Anne Nique Mrs. Lehman - AP Literature Literature 13 December 2011
Feminism In “Jane Eyre”
Women were expected to accept the limitation and assimilate with the commonly accepted In a time where all status and educational opportunities were allotted for wealthy men idea of “The Angel in the House,” woman modeled by Coventry Patmore, who was expected to live for her husband as his devoted, powerless subordinate. Charlotte Bronte firmly stood for her progressive beliefs about equal opportunity and bravely challenged challenged this demeaning stereotype through her strength in writing. By creating unconventional characters and situations Bronte would help eventually introduce nonconformity to the Romantic age and inspire feminist values. Charlotte Bronte's famous novel, "Jane Eyre ," shows how gender equality and woman‟s suffrage were ignored as women were forced to live in an androcentric world with little say or do about their distressing situations, and how women began could overstepping these boundaries through power. Jane was often reprimanded for being a woman with unacceptable attitudes or aspirations for her time and class. As a child she was very abrupt with her answers and did not fit into the desired
stereotype of little girls. John used her differences and flaws as an e xcuse to habitually mistreat her. As young as he was, he took it upon himself to belittle and strike Jane whilst telling her to “Say, “Say, 'what do you want, Master Reed'” (6). Jane was not willing to continue with her surroundings and hoped that going away to school would set her free from her relative's contempt. When she arrived at Lowood institution, her expectations were left unsatisfied. Once again Jane found herself facing the same tyrannical limitations only in a different setting. Although her circumstances were harsh, h arsh, her manner of dealing with them would not reward her with freedom, instead it brought
embarrassment and discipline. Helen Burns changed Jane‟s entire outlook. After watching Helen her accept her punishment tolerantly Jane started to consider the 'turn cheek' approach since accepting the punishment created less severe consequences. Helen explains to Jane that she must limit her passions or they would consume her, “ you think to much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement”(85). After Helen's tragic death Jane seems to grasp that through hard work and patience/ humility she would be able to gain success, but throughout her growth she also retains her beliefs, viewpoints about standing firm for her beliefs. From then on Jane became extremely dedicated to her work and as soon as she reached the proper age she enabled herself to leave Lowood as a well-rounded governess, all because of her own e fforts ad preservation. Jane‟s adjusted balance between her polite audacity and modesty help her to continue to achieve her goal of equality, and enable her to become the independent female model that so many feminist admire to this day. Jane did not have a large amount of exposure to men in her life, but the men she did encounter were not pleasant individuals. John Reed was and abusive child who grew up to be an irresponsible gambler, and Mr. Brocklehurst was a religious hypocrite. Such negative experience with men may have left a sour taste in Jane‟s perception of men. When Jane first met Mr. Rochester she quickly assumed he was another malevolent man, she described him as “very changeful and abrupt” (159). As their relationship began to ensue, Jane only analyzed Mr. Rochester and learned more and more about his past. As for Mr. Rochester, He treats Jane coldly until he begins to warm up to her, he starts to seek her company and ask her of her opinion. Jane is taken aback at his equal treatment. Rochester clearly explains to her that he has no ill intent; he says, “I beg your pardon. The fact is, once and for all, I don‟t wish to treat you like an inferior,” (167) Their blooming relationship is the ideal bond in the eyes of a feminist. Men in Jane‟s time period were not kno wn for treating their wives as equals, or even taking their feelings or ideas into account. Also, Jane
speaks to Rochester with a kind, but forward tone, women are generally expected to come across as humble, and meek. Any other women in Jane‟s place would be scolded, especially since she is a governess working under Rochester. Rochester gives Jane the equality she strives for by treating her as his equal, and Jane started to respect Mr. Rochester. Their relationship escalated into a more personal bond, and Jane became infatuated with Mr. Rochester who, rather inconspicuously, returned the emotion. It was only until their marriage day that the horrible news reached Jane; Rochester was already married to a mentally unstable woman and the marriage could not go on. For Jane, this moment was the most pivotal event in her story. She was forced to choose between what she wanted to do in her heart (which was to stay with Rochester), and what she kne w was the right and virtuous thing to do. Mr. Rochester begged and pleaded for Jane to with him, as his mistress, and run away to France. Jane is unable to accept this offer; She knew that staying with Rochester would be giving into temptation; she would lose all her self-respect and never gain the equality she worked so hard for. Women who became concubines were generally looked down upon, and never considered equals to their partners. Her final decision was to leave, and she left firmly without giving into Rochester demands. This scene, in my opinion, is what truly makes this novel, a feminist‟s novel. Although she does dote on his offer when she says, “What an unutterable pathos was in his voice! How hard was it to reiterate firmly, „I am Going.” ( 406) She ultimately refused to give up the respect she earned and settle for what she kno ws is a shameful way to live. She kept her integrity and equality by leaving Mr. Rochester, an action that is full of feminism values. After Jane leaves Thorn field she embarks a journey of emotional growth. With only her purse, twenty shillings, her locket and a ring, Jane set off to find other place to live. Unfortunately her money did not last her very long and she soon found herself weak and starved, relying on the kindness of strangers, in her poor state she gain her ability to cope from her religion. Jane enters
her strongest level of emotional gr owth when she returns her faith to her religion; she says, “We all know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us… I felt the might and strength of God. Sure I was of His efficiency to save what He had made: convinced I grew that neither earth should perish nor one of the souls it treasured. I turn my prayer to thanksgiving.” ( 413) Jane survives her journey when she is found by St. John and his sisters, who she later learns are her siblings. Jane‟s final feminist action happens after she receives her uncle‟s inheritance. She gives away part of her fortune to he siblings, hoping that it will allow them to make their own decisions and pursue their own equality. Jane also decides that she can now return back to Thornfield since she is a dependent and is now socially considered an equal to Mr. Rochester. Although Jane never loses respect for her male counterparts, she does not subject herself to the choices of the men around her. Nor does she view herself as an subordinate. Her ability to choose her own living circumstances and marriage conditions are based on the respect, integrity and equality that she earned through living an honest life, full of hard work and labor. The characteristics set her aside from the other characters of the novel, accentuating her role as the feminist hero. Jane‟s actions were driven by her standards and values and her freedom was gained through her intelligence; this lifestyle influenced many women who realized that there was a better way to live with freedom, social acceptance, and control over their own future. Jane takes her readers through a journey of emotional development, striving for equality, and integrity. While learning how to achieve the delicate balance between rebellion and conformity.
“Jane Eyre” captivated many women, and helped jump-start a new era. Although Jane Eyre was not meant to be feminist, it has inadvertent ad-vocation on the independence and authority of the female gender.