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    Consider the Role of Women in the Society Portrayed in this novel “Jane Eyre” Essay

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    Jane Eyre was written in a time when women in positions like Jane’s were left with few options. Jane had to work to support herself, as she possessed no money of her own, yet her rank in society prevented her from doing many occupations. One of the main options was to become a governess to a child from a wealthy family. The Reed family was openly against Jane and was quite happy to send her off to Lowood where she would spend many years with little food and poor clothing. At the beginning of the novel Mrs. Reed telling Jane to go away from the rest of the family “Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly remain silent”.

    Mrs. Reed showed in the opening pages how she disliked Jane and this makes the reader sympathetic towards Jane. Jane often has passionate outbursts when she feels things are unfair, for example when she tells Mrs. Reed how she feels. People considered women speaking out of turn to be unladylike. Jane is frequently told that she is not pretty so people have less appreciation for her. ” If she were a nice pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness, but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that”. People often tell her she is “dependent” as people such as Mrs.

    Reed are left to care for her. When Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester she believes Miss Ingram is the one he is going to marry because she is pretty and in his social class. When Jane is set to marry Mr. Rochester Mrs. Fairfax says “Gentlemen of his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses”. This shows her views on different classes getting married. In the end Charlotte Bronte shows that women such as Jane who are plain in looks and have no money to their name can become great. Jane becomes wealthy and marries the man of her dreams – Mr. Rochester; this is a triumph for the ‘anti-heroine’!

    Charlotte Bronte touches on many controversial points that many authors in the Victorian era would not dare to touch. What is more is that she herself is a women who was forced to publish under a mans name so we learn how she feels women are being mistreated. Bronte makes many of the main characters female and most of them are strong willed and they can easily look after themselves without a man! Mrs. Fairfax, Mary Rivers and Diana Rivers were all women in the novel that did not have the support of a husband at some point in the novel. All three proved to the reader that they were perfectly capable of surviving without a man.

    Jane was different from the other women as she pursued independence when the other three lived in the home of a male relative. We can learn some of her own personal feelings towards women in her society by the way she makes the women act in different classes of society. Many of the male characters have faults, like Mr. Brocklehurst who treats his daughters differently from the girls at Lowood.

    We learn this when Mr. Brocklehurst and Mrs. Reed talk. He says that when his second daughter Augusta visited the school she said, ” Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look… hey are almost like poor peoples children! Mr. Rochester can seem uncaring towards others and treats Adele with little respect but when he is near Jane he pays Adele more attention. St. John Rivers offers to marry Jane so that Jane can join him and become a missionary in India. This plan, although it appears to be something that would suit Jane, does not really because they do not love each other and Jane felt she could not get married with out love.

    Also St. John Rivers loves another, Rosamond Oliver, but he does not follow his heart but follows his mind. The scandals in the text include Adele’s parentage as Mr. Rochester says that he is her self appointed guardian but in those days men were not likely to own up to having a child out of wed-lock. Another scandal is that Georgiana eloped with a man. This is a very controversial topic in those days and many families would disown their child for doing it. It also showed that although Georgiana had a better start in life financially and received love from her mother she still went against what people thought was acceptable for women in those days.

    Jane would not become Mr. Rochester’s mistress as she thought it was wrong; it took a lot of effort for Jane to leave Mr. Rochester and I think that if it had been any of the other characters they would have given into their emotions if they loved someone as much. Georgiana eloped with a man, which Jane would not have done. Miss Temple moved from Lowood once she got married. This shows how the men owned their wives, their children and all of their property. When Jane married Mr. Rochester she did not continue to be a governess but she does not lose her independence.

    This is because Jane feels as if she is an equal in wealth and intelligence to Mr. Rochester whereas before Mr. Rochester had a vast amount of money compared with Jane and this made her feel uneasy especially when he gave her gifts. Jane could stand up to any man if she felt the need. For example when Jane tells Mr. Rochester that she will not be his mistress she says ” Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you than I grasp at it for myself… You will forget me before I forget you. ” This shows even though she loves him she can stand up for herself. Another example is when Jane believes he loves Miss Ingram instead of her, “Do you think that because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?

    You think wrong! ” That speech would have taken Jane a lot of courage to say as she loves Mr. Rochester but she does not want her feelings to be played with. When Miss Ingram found out that Mr. Rochester was worth less than she thought she declined the offer of marriage. Mr. Rochester explains this ” I caused a rumour to reach her that my fortune was worth a third of what was supposed, and after that I presented myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her and her mother. ” This shows how women were driven by money and improving their social class and did not marry for love a lot of the time.

    This gives us an insight into what people felt of the class system in England and how people wanted to improve their situation. Jane often tells the reader her feelings about how women are treated “Women are supposed to feel calm generally: but women feel just as men feel;… they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation”. This shows how she feels men dominate women’s lives. She also says ” It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex”.

    This shows us that Jane feels that women including herself should be freer to earn a living and improve themselves in any way they can. Mrs. Fairfax enjoys talking to Jane because they are in similar circumstances regarding wealth and social position. ” I am so glad you are come; it will be quite pleasant living here now with a companion. ” This shows the reader that although there were servants at Thornfield she did not consider them to be people “one can converse with you on terms of equality. ” The servants are however below her in social status so she does not like to hold long conversations with them.

    This demonstrates how women viewed themselves above each other in social status and did not like to mix with people unlike themselves. Eliza and Georgiana consider themselves to be above Jane but when they are left with little money they both did not find work like Jane. Eliza goes to a convent and Georgianna goes off with friends to London. Even though as children they were pretty not every thing worked out.

    Abbot clearly thinks that appearance is important in children ” Yes I dote on Miss Georgiana!… Little darling! – With her long curls and her blue eyes. Bertha Mason is mentally unstable and so is locked away from society instead of being allowed in public. Bronte allows her to break out and show her revenge on Mr. Rochester. Bronte could be implying that although society has shunned her and she is locked up she is still able to break free. I think Bronte wanted to demonstrate how unjust society could be to anyone who was not normal.

    Jane suffered greatly from her plain looks and saying what she really thought. Women worried about their reputation and what others might say. Mrs. Reed did not want Jane to speak badly of her at Lowood even though she had treated her like a servant. ” If anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty. ” And then Mrs. Reed tries her best to be nice to Jane and change her view ” How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre? ” Mrs. Reed lets Jane say what she thinks in a bid to save her reputation and does not shout back. Jane did not become Mr. Rochester’s mistress even though she could do everything they had done if they were married.

    This shows how even someone like Jane wanted to do what was right in their society. The language Bronte uses reflects the mood of the story. Gateshead Hall is the place where Jane started off her life or in other words it was her gateway into life. The weather reflects the mistreatment Jane receives. Bronte describes it ” clouds so somber, and a rain so penetrating… raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes” these images of unsettled weather is a bit like what is going on in Jane’s mind. Bronte could possibly have named Lowood after Jane’s’ low experiences there for example losing her best friend Helen Burns to TB.

    The weather there is bleak like Jane’s experiences in life. A contrast to that bleak weather is when Mr. Rochester proposes there is beautiful sunshine. But that night the oak tree is blown over in a storm signaling the change in Jane’s fortunes. The way in which Bronte uses such a strong willed character to lead the novel would have been considered controversial to anyone reading it and many condemned Jane’s passionate outbursts a they thought it was unladylike but nowadays people do not really think about it the same as society has changed a great deal.

    I conclude that the text does support the feminist movement in quite subtle ways. Bronte shows us mainly through Jane her views on women being equal to men and that just like Jane women can improve themselves even if they are not pretty or wealthy. It is interesting the way she portrays the men with lots of faults and even though the women do have faults the men are stubborn and slow to change their ways. Bronte uses language that is very descriptive in the way she describes people and places.

    For example: “Miss Miller was more ordinary; ruddy in complexion, though of a careworn countenance. ” In this line we can understand what she looks like at first glance and a bit about her personality. She uses this style of writing to show the reader how the appearance of people is what we see first and how assumptions can be made about the person on looks alone. Her descriptive writing makes it easy for us to get a clear image of the surroundings and the characters in the novel.

    In this novel the reader can see how money drove people like Master Reed who became “such a dissipated young man” according to Bessie and Miss Ingram to make important decisions in life. Bronte makes statements about women’s lives throughout the text but she does it subtly. When Jane thinks about her growing love for Mr. Rochester she realises that society will never let them marry ” I understand the language of his countenance and movements, though rank and wealth sever us widely. ” Bronte says through Jane how unfair this society is that people cannot marry for love alone but must marry into their own class as well.

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