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Jane Eyre: a Critical Analysis of Gender Relations in Victorian Literature

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Jane Eyre: a Vital Analysis of Gender Relations in Victorian Literature

Jane Eyre: A Vital Analysis of Gender Relations in Victorian Literature Modern society tends to see the victorian age as one of injustice and restraint, regardless of the social and cultural turmoil of the time. This contradiction refers, in big, to the constraints troubled the female gender. Ladies in Victorian England were viewed as inferior to their male equivalents, and were designated plainly defined roles within society. Their treatment is a subject that is checked out and critiqued throughout the literature of the time, and subsequent analysis by literary analysts.

As Maynard remarks (1984 ); ‘Few observers of the Victorian Scene have failed to mention the unusual degree of sexual restraint imposed upon social life and released literature’. Nevertheless, it remains in the work of the Bronte sis that one witnesses the most detailed, and in some cases stunning account of the social and gender restraints of the time. This paper will concentrate on the novel Jane Eyre, composed by Charlotte Bronte, and published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell.

The adoption of a male pseudonym in itself reflects an underlying social prejudice towards female authors, as laid out by the author; ‘Averse to individual promotion, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell … while we did not like to state ourselves women … we had an unclear impression that authoresses are responsible to be looked on with prejudice’ (Smith, 2000). This rather troubling observation by the author sets the tone of the unique itself, and suggests what it is precisely that set the Bronte sis apart from their contemporaries; their ‘unfeminine’ style of writing.

Jane Eyre is, in impact, a love story, and concentrates on the primary character’s quest to find true love. It can not be classified, nevertheless, as a solely romantic novel as the character’s mission for love includes a battle for equal treatment, social approval, and value. In doing so, she concerns and refuses to conform to a variety of social standards related to the period. Jane’s desire to be loved is evident in the opening stages of the story, in her discussion with Helen Burn’s; ‘if others do not like me I would rather die than live …

I would willingly send to have the bone of my arm broken, or to let a bull toss me, or to guarantee a kicking horse, and let it dash its hoof at my chest’ (Bronte, 1847). This somewhat distressing insight into the young Eyre’s mindset catches her mission for ‘real love’, as opposed to the loveless relationships and marriages connected with the time. This association is experienced by Jane’s ultimate hubby, Mr Rochester, in his first marital relationship;’Bertha Antoinette Mason, she was wanted by my daddy for her fortune. I barely spoke to her before the wedding. I lived with her for 4 years.

Her temper ripened, her vices emerged, violent and unchaste’ (Bronte, 1847). Rochester’s summary of the ‘marital relationship’ is a troubling insight into the arranged, and socially acceptable, marriages of the time. Bronte sets her lead character apart from her peers in her views of love, however even more cements this difference in her ongoing criticism of the mindsets of the Victorian class. This appears in chapter 17 in specific, when she questions her growing sensations for Mr Rochester; ‘You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, even more than to receive the salary he provides you for teaching his protege … o do not make him the things of your fine sensations’. (Bronte, 1847) It ends up being clear, however, that regardless of Jane’s attempts to restrain her feelings, she is combating a losing battle and is ending up being progressively blissful with Mr Rochester, reacting in a heated manner upon invoice of a letter from him; ‘And while she broke the seal and perused the document, I went on taking my coffee … Why my hand shook, and why I involuntarily spilt half the contents of my cup into my dish, I did not choose to think about’ (Bronte, 1847).

Jane’s employment as a governess by Mr Rochester even more complicates her scenario and her increasing love for her employer. Hedgecock summarises the role of the governess in Victorian society (2008 ): ‘in regular Victorian life, the governess is the cultured spinster, self-effacing, having no ambitions outside the house in which she undergoes a life of dependency’. Eyre, however, was not going to comply with ‘regular Victorian life’, nor was she ready to fit the mould of the simple governess.

Eyre’s continuous battle with her sensations for Rochester is affected throughout by the standards of society at the time, and her resilience to them. She hesitates to wed Rochester while Bertha is still in the photo, as it would equate her to a mistress, a position that she entirely disapproves of and one which Rochester wishes her to take: ‘As a family man you will shun me, keep out of my way: recently you have declined to kiss me’. (Bronte, 1847). Regardless of Eyre eventually marrying Rochester, when his partner has actually passed away, she refuses throughout to conform to and abide by the social etiquette of the time.

Just like her developer, she is nearly masculine throughout the novel, hence portrayed through her personal worths and self-control. It can be comprehended that Charlotte Bronte depicted herself through the life of Jane Eyre, and used her imaginary character as one whom modelled and almost simulated Bronte as a person. Eyre possessed the exact same strong drive in seeking equality and independence as a woman. Her rejection in accepting the conformities of the time mirrors Bronte.

Bernstein (1997) sets the scene for those non-familiar with the Victorian age: ‘in the larger cultural context of Victorian England in which females are not accorded by law or by custom-made much opportunity to act on their own behalf’. This supports the intention behind Bronte and her actions. It portrays the gender roles, which strongly influenced individuals’s behaviour and identities. This ‘social guideline’ fuelled ladies’s endurance of the condescending mindsets about a woman’s location, intelligence, and voice. Thus, in turn, Jane became subjected to an uphill struggle to end up being independent and acknowledged for her individual qualities.

Bronte attempts to illustrate how individual virtues are much better signs of character than class. The red-room mentioned in the book is a metaphorical image for Jane’s entrapment in the life she is expected to lead. A life of entrapment from society, restricting her liberty due to her independent streak, race and primary– gender. Eyre’s battles in trying to conquer the injustice are all of a screen through the feminine motion, in which the Bronte sis each played a substantial role in triggering. Eyre shows attributes of masculinity, such of which in Victorian age would just be confined to that of male prominence.

The strong connection made between both author and character is evident to the reader. In conclusion, Jane Eyre catches the struggle and injustice faced by the women of Victorian Britain. Despite the eventual happy-ending to the unique, the lead character is forced to overcome strict social and gender limitations in order to be with her true love. We see throughout the novel, nevertheless, that Eyre is an exceptional character at the time and represents only a small number of ladies who were quietly moving versus society’s expectations of them.

Charlotte, the eldest of the Bronte siblings, got reputably the most crucial acknowledgment with her development, Jane Eyre. In general, the 3 Bronte sis are highly understood in English literature for their historic prominence that made them significant to the era of the Victorians. Their income painted the course in which their work followed and their upbringing greatly influenced their beliefs and outlooks. The 3 sister’s strong and prepared attributes helped them in providing what can be viewed as staples in literature, and for centuries end up being only stronger with development and eminence.

As Winnifrith (1988) mentioned; ‘the Brontes had the nerve to break away from the practically universal belief that sinners merited eternal punishment’. This reflects upon their self-reliance and strength in pursuing their own beliefs and expressing their viewpoints. These viewpoints were of such strong stature, resulting in the power to in script their everlasting effect on the literature of the Victorian period and even on English literature as a whole. Bibliography Bernstein, Susan David. Confessional Subjects: Discoveries of Gender and Power in Victorian Literature & & Culture. USA: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. United Kingdom: Smith, Senior and Co, 1847. Hedgecock, Jennifer. The Femme Fatale in Victorian Literature: The Risk and the Sexual Risk. New York: Cambria Press, 2008. Maynard, John. Charlotte Bronte and Sexuality. Fantastic Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Smith, Margaret. The Letters of Charlotte Bronte: Volume II: 1848-1851, with a selection of letters by family and friends. United Kingdom: Clarendon Press, 2000. Winnifrith, Tom. The Brontes and their Background: Romance and Reality, 2nd Edition. London: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1988.

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