Jane Eyre: Ambiguities of Equality, Servitude and Independence

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  • Topic: Jane Eyre, Governess, Equality
  • Pages : 4 (1251 words )
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  • Published : November 19, 2007
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Terry Eagleton states the "Jane's relationship with Rochester is marked by ambiguities of equality, servitude, and independence". By examining pertinent incidents in the text, the validity of this statement will be shown, and moreover, these ambiguities will be shown to be of Jane's own doing. It will be shown that she is the one who constantly thinks herself to be inferior, and even when she is said to be Rochester's equal, she thinks of some way in which she is inadequate, in order to sabotage her own happiness.

While there are ambiguities of servitude and independence, it is the issue of equality that is most important in the novel, because both Jane's fears of servitude, and a loss of independence, are linked to the fact that she does not feel herself to be Rochester's equal. It is therefore necessary to start by examining Jane's need for autonomy.

At the beginning of the novel, Jane is being rise by her Aunt, Mrs. Reed. As a child she is constantly ostracized and reminded of the fact that she is an orphan. John Reed torments her, calling her a "bad animal" (p.4) and a "rat" (p.6) and reminds her that "[she has] no money" (p.6) and "ought to beg, and not live [at Gateshead] with gentlemen's children" (p.6). It is this that drives her need to prove herself, and establish her independence and equality. With reference to her relationship with Rochester, one of the reasons that she does not marry him initially could be because she fears that in marrying him, she will be settling down, will lose her autonomy, and be giving up her ability to further establish herself as a free and independent woman. At this point, it is ironic to note that in leaving Thornfield to remain independent, Jane must once again rely on "cold charity" (p.456) and beg for food and lodging.

The question of servitude is closely related to that of equality. Jane is a governess at Thornfield, and thus she can be seen as a servant. When Jane meets Mrs. Fairfax for the first time,...
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