Abstract: Charlotte Brontë’ masterpiece Jane Eyre symbolized a new era in the history of literature. It awakened women’s awareness to be independent. It brought about a completely new concept of marriage and of the value of life to a woman. That is marriage should base on true love, equality and respect rather than social ranks, materials or appearance. Marriage should be the combination of souls as well as bodies. The heroine of the novel Jane Eyre has successfully demonstrated the image of a woman who is intelligent, independent, kind-hearted and most importantly, brave enough to say “no” to the social conventions and live up to her principle in life. The author Charlotte Brontë is acclaimed to be a pioneer in the campaign of feminism. This essay is to explore and appreciate the spirits of feminism reflected in this novel and also reveal the limitations in demonstrating the concept of feminism. Key Words: Jane Eyre, feminism, limitations
In the 19th century, women were considered to be appendages to men. Marriage and family life were the whole world to women. Women depended upon men physically, financially and spiritually. This essay is to explore and appreciate the spirits of feminism reflected in this novel Jane Eyre, whose author took the lead in the campaign of feminism. There are three parts in the process of demonstration. The first part is about the oppression laid by the four main men characters on Jane. The second part is about three main women characters and their images in this novel. The last part is to point out some limitations of the author when illustrating feminism. Ⅱ. Body
1. Men’s oppression upon women
The novel was written in the early 19th century when men played a dominant role in society. Women were considered to be inferior to men. All that women were supposed to do was follow the instructions of men and be the subsidiary addition to men’s life. Four men in Jane’s life had laid oppression on her in different degrees. Jane survives the oppression and led herself constantly to her own desirable life. 1. The oppression from John Reed
The first male character to oppress Jane was her cousin John Reed, who in part made little Jane live in shadow and fears when she was only a young girl. The boy hit Jane whenever he felt like only because Jane was an orphan. Poor little Jane could do nothing but bear the hurts both physically and spiritually. At last, Jane’s feelings of hatred and indignity went out of control. For the first time, Jane stood up and fought back when John hit her again. Her cry of “ Wicked boy” at John declares her determination to fight against this unfair world. This quarrel and fight led to her life in Lowood in which she felt much happier. 2. The oppression from Mr. Brocklehurst
Mr. Brocklehurst represents those who had firm belief in women-inferiority theory. He demanded the girls in Lowood to wear ugly or even broken clothes, eat far-from-enough harsh food and led a hard life. In his opinion, girls should lead a simple life in order to cultivate the virtue of subordination and dependence. He once insulted Jane in front of Jane’s teachers and classmates. He claimed Jane to be a wicked girl only because Mrs. Reed, Jane’s Aunt, told him so. Though depressed and heart-broken, Jane finally showed with her own deeds to her teachers and classmates that she was not a wicked girl as Mr. Brocklehurst claimed. 3. The oppression from Edward Rochester
Even Edward Rochester, Jane’s lover, wanted to lay some oppression or control upon Jane. Before their marriage, he wanted to use the necklace to circle up the thoughts and feelings of Jane. He wanted the ring to restrict Jane’s actions. Further, he wanted the beautiful wedding dress to change Jane’s appearance a little bit. Though at first, out of the love for Mr. Rochester, Jane intended to give in, but in the end she refused all of them. She just wanted to act what...