n Jane Eyre Brontë often juxtaposes Jane with characters who espouse strikingly different religious beliefs. Where Jane is seen as searching and questioning, these other characters hold strongly to one form or another of Evangelical protestantism, the religion that Helen Burns espouses. The Evangelicals "stressed the reality of the 'inner life,' insisted on the total depravity of humanity (a consequence of the Fall) and on the importance of the individual's personal relationship with God and Savior." On her deathbed Helen speaks with Jane about both her depravity and her deep affinity with God.
"By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault."
But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?"
"I believe; I have faith: I am going to God."
"Where is God? What is God?"
My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what he created. I rely implicitly on his power, and confide wholly in his goodness: I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to him, reveal him to me."
"You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven; and that our souls can get to it when die?"
It is easy to condemn Brocklehurst's religious doctrine, but here Brontë also undermines Helen's absolute and self-abnegating religious beliefs. Jane's questions may not plant any seeds of doubt within Helen, but the reader would be hard-pressed to miss her point. Helen and, later, St. John Rivers seek happiness in Heaven; Jane is determined to find hers here on Earth.
Last modified May 1994