The novel charts the growth of Jane Eyre, the first-person narrator, from her unhappy childhood with her nasty relatives, the Reeds, to her blissful marriage to Rochester at Ferndean. Reading, education, and creativity are all essential components of Jane's growth, factors that help her achieve her final success. From the novel's opening chapters to its close, Jane reads a variety of texts: Pamela, Gulliver's Travels, and Marmion. Stories provide Jane with an escape from her unhappy domestic situation, feeding her imagination and offering her a vast world beyond the troubles of her real life: By opening her inner ear, she hears "a tale my imagination created . . . quickened with all incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence." Similarly, she believes education will allow her the freedom to improve her position in society by teaching her to act like a "lady," but her success at school, in particular her drawing ability, also increases her self-confidence. Jane confesses that artistic creation offers her one of the "keenest pleasures" of her life, and Rochester is impressed with Jane's drawings because of their depth and meaning, not typical of a schoolgirl.
Although artistic and educational pursuits are essential elements of Jane's personality, she also feels a need to assert her identity through rebellion. In the opening chapters of the novel, Jane refers to herself as a "rebel slave," and throughout the story she opposes the forces that prevent her from finding happiness: Mrs. Reed's unfair accusations, Rochester's attempt to make her his mistress, and St. John's desire to transform her into a missionary wife. By falling in love with Rochester, she implicitly mutinies against the dictates of class boundaries that relegate her, as a governess, to a lower status than her "master." Besides rejecting traditional views of class, she also denigrates society's attempts to restrict women's activities. Women, she argues, need active pursuits and intellectual stimulation, just as men do. Most of Jane's rebellions target the inequities of society, but much of her personality is fairly conventional. In fact, she often seems to provide a model of proper English womanhood: frank, sincere, and lacking in personal vanity.
Jane's personality balances social awareness with spiritual power. Throughout the novel, Jane is referred to as an imp, a fairy, a relative of the "men in green." As fairy, Jane identifies herself as a special, magical creature. Connecting herself with the mythical beings in Bessie's stories, Jane is affiliated with the realms of imagination, with the fantastic. Jane's psychic abilities aren't merely imaginary: her dreams and visions have a real impact on her life. For example, supernatural experiences, heralds of visions "from another world," foreshadow drastic changes in Jane's life, such as her move from Gateshead to Lowood, or her rediscovery of Rochester after their time apart. Thus, Jane's spirituality isn't a purely Christian one — in fact, she rejects many of the Christian characters in the novel, such as St. John Rivers, Eliza Reed, and Mr. Brocklehurst — but a mixture of Christian and pagan ideas. Like nature, Jane's God is filled with bounty, compassion, and forgiveness — qualities lacking in many of the spiritual leaders she criticizes in the novel.