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Jane Eyre: Feminism

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Feminism: Jane Eyre Unveiled

Brittney Christensen

English 153
Shona Harrison
November 15th, 2012

“Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men, statuses and classes.” The novel Jane Eyre greatly depicts many forms of feminism throughout, and is an eye opener as to how much time have changed and in a sense stayed the same since the Victorian Era. The thought of being exposed to such standards and conditions at such a young age onward outlines the realest forms of commitment to independence and dignity. Jane is a victim of feminism in the instance that she is subjected to the power of men and also plays the role of a feminist role model shown by multiple examples throughout the novel, whether referring to relationships or to personal attributes. The comparing and contrasting between the other characters and characteristics of the novel also unveil forms of feminism and feministic senses.

The word “feminist” or “feminism” is a very obscured word, with many different points of views considering their meanings. In the terms of feminist, “a doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” And reference to Jane Eyre, Jane only hopes for equality between men and women, herself in particular, obviously due to the specific situations and circumstances she is exposed to. Jane proposed her acts upon facing women’s rights and equality by enforcing her words and good deeds, proving her lack of ignorance and retaliation. Jane represents a feminist in the Victorian Era, and mainly targeted at younger readers, preferably female considering the context, with the purpose to help the young females learn about maturity, growing up in the world, and the possible variety of obstacles that they may be faced with. With that said, Jane’s actions and words throughout the novel decipher her life and her experiences are what built her courage and strength as a woman.

Jane Eyre is proof that love and affection are two things that cannot be bought and that that her courageousness will not be underestimated. Rochester tries to persuade Jane into falling for him by offering her luxurious stones and lavish pieces of clothing. “Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a jeweler’s shop: the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation.” (Bronte, Page 229). Jane is getting the feeling of aggravation towards Rochester’s offerings in a sense that she does not need nor want such things and refuses to become exposed to the world of the materialistic lifestyle. Her hesitation towards marriage is also expressed in her statement, providing evidence that she does not feel the need to go to these extremes and expenses when it comes to marriage. “Marriage: the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” Nowhere does it state that the experience as a whole has to be lavish, proving Jane’s point of view. Jane, as a feminist believes that everything and everyone can be beautiful without the extent of needing a man and the accommodations and luxuries one has to offer.

Jane, being exposed to independence at such a young age gave her the leverage and confidence she needed to stand up for herself and express her view of women’s equality through her eyes. She comes to the consensus about her values and duties of herself as an individual when states, “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now.” (Bronte, page 270). This quotation depicts and unveils Jane’s powerful feelings towards how she sees herself and what her morals are versus what they should be. Jane believes to be “mad”, which refers to the fact that it is somewhat insane that she can love Rochester when he is married to Bertha Mason, someone completely opposite to Jane. Because of Rochester’s argument for her to be with him, Jane’s statement also shows that her realization that Rochester has strong feelings towards her regardless of his current relationship status with Bertha Mason. Jane fears that if she is to lose anything important in her life then that will result in losing Rochester, despite the aspect of negotiating her own feelings. Jane refrains from going with Rochester after this confrontation… “’You will not come? – You will not be my comforter, my rescuer? – My deep love, my wild woe, my frantic prayer, are all nothing to you?’ What unutterable pathos was in his voice! How hard it was to reiterate firmly, ‘I am going.’” Jane realizes Rochester’s true love for her, but also realizes that they are not meant to be, or so she thinks. In this instance, Jane is letting feelings between herself and another man jeopardize her life, which goes against her beliefs as well as a woman, although her rejection provides proof that she loves herself more, therefore showing her independence and pride in being a female. “ I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.” (Bronte, Page 216).

Jane represents many things throughout the novel, mainly her strong feminist side is most relevant until closer to the end part of the novel, where she seems to let “love” get the best of her. Jane has found herself to fall deeply for Rochester despite her beliefs, she has resisted and now sees him for his true self, money aside. With that said, Jane herself, had not a clue that she would soon be facing some inheritance, “My uncle I had heard was dead – my only relative; ever since being made aware of his existence I had cherished the hope of one day seeing him: now, I never should. And then this money came only to me: not to a rejoicing family, and me but to my isolated self. It was a grand boon doubtless; and independence would be glorious – yes, I felt that – that thought swelled my heart.” Jane inherited twenty thousand pounds and now felt as though her and Rochester were socially and economically equal, putting her at ease in a sense referring to her standards. Although Jane’s decision may come across somewhat hypocritical, she still stays true to herself and her feminist ways when she stands up to St. John, the clergyman that provides Jane with a place to stay. St. John is also in love with Jane and wants to be with her, but she does not feel the same way, “You have hitherto been my adopted brother: I, your adopted sister; let us continue as such: you and I had better not marry.” (Bronte 345) Jane is trying to be nice about breaking the news to St. John to show her caring side as a woman, but St. John did not agree with this confrontation, “I must seek another interest in life to replace the one lost: is not the occupation he now offers me truly the most glorious man can adopt or God assign? It is not, by its noble cares and sublime results, the one best calculated to fill the void left by uptorn affections and demolished hopes?” (Bronte 344) This is one of St. John’s methods as to keeping Jane in his life, by bringing god into the equation, by insinuating that God does not agree with her and that St. John should have her for himself, which Jane really does not agree with, being as she believes in religion separately aside from her feminism beliefs. In a sense St. John’s statement about God made Jane think about how married life actually will be and the possibility of her lack of enjoyment due to the fact that a label may disrupt the actual love. Despite St. John’s feelings, Jane knows where he heart is and stays true to her own feelings, showing her independence as a female.

In terms of women’s and men’s rights, views on the issue can arise in a variety of opinions due to the difference in peoples views. The two main men characters in the novel, Rochester and St. John really enhanced Jane’s inner feminist by each pulling out specific traits in her that portrayed what she really believed in and what it takes to alter them; traits such as independence and personal strength as a woman, providing a learning experience from experiences. Jane grows to be able to form her own opinions and stand up for what is right in her eyes while still staying true to her beliefs as a feminist. Jane Eyre not only sets goals for herself, but also for other females, being such a great role model proven through her life choices and acts of strength. “If I told anything, my tale would be such as must necessarily make a profound impression on the mind of my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings too prone to gloom, needed not to deeper shade of the supernatural. I kept these things, then, and pondered them in my heart.” (Bronte 381) This really summarizes Jane’s journey from a girl to a woman, and is an inspiring and knowledgeable story.

Work Cited

Bronte, Charlotee. Jane Eyre. New York: W.W . Norton & Company, Inc. 2001.
Eagleton, Terry. “Jane Eyre’s Power Struggles.” Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of Bronte. Totawa, NJ: Barnes and Noble Bookes, 1975. Rpt. In Bronte 491-496. Web. 14 Nov. 2012.
“Feminism.” Collins English Dictionary. 2009. William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986. Web. 14 Nov 2012. Roberts, M.J.D. “Feminism and the State in Later Victorian England.” The Historical Journal, Cambridge University Press. MLA Online Book. Vol. 28, No 1. pp. 85-110. Mar. 1995. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.
Garton, Stephen. “The Scales of Suffering: Love, Death and Victorian Masculinity.”, Taylor & Francis Ltd. MLA Online Article. Vol. 27, No. 1. (Jan. 2002), pp. 40-58. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.

Cited: Bronte, Charlotee. Jane Eyre. New York: W.W . Norton & Company, Inc. 2001. Eagleton, Terry. “Jane Eyre’s Power Struggles.” Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of Bronte. Totawa, NJ: Barnes and Noble Bookes, 1975. Rpt. In Bronte 491-496. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. “Feminism.” Collins English Dictionary. 2009. William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986. Web. 14 Nov 2012. Roberts, M.J.D. “Feminism and the State in Later Victorian England.” The Historical Journal, Cambridge University Press. MLA Online Book. Vol. 28, No 1. pp. 85-110. Mar. 1995. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. Garton, Stephen. “The Scales of Suffering: Love, Death and Victorian Masculinity.”, Taylor & Francis Ltd. MLA Online Article. Vol. 27, No. 1. (Jan. 2002), pp. 40-58. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.

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