Women in the Victorian era were supposed to be passive, pure, and idle; were not to be well educated; and were expected to marry. Throughout Brontë's novel, Jane Eyre learns the realities of these social expectations and directly and indirectly speaks against them.
The Victorian Era was known for its propriety, and for its social standards that could be as strict as the caste system in India. Citizens in England of low social regard faced many prejudices and limitations that could be almost insurmountable to overcome. Much like the caste system, people considered to be the dregs of society were often alienated and had little room for opportunity. In Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre, the main character, Jane, suffers social prejudice because she is a simple governess, revealing much about the social stigmas about the working class during the Victorian Era. Jane’s social status limits her not only from being with the one she loves, but also hinders her endeavor to achieve true autonomy.
The Victorian Era encompassed a time of great discrepancy between the sexes, especially for women. The polarization of gender roles reflected on a basis of gender sexuality where men and women were granted certain advantages and disadvantages. Women were expected to realize a specific position in society based on morals of submission, passivity, and a complete lack of selfishness and independence. Constrictive notions such as these prevent individual expression and expansion. Therefore, while struggling to fill the pre-conceived expectancies of society, one forces true desires and happiness to pass as a scant priority. Charlotte Brontë's Victorian novel, Jane Eyre, explores the significance of individual fulfillment in an oppressive
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë depicts the rigid social structure and clear division between the upper and lower classes of Victorian society, in which wealth and status determined one’s beliefs, career, and treatment from those surrounding them. Those of the upper class did not typically converse or involve themselves with those viewed as beneath them; however, Jane Eyre fights the separation between the classes to which she has fallen victim at both Gateshead and Lowood school. Her refusal to conform to the hierarchy eventually leads to the meddling between the Victorian-era elite and peasant class, as seen through Jane Eyre’s romantic relationship with Edward Rochester, an upperclassman and
Although she knows Blanche and Rochester are not in love, she believes they will marry due to money and class. Ingram is equal to Rochester, and Jane is not. She knows she cannot unlove him, but "all his attentions appropriated to a great lady who scorned to touch [Jane] with the hem of her roses as she passed" (Bronte 211). In Jane 's mind, she is no match for Blanche, and she refuses to marry Rochester because they are not equal. After Jane and Rochester become engaged for the first time, he attempts to spoil her with gifts and special treatment. However, Jane will not accept. First, he takes Jane to Millcote to buy her accessories. When he looks at her with "passionate pleasure" she looks at him and threatens that he "need not look in that way...if [he does, she 'll] wear nothing but [her] old Lowood frocks to the end of the chapter. [She 'll] be married in this lilac gingham" (309-310). She refuses these gifts as she believes she should not be treated higher than her actual class. She also refuses to dine with Rochester at his request.When he asks her to join she tells him that she has "never dined with [him]; and [she] sees no reason why [she] should now" (311). Rochester then begins to question what she wishes to become of her salary and other days to which she responds that she "shall just go on with it as usual. [She] shall keep out of [his] way all day"
Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre embraces many feminist views in opposition to the Victorian feminine ideal. Charlotte Bronte herself was among the first feminist writers of her time, and wrote this book in order to send the message of feminism to a Victorian-Age Society in which women were looked upon as inferior and repressed by the society in which they lived. This novel embodies the ideology of equality between a man and woman in marriage, as well as in society at large. As a feminist writer, Charlotte Bronte created this novel to support and spread the idea of an independent woman who works for herself, thinks for herself, and acts of her own accord.
In her 1977 essay, Sandra Gilbert talks about Bronte’s character Jane Eyre and Jane’s struggles due to patriarchy; and the journey Jane undergoes to reaching her truest self. Gilbert writes about the conflict of patriarchy and how it sets Jane back in her life many times. Throughout the entire story, Jane is trying to get away from these hindrances, she is trying to free herself. Gilbert goes on to say that, “Everywoman in a patriarchal society must meet and overcome: oppression (at Gateshead), starvation (at Lowood), madness (at Thornfield), and coldness (at Marsh end)” (781).
Throughout history and literature, men have been trying to make decisions for women and have also treated women as inferiors. Two books that do a superb job of demonstrating this theme are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. Jane Eyre, set in the 1800’s, is the story of an orphan girl growing up and becoming a governess. All does not go smoothly when Jane falls in love with the master of the house. Drama ensues in this gothic classic as Jane decides how to handle her situation. The Good Earth, on the other hand, follows the life of Wang Lung from a young adult to a grandfather. Along the way, Wang Lung marries O-lan and together they
Jane Eyre, often interpreted as a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age story, goes further than the traditional “happy ending,” commonly represented by getting married. Instead, the novel continues beyond this romantic expectation to tell full the story of Jane’s life, revealing her continual dissatisfaction with conventional expectations of her social era; as a result, many literary critics have taken it upon themselves to interpret this novel as a critique of the rigid class system present in 19th century Victorian society. One literary critic in particular, Chris R. Vanden Bossche, analyzes Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre through a Marxist lens, asserting the importance of class structure and social ideology as historical context and attributing this to the shaping of the novel as a whole. This approach of analysis properly addresses Brontë’s purposeful contrast of submission and rebellion used to emphasize Jane’s determined will for recognition as an equal individual.
Throughout Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë uses the character Jane as a tool to comment on the oppression that women were forced to endure at the time. Jane can be seen as representative of the women who suffered from repression during the Victorian period, a time when patriarchy was commonplace. Brontë herself was affected by the time period, because according to Wolfe, she was deprived “experience and intercourse and travel.” (70) Thus Jane offers a unique perspective as a woman who is both keenly aware of her position and yet trapped by it despite repeated attempts to elevate herself and escape the burden placed on by her different suitors. Although superficially it seems that Jane wants to break away from the relationships that further
“I am no bird and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will” (Bronte, Jane Eyre 293). In the Victorian time period Charlotte Bronte lived the unequal life as a woman, like many others. The only difference is Bronte did not believe in living in inequality, and she wrote about her hardships in her literature. In her book, Jane Eyre, the reader can see many similarities in her main character’s life and her own. Jane Eyre has many ways of showing how Victorian women were expected to be and act, included in the life of Jane. Bronte also continues her portrayal of the inequality of women and the decision of love versus autonomy through two of her poems, “Life” and “The Wife’s Will.” Charlotte Bronte displays the inequality in life of women in the Victorian era by taking her life and revitalizing it into themes of her works, by providing a journey of discovery of love or autonomy.
Bronte’s Jane Eyre gave a voice to women in the Victorian era. Bronte embedded her feminist ideas into her novel, Jane Eyre. Her belief in marrying for love was a head of her time. Bronte used Jane to explore the depth at which women could act in society. Her ideas on women being more educated brought on thoughts of equality of a different level.
Through the Victorian Age, male dominance deprived women from a certain freedom. In Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre repeatedly struggles to become an independent young lady due to the troublesome men in the story. John Reed controls Jane, Mr. Brocklehurst humiliates Jane, and Mr. Rochester sees women, in general, as objects. The author manages to depict patriarchal dominance through the characterization of John Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, and Mr. Rochester.
Jane Eyre was written in a time where the Bildungsroman was a common form of literature. The importance was that the mid-nineteenth century was, "the age in which women were, for the first time, ranked equally with men as writers within a major genre" (Sussman 1). In many of these novels, the themes were the same; the protagonist dealt with the same issues, "search for autonomy and selfhood in opposition to the social constraints placed upon the female, including the demand for marriage" (Sussman). Jane Eyre fits this mould perfectly. Throughout the novel, the reader follows Jane Eyre on a journey of development from adolescence to maturity to show that a desire for freedom and change motivates people to search for their own identity.
It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex." As a great friendship and affection grow for Jane and Mr. Rochester, Jane notices that Rochester wishes to shower her in jewels, buy her fancy dresses, raise her up to some impossible image of the bride or woman, which does not suit her at all. This new treatment feels unequal, as Rochester would pay for her completely, she feels too dependent on him, and not her own woman. Jane acknowledges that she makes Rochester promise to let her continue on as Adele?s governess and being paid for that so that they are equal, or as she puts it: ?By that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides. I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give me nothing but your regard: and if I give you mine in return the debt will be quit." Jane's views on this affair are extremely feminist when taken out of past perspective. In actuality, she attempt to not change the power dynamics of her relationship with Rochester, to be paid for work, instead of becoming his object or property. But she admits later: "My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven.