“I could join with Diana and Mary in all they occupations; converse with them as much as they wished, and aid them when and where they would allow me. There was a reviving pleasure in this intercourse, of a kind now tasted by me for the first time – the pleasure arising from perfect congeniality of tastes, sentiments, and principles. I liked to read what they liked to read: what they enjoyed, delighted me; what they approved I reverenced” (402).
This passage demonstrates one of the first times the reader can observe Jane Eyre feeling comfortable in a family-like setting. This is the first time she thoroughly enjoys the company of others and is accepted by them. I read this passage before I knew that Diana and Mary were actually of relation to her, proving Brontë’s ability to foreshadow the bond that Jane will make with her cousins. She is content when she is with them and enjoys discussing books and other sources of interest with them. She is deciding who she wants to spend time with and finally finding her individuality; something she has to find when after leaving Rochester.
The most interesting part about this passage is how it compares to the passage at the beginning of the novel, describing her relationship to her other set of cousins: Georgiana, Eliza, and John. The cousins all “clustered round their mamma in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her looked perfected happy. [Jane was] dispensed from joining the group” (9). In the passage that I selected, Jane is part of the conversation and enjoying herself. However, in her childhood she was cast out of the circle because she seemed different than everyone else. As a poor orphan, she was beneath them and there was a “necessity to keep her at a distance” (9). In the passage above, Jane revives pleasure from this new kind of experience she has with her caregivers. She is not beneath them socially, making it easy for her to become their equal.
Even Jane’s relationship with Mr. Rochester and her time at Thornfield do not yield the same results as the relationship Jane has with Diana and Mary. First of all, she is technically an employee at the home, getting paid to stay there. She may have felt comfortable during her stay, but was not able to share this type of connection observed in the passage. She was part of the help. Additionally, she may love Mr. Rochester, but he is mysterious and deceitful, and during her initial stay there, she cannot fully connect to him because of that. Also, at Thornfield, she encounters Blanche Ingram and other guests of the party who exclude her from their frivolous activities because of her social standing.
She can completely bond with Diana and Mary, as well as St John because they do not view her as beneath her. They have taken her into their home, recognized her intelligence even if she did appear to be a beggar, and acknowledged her as an equal who has suffered from an unfortunate situation. This is how the rest of society should view Jane, but their emphasis on social class taints their view of her. But for once, she can feel like an equal. She is happy and she is not observing from the outside, as she has so frequently in the past. Jane is finally accepted as an equal and experiences the true feelings of what it is like to have a family.