Bronte's Jane Eyre and Margaret Atwood's A Handmaids Tale.
In this essay, I will compare a pre-twentieth century novel with a
modern novel, and examine the discussion of the treatment of women in
'Jane Eyre' was first published in 1847, and was written by Charlotte
Bronte. It is the story of a young woman, Jane Eyre, ill treated
through childhood, but determined and intelligent. Through the novel,
the reader watches her grow and develop as a person, and overcome many
problems, to become a respectable, independent woman. It is said that
'Jane Eyre' contains many autobiographical elements from Bronte's own
experiences of life.
Bronte uses this novel to observe and criticize oppressive social
ideas that were common in nineteenth century Victorian society. Jane's
position as a governess (another autobiographical element, as
Charlotte too was a governess) is an imperative tool in the novel, as
it provides a neutral vantage point from which to observe these
practices of Victorian society. Governesses were expected to have the
education and culture of the aristocracy, but were still looked at as
the same status as servants, as they were paid employees. They were
seen as lower class, as shown by Lady Ingram in chapter 17:
"Don't mention governesses, the word makes me nervous. I have suffered
a martyrdom from their incompetence."
"In hers [physiognomy] I see all the faults of her class."
Female oppression is another prominent issue in the book. Bronte
creates struggles that Jane must overcome to achieve equality with
men, and she resists the superior attitude of men who believe women
should have submissive positions. For ex...
... middle of paper ...
...ppressed. The message is that this balance between men and woman is
delicate and its future uncertain. In reading the book you realise
that it is entirely possible for woman to lose their rights
completely, and the social clock, in relation to woman in society,
could be turned back. The Handmaid's Tale is set in the future an any
signs of the rights of women as we know them are banished and barren,
except in the pain ridden memories of women living reduced roles.
Charlotte Bronte, although more subtle in her approach than Atwood,
displays just as much passion concerning rights of women. At several
points she acknowledges that women's role in society is questionable,
and should be a prominent issue in women's minds.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading both books and feel that both are
excellent pieces of literature that put across a strong, important
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