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How does Bronte explore the position of women in Victorian society in the novel Jane Eyre and how does she challenge it?

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Introduction

How does Bronte explore the position of women in Victorian society in the novel ?Jane Eyre? and how does she challenge it? The Victorian era was a tough period for women, and Charlotte Bronte, a woman herself growing up in the Victorian times, reflects this in 'Jane Eyre', and also shows the way Jane challenges the classical stereotypes of a woman in this period in a variety of ways. Thinking of a woman in Victorian society, one may think of a woman as submissive, passive, less-educated, emotional, and obliged to serve their male spouses- somebody who should ?learn their place? and slot into it. We however do not see characterises as strong as these with Jane. To call Jane a ?feminist? may appear a little too extreme, however it would be fair to say that she would best fit in a society where men and women were treated as equals, living with the same lifestyle. R.B Martin however explains, that when Jane says her ?Do you think I am poor, obscure, etc..? 'speech', she is not acting as a feminist, it is purely said due to emotion, and the fact that Jane never questions her limited career opportunities or her submissive-like role, shows that she is not quite the 'complete' feminist. Throughout the novel, it is clear that Jane ?struggles? to fit into the established social gender classes of the Victorian era ,and that she is not willing to give up her values and beliefs in order to adjust to the traditional role of a Victorian woman. ...read more.

Middle

She is unlike Fanny Price- who suffers emotional mistreatment with no complaint and who is seldom assertive, though it is also apparent that her character does not reflect that of the rather wild Bertha, or Lucy Westenra in ?the heroine of Bram Stocker's Dracula?. We see Jane detach herself from the classic Victorian woman in her reactions to being given jewels by Rochester. She states that "the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation". This directly compares to Blanche Ingram, a character self-absorbed in her own image, appearing shallow and lacking any real substance. In Victorian times, beauty and purity were a vital part of getting a wealthy, respected and honourable husband. Victorian women were not meant to have opinions regarding political issues and were only to talk to about materialistic things such as; clothes, jewellery and other accessories. Blanche Ingram, unlike Jane, possessed all of these qualities and therefore ?Most gentlemen would admire her.? This stands in sharp contrast to Jane, who prides herself on being fully independent from a man and not defining herself by the wealth and luxury Mr. Rochester offers her. One of the most shocking parts of the novel at the time was Jane's rejection of men. The rejection of marriage makes Jane transcend into the idea of her being the ?New Woman?, an idea created and one that evolved greatly by the end of the 19th Century, one that was strongly opposed at the time by Mrs. ...read more.

Conclusion

She goes on to marry somebody of her own social class, but due to her lack of independence, she does not move 'up' the class system, unlike Jane who progresses from a teacher to governess to headmistress to eventually marrying somebody who, by the end of the novel, is seen as very much the same social class as Jane is. To conclude, throughout the novel Jane shows a clear defiance of authority, a longing for independence and a rejection of the 'norm'. She formulates her own views about religion through the different people she meets (Helen, Brocklehurst and St.John) and also forms her own opinion about social class, as seen when she asks of Rochester to look beyond her social standing- ?I have as much soul as you- and full as much heart?.The fact that Jane refuses to marry St.John, and at one point Rochester, shows that although she does not consider herself below them, she wishes to remain independent and dignified, free from their demands and desires. Regarded by many as a prime example of the ?New Woman?, who goes against the Victorian stereotype of Jane Austen's Fanny Price, Jane maintains her strong sense of morality, and prioritises love and her own happiness over suiting the needs of somebody else, and her views on equality, her desire for freedom, and her unwillingness to sacrifice her beliefs and values to fit the social norm set her apart from the traditional model of a Victorian woman- ?I would always rather be happy than dignified?. Thomas Smith ...read more.

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