only deems himself superior as a "result from twenty years' difference in age," (183,191) not as a result from difference in social status or gender. This lifts Jane's spirits and gives her more freedom than ever before. She grows happier, more independant, and more oppinionated (as evidenced when she tells Rochester "no" when asked if he seemed handsome) under the authority of Rochester, and quickly falls in love with the man. However, despite Rochester's caring attitude, the opression of social classes still creeps its way into Jane's life. For a moment, Jane believes she may have a chance with Rochester, but see soon sees how it would be near imposible given the vast gap between the two's social statuses. "You... a favourite with Mr. Rochester?" Jane says to herself, mocking her own feelings, "You gifted with the power of pleasing him? You of importance to him in any way? Go! your folly sickens me... poor stupid dupe..." (Bronte 219). This gap in social status becomes even more apparent when Rochester throws a party and seems to have attracted the attention of a beautiful girl named Blanche. While Blanche and Rochester enjoy eachother's company during the days-long party, Jane, being the simple governness she is, simply sits at the bannister with Adele, watching the party as one would a play. Sitting practically alone, with only a silly and frivolous French girl to keep her company, Jane's thoughts again begin to turn against her. She thinks of all the reasons that her love might marry Blance, be it "political reasons" or "rank and connections" (Bronte 254). As chapter 20 closes, Jane believes that Rochester is still quite set on marrying Blanche, and she harbors sadness within her. However, as Jane is indeed independant and strong-willed, and retaliated against opression in both Gateshead and Lowood, it seems that she will overcome her opression in Thornfield as well.
Quotes about Jane's opression, Rochester's better-than-fair treatment, and Jane's love of her master:
"The Lowood constraint still clings to you somewhat; controlling your features, muffling your coice, and restricting your limbs; and you fear in the presence of man and a brother--or father, or master, or what you will--to smile too gaily, speak to freely, or move to quickly, but in time, I think you will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be conventional with you" (Bronte 191).
"[Rochester's] presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire" (Bronte 200).
"When I heard [that Rochester had not returned], I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart" (Bronte 222).
"Most true is it that 'beauty is in the eye of the gazer...' My master's colourless, olive face... was not beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me... He made me love him without looking at me" (Bronte 238).
"When [Rochester] was absent from the room an hour, a perceptile dulness seemed to steal over the spirits of his guests; and his re-enterance was sure to give a fresh impluse to the vivacity of conversation" (Bronte 257).
"I could not unlove [Rochester] now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me--because I might pass hours in his presence, and he would never once turn his eyes in my direction--because I saw all his attentions appropriated by a great lady... I could not unlove him, because I felt sure he would soon marry this very lady;... [he was] captivating... irresistible" (Bronte 252-253).
The first chapters of this 'chunk' of the book begin with Jane once again feeling the oppression of her old life at Gateshead. When Jane gets word that her Aunt Reed is dying, she rushes to Gateshead to only, while albeit temporarily, fall back under the oppression of her 'family.' Jane naturally obeys her female high-class cousins without thought; they ask, she obeys. Jane also feels the past coldness and cruelty from her aunt. As Mrs. Reed lies on her death bed, she reveals to Jane that she has withheld a piece of information from Jane that could have given her a family and a fortune. "I disliked you too fixedly and thoroughly ever to lend a hand in lifting you to prosperity," Mrs. Reed tells Jane (Bronte 330). With a heart full of hate and bitterness, Mrs. Reed later dies without ever forgiving Jane, and, after staying with her cousins a bit more, Jane returns to Thornfield. When Jane does return, she is greeted by more oppressing thoughts about Blanche and the idea that she and Rochester can never be together. Her master continually asks her whether this will suit 'Mrs. Rochester,' or if his wife will like that, or what Jane thinks of his bride-to-be. Despite this, Jane is just glad to be back home, as this is her home: "wherever [Rochester] is is [her] only home" (339). Despite the approaching wedding of Rochester and Blanche, Jane has a wonderful first few weeks back at Gateshead. Contrasting with the cruelty and oppression of Mrs. Reed, the reader is once again reminded of the unusual kindness of Rochester. Rochester is the only male character in the book so far that does not use his superiority and higher social-status to oppress Jane, but rather he treats her as an equal. Later, as Jane meets Rochester in the garden, the two confess how they will miss each other once Blanche moves in and Jane must leave. Then, suddenly, Rochester admits that his courting Blanche was just a ruse to stir up Jane's jealousy, and that it is really Jane he intends to marry. Jane is blissful and bewildered, and the two enter immense happiness. This happiness is short-lived however, as social status once again oppresses Jane. Rochester tries to "attire Jane in satin and lace... [to] make the world acknowledge [Jane] as a beauty" (359). Jane however spurns Rochester's expensive gifts, and becomes uneasy as she realizes that she has nothing, and is marrying a man who has infinitely more than she does. She even resorts to writing a letter to her uncle John, so that she may receive her inheritance and have some monetary ground to marrying Rochester. However, Jane's oppression does not live there, as, on the wedding day, Rochester's dark secret is finally revealed. Jane and her morals cannot stand to be a mistress to Rochester, so she leaves, knowing she deserts her chance at true happiness and love by leaving. Jane leaving, however, is the ultimate defiance of Rochester, once and for all proving that it is not Rochester that oppresses Jane, but rather each has equal power to hurt the other. Later, out on the moors, lonely and friendless, Jane reflects over the importance of her independence and strong-willed character, and it is this strong-willed character, hardened by years of oppression in her youth, that allows Jane to survive the lonely and harsh wandering she must endure. "I care for myself," Jane assures to herself, "The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustainable I am, the more I will respect myself" (Bronte 437).
"I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified. I have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high... I have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I absolutely must be torn from you forever" (Bronte 349).
"Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?" (Bronte 350).
"He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for His creature: of whom I had made an idol" (Bronte 379).
"The cloven halves [of the tree] were not broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them unsundered below" (Bronte 381).
"Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent , expectant woman--almost a bride, was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate" (Bronte 410).
"My hopes were all dead--struck with a subtle doom" (Bronte 410).
"Reader, I forgave him at the moment and on the spot" (Bronte 413).
During this final section of Jane Eyre, Jane seems to hit a stroke of luck. The people she is taken in by happen to be her cousins, and her uncle has died leaving her with a fortune. Jane now has money and a family, two thinks she never really had. Now, she is a truly independant woman, in the material sense. She does not have to rely on anyone for tangible needs such as food or shelter. However, Jane still is lacking spiritually, so she looks to St. John to fill that gap in her life. St. John's radical view of God and strict adherance to his moral values impresses Jane, so she looks to him as a "supplier" of God. In her mind, when she obeys St. John, she is obeying the Lord. "I daily wished more to please him," Jane admits, "[but] I felt daily more and more that I must disown half my nature [to do so]" (Bronte 551). This forms an oppressive link between the two; St. John now has massive power of Jane. He uses Jane's need for God to twist her when he asks her to marry him. "We must be married," St. John asserts, "There is no other way... if you reject [me], it is not me you deny, but God" (Bronte 565). Jane comes close to accepting St. John's proposal, or rather, order, but suddenly she hears a voice, which she immediantly recognizes as Rochester's, call out to her for help. She then leaves St.John, and returns to Rochester, who is now free of his former wife's constraints (Bertha has killed herself), but is under the impediments of two blind eyes and a lost hand. However, as Rochester and Jane meet for the first time since Jane's running away from Thornfield hall, something is immediantly different. Rochester now has nearly no money as his fortune has been burned down by his lunatic wife, and he must now rely on someone to care for him. Jane, however, has more money than she knows what to do with, and is in a far superior physical state than Rochester. Rochester also has found his redemption through God; he has repented from his former ways and the Lord has shown mercy on him. Now, Rochester no longer searches for his redemption through Jane. With the impediments of Rochester's superiority, Rochester's former wife, and Rochester's search for redemption now out of the way, Rochester and Jane are free to live together for the rest of thier lives, truly happily ever after.