21 October 2014
In the mid-nineteenth century, a woman would have carried the burden of "staying in her place." In other words, she was subject to the generally accepted standards and roles that society had placed upon her, which did not necessarily provide her with liberty, dignity or independence. Yet if Charlotte Bronte's character Jane Eyre had truly existed in that time period, she would have defied most of these cultural standards and proved herself a paradigm for aspiring feminists of her day. Jane's commitment to dignity, independence, freedom of choice, unwillingness to submit to a man's emotional power and willingness to speak her mind were fostered by some female characters in the novel. Yet these traits also contrast sharply with some of Bronte's other female characters Jane Eyre can be labeled as a feminist role model due to her relationships with men that defied the generally accepted roles of the nineteenth-century woman. This title is especially fitting when her life is compared and contrasted to other female characters in the novel. In order to understand Jane's role as a feminist, a definition of this term must be established. The word "feminist" is defined as "one who advocates equal rights for women" ("Feminist" 1). Yet a "feminist" does not necessarily protest in the streets; any woman who wishes to be equal with men and expresses this viewpoint in word and action can be considered to possess ideals on which the feminist movement is based. Though women had been writing feminist texts since the late 18th century, an actual feminist movement did not form in Britain until the late 19th century under leaders such as Emily Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett ("Feminist" 1). Charlotte Bronte was publishing Jane Eyre just as First Wave Feminism was beginning to develop, with writers such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson and Emily Bronte proving their worth as writers and incorporating...
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