Jane Eyre and Feminism

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Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre embraces many feminist views in opposition to the Victorian feminine ideal. Charlotte Bronte herself was among the first feminist writers of her time, and wrote this book in order to send the message of feminism to a Victorian-Age Society in which women were looked upon as inferior and repressed by the society in which they lived. This novel embodies the ideology of equality between a man and woman in marriage, as well as in society at large. As a feminist writer, Charlotte Bronte created this novel to support and spread the idea of an independent woman who works for herself, thinks for herself, and acts of her own accord. Women of the Victorian era were repressed, and had little if any social stature. They had a very few rights and fewer options open to them for self-support. For most women the only way to live decently was to get married, and in many cases it was not up to the women to choose whom she married. It was almost unheard of for a woman to marry out of her social class (Cain 20). If a woman did not marry, the only ways she could make a living other than becoming a servant was either to become a prostitute or a governess. For the most part, a woman was not given the opportunity to go to school and earn a degree unless she was born into a high social class. The average Victorian woman was treated not as a person, but as an object or piece of property. She had very few rights either in society, or marriage (Cain, 25). Bronte, born into a middle class family, refused to be repressed by society. She recognized the injustices of her society, and in rebellion against society's ideologies involving women, wrote Jane Eyre. Bronte's feminist ideas radiate throughout the novel. There are many strong and clear examples of these ideas in Bronte's protagonist, Jane, her personality, actions, thoughts, and beliefs. From the beginning of the book, Jane's strong personality is quite clear. She often gets in trouble, arguing with her cousins, and defying Bessie and Miss Abbot, as well as her aunt. She is not afraid to speak her mind and is dogmatic and assertive about her ideas. Some of the best examples of this characteristic can be found in the first few chapters of the book: after being blamed for provoking her cousin John, Mrs. Reed orders her to be locked in the "red room". Jane "resisted all the way," and "like any other rebel slave… felt resolved… to go all lengths" (Bronte, 11). While this is her earliest act of "mutiny" in the book, the most powerful and profound act of resistance and defiance occurs in chapter 4, after Mr. Brocklehurst's visit to Gateshead Hall. This is just after Jane has discovered that she is being sent away to Lowood. She confronts her aunt in a fiery argument, unleashing the feelings of rage that emerges from her assertive personality and powerful ego. "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 any body in the world except John Reed… I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live…and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty"(Bronte, 36) In this passage, Jane breaks free from the bonds that hold her down and repress her, and for the first time the reader realizes Jane's true personality and individuality (Anderson). Following this dramatic scene, there are many situations in which her individualism can again be sensed. During her stay at Lowood Jane is emotionally subdued and her personality is in many ways suppressed. It is not until after Miss Temple, the person that seemed to shine light on the school, leaves that Jane realizes the restrictions that she is under. It is at his point that she has the sudden urge to leave the confinements of the school, seek a job as a governess, and experience the "varied fields of hopes and fears,...
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