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Explore to what extent Charlotte Bronte's treatment of women in Jane Eyre is in fact a social commentary on life in the 19th century.

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Introduction

Explore to what extent Charlotte Bronte's treatment of women in Jane Eyre is in fact a social commentary on life in the 19th century. Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, was published in London in 1847. Similar to many novels of the time, it highlighted the many social and moral problems of the period. These included topics such as poverty, health, lack of education, treatment of children and, the aspect that is pointed out for the most part in Jane Eyre- the limited role and the attitude towards women. Charlotte Bronte took great risk when she published Jane Eyre. In the period that Bronte lived, women were not expected to work, in fact, there was a strong feeling against women who worked. Writing was also included in this, and many women writers used a male name when they published books merely so that the book would actually sell. When Bronte wrote Jane Eyre however, she used her own name, risking the popularity of the book. The contents of Jane Eyre also put under great risk. As it was a male dominated society at the time, women had no say. They could not stand out against men. In Jane Eyre, men are represented as the bad, Mr. Brocklehurst, for example, treats the girls at Lowood School very badly, and he is a very typical male of the time. ...read more.

Middle

However, marriages of upper class citizens were very rarely for love in that period. Women tried to marry someone of the same or higher social status than themselves, to increase their money and power. For a woman's power was limited to her husbands control, influence, and wealth. When Jane meets Bessie before she goes to Thornfield, Bessie explains that miss Georgina met a young lord who she fell in love with but 'his relations were against his match' This means that he was not of high enough status to marry miss Georgina, and she was disallowed to wed him by Mrs. Reed. Miss Ingram on the other hand, was of perfect social status to marry Mr. Rochester. She was of the same class as him, they were both rich and their families contained much power and wealth. Although Miss Ingram is merely marrying Mr. Rochester for his wealth, not his love, as Adele tells Jane. Higher-class women were usually those that could afford schooling with ease, but were those who did not need it. The women of these classes would be looked after their whole lives. They spend the first part of their lives under the protection of their own family wealth, living off this; they then are married and live off the wealth of their partner. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Hierarchy of servants was very common in large richer houses of the century. The top of the chain would consist of the wife of the house, as, she if she wished, she could take on this responsibility, as it was one of the few that they could. The next would be the head servant (similar to Mrs. Fairfax), she would take instructions from the wife if the wife was not carrying them out herself. Then would be servants that headed a particular area of expertise, Head Cook, Stable master etc. Under them would be the lowest servants, those of the lowest class who were lucky enough to get a place in a house where they may have been able to stay or be paid a fair wage. The lowest class women would have jobs such as washing, changing beds and pillows, dusting etc, under the orders of the head servant. Similar to Grace in Thornfield. The role and position of women has greatly changed since the period that charlotte Bronte lived. Jane Eyre is actually a fiction al autobiography of Charlotte Bronte's life. From being treated badly at school, to being a teacher, Charlotte's life is echoed in the book. Due to women's rights acts and that men saw the unfairness in the way women were treated women now have equal rights in society. Jane Eyre is a very good social commentary of what life was like in the period of which Charlotte lived. Samuel Verlander English Coursework 2003 ...read more.

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