Feminism in Literature

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Feminism in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

Feminism, if anything, has appeared majorly in the literature spectrum through all decades and forms. Feminism is the political, cultural, or economic movement aimed at establishing equality and protection for all women. No matter the time period or place feminism has always been a popular literary topic that has made a few works quite notorious, including Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. Both works contain the scenarios in which the main characters are taken advantage of due to the apparent feminist society.

Made obvious by the title, Jane is the main character of the novel Jane Eyre. During the novel Jane meets people, in Jane’s case, men who try to hold her back or suppress her from becoming all that she can be. She is faced with men who aim to hurt her while others do it without notice and full of love. Jane finally realizes the way to be equal with the men in her life, and be treated as an equal is to rise against them and stand for her rights and what she believes in. Jane would not have to do this if not for the Victorian time period she lives in, where men consider themselves superior to women. Through the hard work and suffering Jane finally beats society’s unjust morals and becomes an equal to man thought impossible to change.

In the second work we meet the main character of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House, Nora Helmer. Like Jane, Nora is constantly demeaned by her husband Torvald. He uses pet names for Nora that time and time again asserts his dominance and show very little respect towards her. Nora was never treated as harshly as Jane was, but she was still nevertheless continuously disrespected. In Nora’s life as well, the society in the Victorian Era is to be blamed for the men’s anti-feminist views. In the play, in order to gain her respect Nora must decide between her husband Torvald, or leaving him and the suppression of Victorian marriage, similar to Jane’s decision whether or not to leave and run away with Rochester. Both characters have to decide between their rights as human beings and their love. Eventually Nora confesses her true feelings to Torvald and realizes that to leave him is the only way she could ever become something or someone in her life.

In Jane Eyre, there is more than just one man who can be held responsible for having anti-feminist ideas and actions. The man mostly recognized for his downright disrespect for women is Mr. Brocklehurst. Mr. Broklehurst is a rather annoying clergyman, he feels that he has a specific goal in his life, to "save" the otherwise lost souls of his girls in the school, but really he is trying to mold the girls to his own visions of how women should be rather than Gods. An example of Brocklehurst’s extremity can be found within the text of Jane Eyre:“Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature: I wish these girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance? I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girls hair must be cut off entirely; I will send a barber to-morrow: and I see others who have far too much of the excrescence- that tall girl, tell her to turn round. Tell all the first form to rise up and direct their faces to the wall." (Bronte 75-76)This shows Brocklehurst’s severity in his rules for the girls to follow, all for his feminist beliefs and his misinterpretation of Gods words. Besides these mandatory rules for the girls to follow Brocklehurst made a promise to Mrs. Reed that he would let everyone know of Jane’s “vicious nature” telling all the other girls of the institute to “shun her [Jane]” and to “shut her [Jane] out of your converse” (Bronte 78) It is this directed anger toward Jane that sets Mr. Brocklehurst above all other men when it comes to hatred for women and can be considered the antagonist of feminism and Jane in this...
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