AP English Literature and Composition
April 1, 2013
Jane Eyre: AP Question Essay
“Writers often highlight the values of a culture or a society by using characters who are alienated from that culture or society because of gender, race, or creed. Choose a play or novel in which such a character plays a significant role and show how that character's alienation reveals the surrounding society's assumptions and moral values.”
Women who had no claim to wealth or beauty received the harshest of realities in America’s Victorian era. Author Charlotte Bronte – from America’s Victorian era – examines and follows the life of a girl born into these conditions in her gothic novel Jane Eyre (of which the main character’s name matches the title). Jane Eyre’s lack of wealth and beauty fill her life with hardship from the biased and unrealistic standards of her Victorian society.
Jane’s plain and normal features – of which do her no good to distinguish her from the typical woman – prevent her from receiving fair and equal treatment to women born with blessed genetics. For example, in chapter 3 in which Jane’s cousin John bullies her, and gets her into trouble for defending herself, the house servant Abbot makes a comment to the other servant, noting that “if she were a nice, pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that”, to which the other servant, Bessie, replies with a remark in which she notes that she can easier sympathize with Jane’s cousin Georgiana due to her beauty and grace. Even the older women in this book don’t give Jane the benefit of the doubt because of her appearance. Because Jane does not have any exceptional genetic features, somehow her worth as a person devaluates to a standard in which she cannot even receive sympathy. Furthermore, Jane shows the result of a lifetime of belittlement because of her appearance in chapter 26 when Mr. Rochester – the master of the...