A Plea for Help in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

1563 WordsJun 22, 20187 Pages
Many people believe that eating disorders are a product of the twentieth century, brought on by teenage girls aspiring to be supermodels like Cindy Crawford. Although such pressures are precipitating factors to many eating disorders, doctors diagnosed patients with anorexia as early as 1689 (Spignesi 7). One early example of anorexia is present in the novel Jane Eyre. Written in the mid-nineteenth century by Charlotte Brontë, this book describes a young girl whose personality bears striking similarities with that of a diagnosed anorexic. The life of the main character, Jane, has also been shown to share innumerable similarities with Brontë's own life. Biographical information from researchers and autobiographical information from…show more content…
. . anxious at social events and unable to easily establish close relationships" (288). Other characteristics that Burns shares with anorexics include her attempts to please and rebelling through non-vocal measures. Burns' possession of these tell-tale signs strongly suggests that she might have an eating disorder. Of all the characters in Jane Eyre, the one whose personality most resembles that of someone with an eating disorder is Jane herself. Jane's symptoms start in her early childhood. According to Angelyn Spignesi, author of Starving Women: Psychology of Anorexia Nervosa, "Traditionally, the mother of the anorexic has seemed to be a bitch. . . . One thing researchers consistently document: the anorexic's mother is domineering, demanding, frustrated, and ambitious" (39). Although Jane's mother has died, the dominant female figure in her life, Mrs. Reed, strongly mirrors these characteristics. As Jane's aunt and guardian, Mrs. Reed tries to control the main aspects of her life. Control issues, such as the "red room" incident (45), are a common scenario in the lives of most anorexics. Jane is forced into a life of near solitude, completely separated from the Reed family, and as Jane herself says, condemned "to take my meals alone" (59). Like Helen Burns, Jane exhibits classic symptoms of a person with an eating disorder: she is meticulous, scholarly, compulsive, and a perfectionist. She also
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