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Essay on Governess Relationships in Bronte's Jane Eyre

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Governess Relationships in Bronte's Jane Eyre

The Victorian governess suffered socially because of her position. The relationship between her and others that were in her class was strained because of her financial situation. She often suffered from "status incongruity." The relationship between a governess and a gentleman was difficult because she was not his financial equal (Peterson 13). While the relationship was strained in her novel Jane Eyre, Bronte leads us to believe that it is not altogether impossible.

When speaking of the governess and relationships we must first deal with "status incongruity" in the novel. There are several instances in Jane Eyre where the social strain is clearly displayed. The scene that takes
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Lady Ingram is the one quick to reject the notion, reminding everyone in a subtle way that Jane is in fact beneath them. The whole Ingram family has a negative attitude toward the governess. Blanche claims: I have just one word to say of the whole tribe; they are a nuisance (180; ch. 17).

Lady Ingram’s response to inviting Jane to play shows the attitude Victorian women had toward the governess. Not only does Jane’s station as a governess bring a social strain, but it also offers a potential threat. Victorian ladies viewed the governess as a threat to their happiness, and feared losing their husbands to the governess (Peterson 14). Earlier in the novel when asked on the governess Lady Ingram admits "the word [governess] makes me nervous" (179; ch. 17). Because the governess was a woman who worked for her living, she was associated with the working-class woman. The working-class woman was possessed sexual aggressiveness which was seen inseparable from her economic independence. The governess took her position in the very heart of the home, which brought about an explosive threat of unregulated sexuality (Hughes 119).

Perhaps the threat the governess posed is best displayed when Blanche tells the story of her governess and her brother’s tutor:

I helped you in prosecuting (or persecuting) your tutor, whey faced Mr. Vining–the parson in the pip, as we
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