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On Feminism and Jane Eyre

Influential female characters in literature reflect the struggle for equality women have with men. Much like reality, these characters seek individualism and liberty from, or equality with, men in a society dominated by men. These seekers are called feminists and many feminists see Charlotte Bronte’s titular character Jane Eyre as a proto-feminist icon of the Victorian era. Not only does Jane Eyre show the struggle of one woman under one man it represents the struggle of women in a male-dominated society. Reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre through a feminist perspective reveals Jane’s fight for independence, individuality, and equality in a society controlled and dominated by men.

Before Jane’s situation can be dissected thoroughly, however, one has to put the Victorian era into perspective. In Victorian England the woman’s main purpose was to “serve others…please her husband and society,” (Barrera, “Etiquette of a Victorian Lady”). As well women were for years the managers of the household and, therefore, confined to it and all of its duties. Even the clothing that women wore served only to emphasize the womanly parts and the “separation from the world of work” (Abrams, “Ideals of Womanhood in Victorian Britain”). Since women were controlled by society and men controlled society, women were forced into obedience. However, feminism was also on the rise as many women grew tired of domestic life and their place in society which caused them to seek equality with men. This theme, i.e. “the patriarchal forces that have impeded women’s efforts to achieve full equality with men,” is present in Victorian society as well as in Jane Eyre.

Early in Jane’s life women are put in a position in which exert their standards of what women s...

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...ated society. Jane also shows how independent she is by seeking work even after marriage and refusing to conform to the typical Victorian woman: dependent and obedient to men. In the end Jane wins, in a sense, over a man; she defies the natural order of society when Rochester must become dependent on Jane. In closing Jane Eyre is a story of how a strong woman overcomes the unfair and unequal societal norms of the Victorian era and is rewarded with the equality and independence she fought so hard for.

Works Cited

Barrera, Mari. “Etiquette of a Victorian Lady.” 11 Dec. 2011.

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Abrams, Lynn. "BBC - History - Ideals of Womanhood in Victorian Britain." BBC - Homepage. 9 Aug. 2001. 10 Dec. 2011.

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