Relationship Between Men and Women: Jane Eyre and The Handmaid's Tale

1775 WordsJun 20, 20188 Pages
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre entails a social criticism of the oppressive social ideas and practices of nineteenth-century Victorian society. The presentation of male and female relationships emphases men’s domination and perceived superiority over women. Jane Eyre is a reflection of Brontë’s own observation on gender roles of the Victorian era, from the vantage point of her position as governess much like Jane’s. Margaret Atwood’s novel was written during a period of conservative revival in the West partly fueled by a strong, well-organized movement of religious conservatives who criticized ‘the excesses of the sexual revolution.’ Where Brontë’s Jane Eyre is a clear depiction of the subjugation of women by men in nineteenth-century…show more content…
Her dominance, “stature almost equaling her husband” and “more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he was,” challenges the social institutions of men’s intrinsic preeminence. Her confinement in the attic and horrific death in the fire, possibly symbolic of hell, is interpretable as punishment for her rebuttal against societal norms and lack of subservience to male dominance. It defies social convention for a woman to be dominant over a man such as Bertha is to Rochester as she even “almost throttled him, athletic as he was,” and their marital relationship becomes disastrous when man is not the one upholding power. In contrast to this, Jane’s relationship with Rochester is presented to be undisruptive and therefore more positive in its gentle and peaceful romance. He dubs his own wife a “fearful hag” and speaks of “her with hate—with vindictive antipathy” whereas he views that “every atom of” Jane’s “flesh is as dear” to him as his “own.” This stark contrast between his cold, hostile relationship with his wife and his loving bond with Jane highlights the dynamic in male/female relationships the female is of a collected nature, as expected by Victorian society. That this is dependent upon the female again leads to unbalanced gender roles and behavioral restrictions on women. Similarly to the repression of women in Jane Eyre’s Victorian era, the handmaids of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale are driven into
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