Jane Eyre spends a good deal of time waiting both patiently and in silence. Such evidence suggests that in Victorian society, women who wanted to gain various rewards would need to wait for these rewards to come to them. This is not only true in the case of Jane waiting for Mr. Rochester's attentions, but also on a much larger level. Helen thus explains the fate of all Christians:
Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits: that world is round us, for it is everywhere; and those spirits watch us, for they are commissioned to guard us; and if we were dying in pain and shame, if scorn smote us on all sides, and hatred crushed us, angels see our tortures, recognise our innocence..., and God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward. (Norton edition, 60)
Not only has she described the lives of persecuted Christians on earth, but has almost described the life of Christ Himself. Like many Christians, he was persecuted throughout life, despite His spotlessness, and then attained to glory after death. Helen, whose death is near, describes this patient waiting because it comforts her. However, she is also describing lesser versions of the same kind of waiting that Jane, like all other women, will endure for each smaller gain received on earth.
This view is supported by Laurelyn Douglas's "Christina Rossetti, Women, and Patience," which explains that Rossetti held patience to be more important for women than for men because waiting characterized women's lives than it did those of men. Victorian society allowed men to be more active, particularly in matters of love. Women had to wait until a man announced his love before admitting whom they desired. If Douglas is correct, then women of the time suffered under the burden of waiting for all their ewarthly as well as their final rewards. Thus, they were more like Christ than their male counterparts.
Last modified May 1994