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Feminism in Jane Eyre

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Emma Chasteen

on 10 April 2014

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Transcript of Feminism in Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë has often been associated with the rise of feminism in the early 19th century. The novel
Jane Eyre
served as a catalyst for women's rights. It encouraged women to strive to be more independent and seek out a life other than the typical role of a 19th century woman. Jane Eyre inspired women to pursue a marriage that is based off of love, not social standing, material objects or appearance.
In the 19th century, a woman's sole purpose was to take care of the home and the family. Women were oppressed by men because they were seen as inferiors that needed to be cared for and often times taken advantage of. Many women from different social classes and various professions started to speak out against this oppression and contributed to the movement known as Feminism.
The Background of Feminism
Charlotte Brontë depicted the heroine, Jane Eyre, as a independent and courage woman of high character. Jane Eyre breaks the mold of most women in the novel that are subservient and allow themselves to be dominated by the will of men. If you juxtapose Jane Eyre and Blanch Ingram it becomes apparent that Blanch cares about more superficial things. Blanch Ingram is an example of the typical wealthy women from a upstanding family who wanted to be reliant on a rich man whereas Jane wanted to be self-sufficient and earn her own keep while maintaining her morals. Jane Eyre's cousin, Georgiana Reed , also depicts the typical image of women during that time period through her superficial conversations with Jane as her mother is in the other room dying.
The Image of Women in Jane Eyre
Oppression from Men throughout the Novel
The first example of oppression from men on a woman was shown in the first chapter of
Jane Eyre
. Young Jane Eyre lived in fear of her male cousin, John Reed. She expresses her fear of him on page 4,
"John had not much affection for his mother or sisters, and antipathy to me. He bullied and punished me; not two or three times in a week, nor once or twice in a day, but continually: every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh on my bones shrank when he came near."
By: Emma Chasteen, Mary Sikora & Jay Westbury
Feminism in Jane Eyre
Another example of oppression from men on women was shown when Jane Eyre was sent to Lowood by her Aunt Reed. Mr. Brocklehurst, the owner of Lowood, makes an example of Jane Eyre and shuns her in front of the whole class. On page 67, it describes this oppression from Brocklehurst, "
Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool and let no one speak to her during the remainder of the day. There was I, then, mounted aloft. I who had said I could not bear the shame of standing on my natural feet in the middle of the room, was now exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy
Although Mr. Rochester didn't oppress Jane the traditional sense of belittling her, he still had the same superficial view of women of being porcelain dolls. Before their wedding he tried to shower her in fine jewels and dresses but Jane refused to be subjected to this.
From the beginning of the novel, Jane Eyre has been a very independent individual; she rejected the notion that she had to be reliant on a man or anyone else and relied on her faith and morals to guide her through life. For example, she set out from Lowood and found herself a job as a governess in a town she was not familiar with. She wanted to make a better life for herself with something that she can grow as an individual and be happy doing. Another example is, she left her job at Thornfield because she did not want fall into the temptation of marrying Rochester while he was still married. That went against her morals and even though she wanted to with every fiber of her being, she could not go against her beliefs. Even though she loved Rochester she told him on page 269, "your bride stands between us." Lastly, after leaving Thornfield she refused to take anything she hadn't earned while she was looking for employment. She explained to the family that took her in that she wasn't a beggar, she wanted to earn her keep because she was able.
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