The Purpose of Sati in Jane Eyre Essay

The Purpose of Sati in Jane Eyre Essay

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The general image of Sati and the reasoning that surrounded it filled the Western imagination with repulsion as well as admiration. In the nineteenth century, Westerners publishing diaries of their travels always included their experiences when viewing Sati. Although these travelers, usually men, watched with horror, they also admired the courage and the dignity of the women involved (Hawley 3). What was known in England of Sati was from the accounts of the colonial officials and travelers who witnessed it (Courtright 28). It would not surprise one to assume that Charlotte Bronte, in her drive for knowledge and her stand on women's freedom, would have taken an interest in such an act; and indeed she incorporates it in Jane Eyre. In 1829, the British government prohibited the act of Sati. Twenty years later, Charlotte Bronte presents a text in which she presents the "topos of feminism in imperialism" (Perera 80). With the use of the custom of Sati, Charlotte Bronte writes a novel which coveys the contrast between the east and the west, the old and the new, revealed sexuality and repressed sexuality. The two characters, Jane and Bertha, each represent a different region; while Bertha represents the East and the ancient, Jane represents the new and the modern.

Dorothy K. Stein finds that Sati was a motif used for feminist discussions in Victorian England:

[Sati] did not occur in England, but many manifestations of the attitudes and anxieties underlying the practice did. Nineteenth-century respectability in both England and India divided women into exalted and degraded classes, not only on basis of actual or imputed sexual behavior, but also on the basis of whether that behavior was at all times controlled and supervised, pref...


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... the anger that she had expressed as a young girl, due to the fact that her society does not accept it. This anger that she once held inside is prevelant in Bertha's act. It is in the Red Room that Jane "became increasingly alive with bristling energy, feelings, and sensations, and with all sorts of terrifying amorphous matter and invisible phantoms" (Knapp 146). This igniting energy and flow of feelings, are very similar to those that Bertha realises at Thornfield.

With the death of Bertha, Jane is now able to live with the man she loves. Bertha's death precedes a successful union between Rochester and Jane. When they are finally reunited, they are equal (Showalter 122). When Rochester and Jane finally get together, their relationship succeeds due to the fact that he has learned how it feels to be helpless and how to accept the help of a woman (Showalter 122).

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