The Subtle Truth of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre Essay

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The Subtle Truth of Jane Eyre

The role of a woman in Victorian England was an unenviable one. Social demands and personal desires were often at cross-purposes. This predicament was nothing new in the 19th century, yet it was this period that would see the waters begin to stir in anticipation of the cascading changes about to shake the very foundation of an empire on the brink of global colonization and industrialization. The question of what role women would play in this transformation came to the forefront.

Charlotte Brontë's female bildungsroman, Jane Eyre, attempts to spotlight many of the issues of the "woman question" facing this period and to draw a balance between a woman's social role and her need for personal
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When we are first introduced to Jane, she is a nine-year-old girl "humbled by the consciousness of [her] physical inferiority ... [who is excluded] from privileges intended only for contented, happy little children" (7). She is a withdrawn daydreamer, ostracized dependent and unwanted ward whose only solace is herself and her penchant for books. The effect on Jane of her early trauma involving her incarceration in the red room, is significant for later developments in the novel, for it represents her vision of the society in which she is trapped: one which seeks to harness her human drive.

Critics have often noted that Brontë uses the properties of fire and ice throughout Jane Eyre to isolate the dueling drives of the novel's heroine. Jane's experiences in the red room, probably the most metaphorically vibrant in the book, shows us clearly the dilemma women of her disposition faced. That a naturally occurring drive should be deemed necessary to be contained was a frustration shared by many energetic women who seeked an outlet for their individuality in a world of double standards. But this was a time when conformity and observance of decorum were valued significantly, while placing personal desires over the requirements of social station was a sign of pride: un-Christian and undesirable.

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