Feminism in Jane Eyre and the Yellow Wallpaper

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Explain the ways in which Jane Eyre and The Yellow Wallpaper are linked in relation to the ways in which women were treated in the 16th century.

This essay discusses the containment, confinement and oppression of women in 16th century Britain; specifically the roles of Jane Eyre and Bertha, and the protagonist in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. At this time men held more power over women, partly because of women’s financial and social dependence on them. It was customary for women to submit to their husbands and to keep what was seen as their social place. At the beginning of Jane Eyre, Jane is living with her Aunt and three cousins, who do not appreciate her being there. Her cousins Eliza, Georgiana and John Reed are particularly horrible to her, and eventually lead to her being sent to the red room, the room in which her uncle died, as a punishment. She was falsely accused of initiating a fight with John, even though he is the one who hit her, introducing the poor treatment of women already. Bronte describes the red room itself in a particularly gothic style, for example ‘This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire.’ Suggesting an eerie atmosphere about the room as a chill is generally associated with ghosts. The fact that it seldom had a fire also suggests that it is rarely disturbed, adding to the supernatural aura about it. She also mentions ‘phantoms half fairy, half imp.’ Reinforcing the idea of the supernatural, which is common in gothic novels. She also describes the furniture as dark and mahogany, again adding to the atmosphere which would be understandably frightening for a child. At one point Jane says ‘no jail was ever more secure.’ The fact that she refers to the red room as a jail immediately gives it a sense of imprisonment, and gives the impression that she is destined never to leave. This imprisonment represents the literal physical containment of women in the society of this time. This idea of imprisonment also occurs in The Yellow Wallpaper;...
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