Jane Eyre: An Orphan’s Success Story
In Victorian literature, the orphan can be read as an unfamiliar and strange figure outside the dominant narrative of domesticity (Peters 18). They were often portrayed as poor children without a means of creating a successful life for themselves. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, however, is a portrayal of a female orphan who triumphs over almost every environment she enters. Therefore, Jane’s ability to overcome the hardships that she encounters is a fictional success story. By discussing Jane’s early life as an orphan at Gateshead and Lowood, and also her relationships with Helen Burns and Adele Varens, one can see how Bronte’s novel is an escape from the familiar predestined fate of at least…show more content…
2). Jane is at the mercy of the Reed family’s demands and is severely punished for anything they deem improper. Although she does possess a passionate disposition that the Reeds often use as a justification for punishment, Jane is forced into a "habitual obedience." Therefore, she obediently listens to John as he reminds her of her insignificant, poor status:
[. . .] you are a dependant, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense. (23; ch. 1)
The constant verbal and physical abuse from the Reeds makes Jane’s time at Gateshead, for the most part, intolerable. She is a social outcast in the Reeds’ home. The only peace that she finds at Gateshead is during times of voluntary solitude and while reading. Like orphans throughout English literature, she must develop an identity through the challenge of social mobility (Hochman, Wachs 12), a challenge that keeps her inferior while at Gateshead.
Because of her young, orphaned status, Jane is unable to escape from the torment at Gateshead until Mrs. Reed decides to send her away. But her experience at Gateshead becomes the ground on which she is able to build her future character. Jane is alone without any parental love to guide her except for Bessie’s occasional show of affection. She must make a life for