Views, Values and Contexts Essay on "Jane Eyre"

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Jane Eyre is primarily a critique of social elitism. Discuss.

Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane Eyre was produced in the Victorian era, when social elitism was in its prime and there was great segregation between the upper and lower estates. The former was composed of the clergy and nobility and was defined by wealth, privileges and lavish lifestyles. The middle class, conversely, were the most frustrated by the exclusiveness of the upper estate. Possessing skill, intelligence and assertiveness, they believed that rank and power should derive from talent and merit, rather than from noble birth. Through the demonisation and infliction of a tragic downfall upon “Master Reed”, Brontë condemns the life of pleasure and honour, the lifelong inactivity so heavily indulged by those born into the aristocracy. By characterising Mr Brocklehurst as excessively and hypocritically pious, Brontë highlights the upper clergyman’s propensity to masquerade as a great nobleman, rather than to exercise the competence and benevolence integral to his role. Finally, Brontë implements a love of “servitude” and disdain for a “still … doom”, as well as the ambiguous social position of a governess in her protagonist, Jane Eyre, rendering her an agent for the middle class’ philosophy on worthiness of privilege. Ultimately, Brontë’s Jane Eyre calls for the reformation of the Victorian social structure as the extremities involved in social elitism ignore the inherent needs of man.

Jane’s antipathy for the fourteen-year-old John Reed is manifested in her description of his “disgusting and ugly [outer] appearance”, namely his “heavy limbs”, “large extremities”, “thick lineaments” and “dingy[,] … unwholesome skin”. Although this description is an embodiment of Jane’s totally engrossing hatred of “Master Reed”, such physical repugnance foreshadows an inward “ugl[iness]”. This is demonstrated as he reprimands Jane for being “a dependent” and prescribes her “to beg” and “not to live” amongst...
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