Representation of the Other in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

Topics: Jane Eyre, Edward Said, Postcolonialism Pages: 12 (4462 words) Published: September 30, 2010
Representation of the ‘Other’ in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre


This study aims at examining the representation of the’ other’ as portrayed in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (1847). It attempts to inspect how the ‘Other’ is viewed in Nineteenth century England and the cultural ideology behind such specific representation. It poses crucial questions as to why the ‘Other’ is always represented negatively in main-stream western narrative as in the case of Bertha Mason who is portrayed as a madwoman and a voiceless monster that deserves a ten-year- rigorous confinement in the Attic. I will attempt to focus on the cultural and historical context of ‘Jane Eyre’ and its impact on the representation of the’ Other’. I will also draw on Edward Said’s theorization related to race, representation, and resistance in my analysis.

I am going to examine and explore the meaning of representation and its enormous power of construction of social reality especially if it is allied with political and imperial conquests. For that reason, we have to put into our account the historical and theoretical relations between Western economic –political domination and Western intellectual production. A case which I am going to examine thoroughly in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and its tendency of representation of the 'Other' with special reference to Bertha Mason. My objective is to show how the' Other' is represented negatively and how such representation usually involves unequal power relations.

Representation and resistance are very broad arenas within which much of the drama of colonialist relations and post-colonial examination and subversion of those relations has taken place. Helen Tiffin argues that’ in conquest and colonization, texts and textuality played a major part. European texts-anthropologies, histories, fiction, captured the non-European subject within European frameworks which read his or her alterity as terror or lack’. (1995:83). It is important to note that meanings are constructed in and through systems of representation and they are mediated through dominant hegemonic discourses which can reproduce unequal social relations. Representation is a vital part of a process by which meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. It also produces cultural values and constructs identity. According to Hall, Representation is the production of the meaning of the concepts in our minds through language . It is the link between concepts and language which enables us to refer to either the 'real ' world of objects or imaginary world of fictional objects, people and events. The relation between 'things' concepts and signs lies at the heart of the production of meaning in language. The process which links these three elements together is what we call "representation”. (1997:19) .

Hence, representation produces and circulates cultural meanings, values and identities through the use of language. It is important to highlight that meaning is not static but is socially constructed and can change depending on the context in which people of a particular culture construct it .We construct the meaning through the ways in which we represent 'things ' which in turn creates cultural codes , values and identity. Hall argues that’ meanings regulate our conduct...

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