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Transcript of Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre can be examined from a
New Historicist perspective
Charlotte Bronte’s provoking autobiographical novel, Jane Eyre was published in 1847, can be examined from a New Historicist perspective. Charlotte Bronte challenges and reinforces the cultural ideas and assumptions of the Victorian era and events that inspired and enforced this change. Jane Eyre tells the 21st Century reader about prevailing ways of thinking at the time, revealing the social constructs and the representation of events in Jane Eyre. Therefore, this text is as much a critique as a product of the author’s early Victorian culture.
“Children should be seen but not heard”
When we think of the Victorian era we often remember this saying, but would anyone ask this of a twenty-first century child? This quote can be interpreted in different ways, for example we could suggest it brings to mind the harshness of not being able to make any mistakes, and the fact that children should not speak in the presence of adults, such strictness was often used as a way to rebuke a child who has spoken when he or she should not. You may come out and meet the party guests if you’ll remember that children should be seen but not heard. Charlotte Bronte gives a detailed insight of what is was like to be a child of the Victorian Era.
From an early age we see the Victorian Culture plainly through the event of ‘Jane going to Lowood School’. Mr Brocklehurst interrogates Jane at his visit at Gateshead. “No sight so sad as that of a naughty child,” he began, “especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?” “They go to hell,” was my ready and orthodox answer. “And what is hell? Can you tell me that?” “A pit full of fire.” “And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?” “No, sir.” “What must you do to avoid it?” I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.” Showing Jane as an intelligent, fearless child of strong character and will which would be needed to go against the social norms of this time frame.
Governesses did not have a very high social status as they were looked down upon by the families they served. Bronte wrote this novel with about 8 years of experience of being a governess and felt very strongly for the women who were forced into this position like her, through no fault of their own. She was not seen as a servant as she was not included there but yet the children were not encouraged to show respect to governesses in any way therefore discipline was hopeless, making the job isolating and hard work with the need for a lot of tolerance.
“Why, I suppose you have a governess for her: I saw a person with her just now- is she gone? Oh no! there she is still behind the window –curtain. You pay her, of course; I should think it quite as expensive, -more so; for you have in addition… You should hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them detestable and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi – were they not, mama?”
Mr. Rochester proposes to Jane the first time
, she is confused as she thought the he would marry Blanche Ingram.
“But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to marry."
I was silent: I thought he mocked me. "Come, Jane – come hither." "Your bride stands between us." He rose, and with a stride reached me. "My bride is here," he said, again drawing me to him, "because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?"
This was very shocking for a high member of society to offer his hand in marriage to governess.
However on the wedding day this was not to be as Jane finds out about Mr. Rochester’s wife, Bertha.
This makes the novel, with its scandal, the twist of fate deserving of someone trying to rise above her station.
and to consider the freedom, the choice for independence and all the advantages people have today compared to the Victorian era. This record of a time in history helps us to see how far things have come, how better life is, and the greater the equality and better opportunities we have over a century later.
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags." Because of the Patriarchal society Charlotte Bronte expresses her heart objections to these restrictive customs when she writes, “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” Using imagery, she hides her personal opinions in the character Jane, to challenge the society to consider the equal rights between genders. Also Jane challenges the shallowness and fickleness of society.
was important for a woman to secure
, as in the upper class etiquette she was not trained for business. All her property, wealth, and earnings would be handed over to her husband, so
marriage was very calculated and was not taken lightly.
Men had the superior hand
in this situation as they were the one asking for the women’s hand in marriage as women weren’t allowed to ask unlike today’s society.
In Charlotte Bronte’s time
woman did not have to accept their first proposal;
which we see this through
St. Johns proposal.
‘God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary’s wife you must-shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you- not for my pleasure, but for my sovereign’s service.’
Jane turning it down
, Bronte showed the typical marriage proposal, not at all loving and considerably heartless although considered ‘honourable’. Bronte uses her character, Jane to speak out against it, and challenge this religious idea of nobility. Charlotte Bronte’s expressing her desire to find true love for marriage presented through her character Jane, finding Mr Rochester by staying true to her heart.
She found her Mr Rochester a widower confined in Ferndean, and newly-blind grieving over his loss of her, Jane. To quote Teddy Wayne; “Up until this point in the text Jane has always maintained a subservient position to Mr Rochester. However, with the inheritance from her Uncle, Jane is now an independent woman and can take charge of her own destiny.”
Bronte presents a fairy tail ending in her novel,
I married him
. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the parson and clerk, were alone present.”
The chances of this happening in the Victorian time were very unlikely. As Teddy Wayne continues to analyse; “with the lost of Mr Rochester’s eyesight he becomes vulnerable and dependent on Jane; he can no longer maintain his former position as the superior male. Thus, instead of using the subservient “He married me,” in which Mr Rochester is the dominating partner, Jane takes the superior in the relationship: ‘I married him’ However, this inequality is resolved when Mr Rochester regains the use of one of his eyes; Jane and Mr Rochester are finally able to support a relationship of mutual respect and quality.”
This is what Charlotte Bronte masterfully orchestrates meeting society’s values rules and her desire for true love.
Marriage today amongst the ‘elite’ has a different perspective than in the Victorian times, we see this through
Kim Kardashian’s marriage
that it lasted for only
they went through the
“For Victorians, divorce was not only extremely expensive, it was very hard to do. Women and men stayed in unhappy marriages for numerous reasons. Many stayed away from divorce because of the stigma attached to divorced women. It was also considered a societal taboo…… Divorces were very hard to attain because there was no civil divorce. Private Acts were inconvenient and extremely costly. The poor had no way to attempt divorce under these circumstances.”
Bronte would not of heard of many divorces in her life span; they would have been scandalous, shocking to hear about.
But now day’s it is a lot easier to become divorced and in the case of Kim Kardashian she was able to keep her money and be an independent woman.
So Mr. Rochester kept his first wife as a ward, caring and providing for her needs in her severe mental illness, but even if he had filed for a divorce he would have been denied, as his wife was mentally ill. The strictness of their society gave Mr. Rochester no options and makes him a villain for courting Jane.
However in the twenty-first century like Kim and Kris, sometimes we have too much freedom, and we take advantage of this, and we can lose site of what really matters in a marriage.
Charlotte Bronte gives a detailed insight of what is was like to be a lower middleclass woman in the beginning of the Victorian era.
A lady’s social class impacted on her situation. Their social class plays out as to what kind of life they will have; whether very wealthy, or not so wealthy a governess or a servant. Women didn’t have any rights as they belonged as property to any male figure related to or married to them.
Charlotte Bronte makes us rethink our cultural norms
Women today generally have greater freedom to have opinions and work in a wider range of jobs even traditional male roles and have independence and with the freedom to choose to marry or not.
Charlotte Bronte creates the character of Jane Eyre to have a very similar situation as she did in her Victorian life and her same dream for the future as we see when Jane is telling the gypsy fortune teller, “The utmost I hope is, to save enough money out of my earnings to set up a school some day in a little house rented by myself.” Women were not meant to think about business as the culture was for the women to get married and have children.
The difference between back then and now is that to have a divorce the husband would keep all her possessions making her penniless. In those days it would be the husband filing for a divorce not the woman. The woman, only in exceptional circumstances would file for a divorce, would end up poor and if they had children he would be the one kept them. Like Rachael Hurvitz writes in her article, “Once married, only one in ten women divorced.”