Sydney Voss-Kernan Ms. Connors AP English Language March 20, 2014 Jane Eyre: The Heroin Feminist Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre may be superficially read as simply a sweet romance in which Jane ends up with the man of her dreams after overcoming many obstacles and challenges. But doing so misses the much deeper—richer—messages of Bronte's lasting masterpiece. A more thoughtful reading reveals this novel, especially its heroine Jane, challenging centuries-old gender roles which assume male supremacy, characterizing men as the dominant, more privileged gender, while women are oppressed into inferior and submissive roles. Of course this Victorian novel portrays the expected gender roles of both men and women in 19th century England, but Jane rises out of the patriarchy challenging the social roles assigned her with a personality marked by sass and self-assurance . Ms. Bronte, through Jane, ultimately demonstrates that women can live their lives on equal terms with—or independent of—men.
The novel, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë is about a female character battling society's conservative view on women's rights and roles in civilization. Jane Eyre was written during the Victorian Era when women were seen less than equals to men, but more as property and an asset. At the end of the era was when feminist ideas and the women's suffrage movement began to gain momentum. In the novel, Jane encounters three male characters, Mr.Brocklehurst, Mr. Rochester and Mr. St. John Rivers, who try to restrict her from expressing her thoughts and emotions. In Charlotte Brontë's novel, Jane Eyre, Victorian ideology influences today's society by making women seem inadequate to men. Brontë wants to convey that rather than conforming to other's opinions, women should seek freedom and break free of the barrier that society has created for them.
Tremendous spirit. The enviable trait that Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre possesses is what stimulates her to achieve self-actualization despite the fact that she is a woman. True feminism isn’t as violent as a handful of vicious extremists claim it to be. The accurate definition of feminism is “the doctrine advocating women’s social, political, civil, educational and all other rights as equal to those of men.” Women of Charlotte Bronte’s era did not have basic rights such as the aforementioned. The feminist movement in the Victorian Era had only just begun and Jane Eyre was far ahead of her peers. Published in 1847, the bildungsroman novel of Jane Eyre was an intricate one, with subtle feminism carefully woven in it, particularly through the actions and thoughts of Jane Eyre, the protagonist. Her quest for self-worth and identity lead her to overcome the various stigmas that women in that era were faced with. These ambiguities reflect the tensions real Victorian women of faith experienced in trying to meet multiple often conflicting demands in their lives. Such challenges were complicated further by the fact that 19th century Evangelical Christianity- attentive to the realities of sin, sorrow, sacrifice, and loss- was no easy creed for women and men. (Lamonaca) Jane Eyre’s battles for authentic love, good reputation and indifferent attitude towards social classes dominated English women’s lives. The heroine tackles gender roles and breaks all the mannerisms of the time to inject an early dose of feminism in the English audience. Jane’s transformation from naïve child to independent woman stunned the public and gave women the inspiration to make their own decisions and defy the norms of their era.
It is a monumental step for Charlotte Brontë during the Victorian Era, revolving around a female protagonist with a penchant for self-preservation despite societal opposition. Initially, Jane finds herself in situations where she feels excluded by those around her so she forms a mindset in which her truest desires come before all else while she ignores the judgements of her peers. Jane’s withdrawal from suppression and limitations transform her as a reflection of her strength as a woman and as a human being. It is a combination of moral clauses with the effects of societal pressures that creates her mission of individual fulfillment and allows Jane Eyre to flourish as a strong, independent woman of the Victorian Era.
Jane Eyre: Defying Women's Expected Roles in Victorian Society Throughout the Victorian era, women were expected to meet the standards set by communities and submit to the power of men. A woman’s duty was to be a partner to man, to comply with their authority and be physically submissive, even if mentally, they were unrestricted. Women who defied society’s normalities and refused to have restraints put upon them were often seen as recalcitrant and difficult by the public. In Charlotte Brontë's, Jane Eyre, Jane defies the expected role of a Victorian era woman, and shows that females do not have to comply to societal norms. This is shown through Jane's rebellion, denial of love, and rejection of St. John.
Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Brontë, was published in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Company, in London. This year is exactly ten years into Queen Victoria’s sixty-four year reign of the British Empire. The Victorian Era was renowned for its patriarchal Society and definition by class. These two things provide vital background to the novel, as Jane suffers from both. Jane Eyre relates in some ways to Brontë’s own life, as its original title suggest, “Jane Eyre: An Autobiography”. Charlotte Brontë would have suffered from too, as a relatively poor woman. She would have been treated lowly within the community. In fact, the book itself was published under a pseudonym of Currer Bell, the initials taken from Brontë’s own name, due to the fact that a book published by a woman was seen as inferior, as they were deemed intellectually substandard to men. Emily Brontë, Charlotte’s sister, was also forced to publish her most famous novel, Wuthering Heights, under the nom de plume of Ellis Bell, again taking the initials of her name to form her own alias. The novel is a political touchstone to illustrate the period in which it was written, and also acts as a critique of the Victorian patriarchal society.
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre chronicles the growth of her titular character from girlhood to maturity, focusing on her journey from dependence on negative authority figures to both monetary and psychological independence, from confusion to a clear understanding of self, and from inequality to equality with those to whom she was formerly subject. Originally dependent on her Aunt Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, and Mr. Rochester, she gains independence through her inheritance and teaching positions. Over the course of the novel, she awakens towards self-understanding, resulting in contentment and eventual happiness. She also achieves equality with the important masculine figures in her life, such as St. John Rivers and Mr. Rochester, gaining self-fulfillment as an independent, fully developed equal.
Charlotte Bronte is, first and foremost, a storyteller at heart. She broke a mold for women at her time because there were not many occupations that were deemed acceptable besides ‘teacher’ or ‘governess’ in the mid-nineteenth century. Her imagination was far too creative to be left unwritten on a page. Charlotte Bronte’s writings reflect her opinions on women’s roles in society and such opinion is shown in Jane Eyre. Although Jane Eyre was considered radical for its time because women weren’t supposed to play the role of heroine, Jane Eyre rises up from her oppressors, fights for what she thinks is right, and above all stays true to herself and today is considered a true role model for heroine characters.
With the lead character in Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, there is the ultimate image of a Victorian Era women. Jane is considered to be a plain, quiet, passive, and simple minded woman; yet she is intelligent and sophisticated. "if she were a nice, pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that" (Bronte 22). The novel begins with Jane as a rebellious young girl reading a book, and being punished. "You have no business to take our books; you are a dependant, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here ...
To finalize my point about Charlotte Bronte's intent in describing Jane Eyre, the parallels between Bronte's life and her character Jane need to be examined. Bronte herself experienced "a period of depression and ill health" (Rollyson 5) Bronte was known to feel "keenly the solitude of her existence." (25) "The most basic facts of Bronte's life reveal a history of loss of guile similar to Jane's" (26) The name that Jane Eyre was originally published under was "An Autobiography". From this one can deduce that Bronte cared to make more than a surface feministic point in her book.