Forgiveness plays a central role in the plot, characterization and even sentence formations of Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre (1847). Yet this novel has curiously eluded the attention of most literary historians who draw on prose fiction to explain the importance of forgiveness in Victorian England. This essay argues that this omission betrays a rarely-discussed awareness that Jane Eyre challenges the Victorian understanding of forgiveness. Bronte's contemporaries believe that forgiveness is a Christian virtue expressive of love. They also embrace forgiveness as a reconciliatory gesture productive of social and spiritual redemption. Bronte subverts both assumptions in her novel. Through Helen Burn's self-absorption, Aunt Reed's life-long resentment and Jane Eyre's withheld speech, Bronte demonstrates how futile the language of forgiveness can be in resolving conflicts. In addition, Bronte incorporates the Christian language of forgiveness into her text, only to reveal how sharply it can depart from words of love and how easily it can descend into expressions of hostility. Critics of Jane Eyre have long noticed its subversive spirit and have explained it in terms of Bronte's social criticism or feminist agenda. This essay maintains that the issue of forgiveness provides a more consistent and persuasive approach to understanding the rebellious quality of this novel.