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Transcript of Victorian Etiquette
Members of the Victorian society took rules of propriety seriously, due to the possibility of being ridiculed and isolated if they didn't conform. Social living and decorum were as much their curriculum as math, literature, or any other subject. Proper conduct and etiquette was not only a measure of social class and success but was also necessary to enter into the growing upper class. Victorians were somewhat perfectionists, in that material items and wealth did not ensure that you had a place in refined society.
Basic Rules of Victorian Society
Be gentle and patient.
Never speak or act in anger.
As valuable as the gift of speech is, silence is often more valuable.
Speak in a gentle tone.
Say kind, pleasant things when the opportunity is offered.
Do not neglect little things if they can affect the comfort of others.
Deny yourself and prefer others.
Distance yourself from meddlers and tale bearers.
Never run, talk loudly, interrupt, or contradict.
Be well-groomed and clean at all times.
Breaches of Etiquette
Victorian Etiquette in Jane Eyre
To remove one's gloves when making a formal call
To stare around the room
To go to the room of an invalid unless invited
To look at your watch when calling
To walk around the room when waiting for the hostess
To open or shut a door, raise or lower a window curtain, or in any way alter the arrangement of a room when visiting
Turn your chair so that your back faces another guest
To seem aware of anything in the room other than the company present
To stay after seeing the host or hostess dressed ready to go out
To make remarks about another caller who has just left the room
Malheiro, Betty. "Victorian Etiquette." http://www.logicmgmt.com. 1876 Victorian England Revisited, n.d. Web. 13 Jan 2014. <http://www.logicmgmt.com/1876/etiquette/etiquette.htm>.
Hill, Thomas. "Etiquette and Manners:Victorian Era." The Old Farmer's Almanac. Yankee Publishing, Inc., 14 01 2014. Web. 14 Jan 2014. <http://www.almanac.com/content/etiquette-and-manners-victorian-era>.
“The Lady's Dressing Room” Etiquette and Advice Manuals. Cassel & Company, Limited. 1893. <http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications/ladys-preface.htm>.
From the start of the novel it is evident that Jane is not considered a well behaved child. She is constantly in trouble and shows little respect or courtesy towards her family, breaking many rules of etiquette.
One of the biggest breaches of etiquette Jane commits would be during her interview with Mr. Brockelhurst and Mrs. Reed.
"I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed: and this book about the Liar, you may give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I."
The statements that Jane makes are not only rude and inappropriate, but the fact that they come from an orphan child definitely makes them break the rules of etiquette.
After her meeting with Mr. Brockelhurst and Mrs. Reed, Jane goes to school wanting a new start. The opportunity itself is much worse than she expected because of the horrible conditions the girls live in. One morning when the cold temperatures freeze their water is another breach of etiquette.
"You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails this morning!"
In Victorian society it was important to always be neat and presentable. When Helen doesn't groom herself properly she suffers punishment, emphasizing the importance of etiquette for the time period.
After Jane leaves Lowood she arrives at Thornfield and meets her new employer Mr. Rochester. He is quite like Jane in that he too is not always polite and doesn't always keep manners in mind.
"I don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have – your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.
Jane does not talk to her wealthy, upper class employer like the young governess that she is. Neither of them are very kind to one another at first, which was not the normal behavior of the time.