Saturday, November 29, 2008



"...a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word, "Resurgam." (pg. 83)

Resurgam means "I shall rise again" in Latin. This is an appropriate epitaph for Helen because her entire life, or at least the snippet of her life that the reader sees, was spent trying to better herself in the eyes of the Lord. Helen's good and honest life was cut short when she could have spent so many more years helping others and becoming an even better person. Bronte's use of a very biblical-type inscription for Helen's headstone again emphasizes Helen's religious characterization and how the other character of Jane Eyre saw her.

EDIT: In addition to showing Helen's pious characterization, the idea of Helen "returning" or "rising again" plays an important to the rest of the novel and Jane's life. The ideas that Jane learned from Helen's example while in school impact her decisions and actions throughout the rest of her life. In a way, every time Jane does something that she either learned from Helen or has does something with the influence of Helen hanging over her, it is al though she is risen again.



xwing212 said...

I think you may be missing a big idea here -- think about the rest of the novel -- why would Bronte have Helen's headstone refer to a 'return' or a 'resurgance?' to what extent does Helen's presence have bearing on the rest of the novel?

William & Polina said...

Helen is an important figure in "Jane Eyre". She serves as a model of the Christian attitude and philosophy. Although Jane Eyre doesn't buy into it, still she admires Helen's stoic courage, patience, counsel, and friendship. Later on in the book, Jane manages to overcome and restore some of her earlier outbursts, her prior immaturity. In the end, she becomes herself a model of some of the virtues Helen embodied. It remains to be questioned, however, whether Charlotte Bronte herself espoused the "Christian" philosophy expressed by Helen Burns. In fact, I would hold that Jane Eyre is more of an "American" character, in light of the fact that the USA's stance in the world is not so much typically Christian, but rather as a strong but righteous power. The way the USA has historically acted is the way that Jane Eyre herself advocated in Chapter 6: "When we are struck without a reason, we should strike back very hard." Besides, Helen dies as a tragic figure, her way of life buried with her, while Jane Eyre with her dauntless approach to life goes on to ultimately win.

Jonathan Skeet said...

I think you can find some pretty big clues about the extent to which Charlotte Bronte espoused Christian philosophy, if you read her own author's preface (or introduction? Can't remember) to Jane Eyre. She affirms her own Christian belief and emphasises that her attacks on cold-hearted religion and hypocrisy should by no means be seen as an attack on Christianity itself.