Coming to Bronte’s comment on gender relations in her time, there is some disagreement as to what her prominent message was – novels were much more than vehicles for social change. There are passages in Jane Eyre, where Bronte seems to favour an assertive voice for women, as when Jane proclaims that “women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do.” [p.2] Yet, toward the end of the novel, Eyre has come to focus all her energies and faculties toward service to one man – Mr. Rochester. The other women in the novel don’t end up doing any emancipated project either. For example Miss Temple marries and settles to a life of domesticity. Mary and Diana Rivers visit Jane just once a year, and “even Adele, an orphan with whom Jane Eyre might be expected to sympathize, has been sent away to school because Jane’s “time and cares were now required by another–my husband needed them all” (chap. 38, p. 396). Has Jane Eyre sold her soul?” (Godfrey, 2005, p.854)
Based on these evidences it would be simplistic to conclude that the ending to the novel is tame. To the contrary, various scholars have appreciated it, pointing to several symbolic messages contained in the state of leaving Rochester injured and dependent on Jane as his “prop and guide” (Chap. 37, p. 395) Some think of it as a “symbolic castration” – a sort of precursor to Freudian psychology surrounding psycho-sexual dynamics. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, in their seminal work ‘The Madwoman in the Attic’ convey how the novel balances the emerging female rage by a conclusion “that tentatively and incompletely suggests a world of sexual equality.” (Peters, 1996, p.59) There is further praise to Bronte’s conclusion:
“Adrienne Rich describes it as presenting alternatives “to convention and traditional piety, yes, but also to social and cultural reflexes internalized within the female psyche.” The most important of these alternatives, according to Rich, is Bronte’s radically redefined understanding of marriage, not as something that “stunts and diminishes the woman; but [that is] a continuation of this woman’s creation of herself”  And John Maynard interprets the novel’s conclusion as “a clear assertion of loving sexual union,” achieved only after “the difficulties [Bronte] sees in sexual openness” have been overcome, and after the fears, suppressions, and repressions that drive Jane Eyre into “panicked flight” are incorporated into the complex process of her sexual awakening.” (Clarke, 2000, p. 695)
Bronte’s commentary on religious faith and Christianity is as important as her feminist thrust in the novel. There is the Biblical allegorical style that is adopted as a literary device in some places in the novel. The manner in which Bronte analyses morality and deliberates on human will power is reminiscent of the Judeo-Christian religious discourse. Bronte is also not shy of underscoring the role of the supernatural in human life. When we look at Bronte’s upbringing during her early years, these tendencies get accounted for. Her father Patrick was a preacher in St. Michael’s Anglican Church in Haworth. The interesting question is how Bronte reconciles the Church’s reactionary stance on women (even today women are not allowed to clerical positions within the Church hierarchy) with the nascent feminism that is the hallmark of the novel. One method through which Bronte was able to achieve this is via including “elements of magic and fantasy, and thus to escape the epistemologically restraining effects of realism. More importantly, fairy tale enables Bronte to reach beyond the moral and ethical constraints that Christianity sometimes enjoins upon women and to convey an alternative religious vision.” (Clarke, 2000, p. 697) In this regard, the Cinderella fairy story is one of several such that inform the novel.