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Is the character of Jane Eyre 'the personification of an unregenerate and undisciplined spirit 'or is this portrayal of an early nineteenth century the 'earliest major feminist novel?'

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Introduction

Kate Fitzturner Is the character of Jane Eyre 'the personification of an unregenerate and undisciplined spirit 'or is this portrayal of an early nineteenth century the 'earliest major feminist novel?' Jane Eyre is often regarded as a modern day fairy tale when viewed superficially . However, the complexity of the story lines and characters represented a phenomenal breakthrough in story writing techniques during the Victorian period. Brontes creation of a new and powerful woman created a stirr amoungst Victorian Critics. Raised in this repressive male-dominated society, some critics like Elizabeth Rigby,suggested that Charlotte Bronte's characterisation of Jane Eyre demonstrated her rebellion against male repression . Elizabeth Rigby was very critical of the woman portrayed by Bronte describin Jane as an 'unregenerate and undisciplined spirit', reflecting a typical critical Victorian response to Jane's assertive and independent nature. To interpret this as a feminst critique reflects a more positive response to Jane's independence. R.B Martin, a modern critic of the 1970's, suggests that the most dominant theme in the novel Jane Eyre, is the fight for equality and that Jane's character illustrates the emergence of feminism during the Victorian Period. It has been argued that Jane Eyre is a wild and 'undisciplined' spirit. ...read more.

Middle

In this, he suggested that the depiction of Jane and Rochester's relationship would cause young women of the time to emulate Jane's "romantic wickedness. this romanitic wickendness is proposed within the book 'flatland',in which Edwn Abbot depicts Victoirian society in a satric way. abbot states that ' queen Victoria during this era had set the supressive impression that all women should basically reproduce like her, take care of domestic buisnesses like her and marry a man of similar socil standing to yourself." both Jaenes relationship with Rochester and later with St John, suggests that she will not conform to this custom. Jane's relationship with Rochester perhaps represents a fairly typical Victorian literary romance. A wealthy, "Byronic" hero, portrayed by Rochester, falls in love with his governess. When the relationship is examined in more depth, it is possible to see why it caused a great stir amongst late nineteenth century critics. Jane's absolute refusal to be subordinate to Rochester along with her disregard for his love and shows of material affection, disgusted many readers and critics who stated that Jane was 'ungrateful' and that she, as a young orphan without a respectable parentage, should count herself extremely lucky to have a wealthy lord in love with her. ...read more.

Conclusion

In 1966, R.B. Martin stated that Jane Eyre was the 'first major feminist tract'. Martin suggested that there was "not a hint of any desire for political, legal or educational equality" between the sexes, but that Jane Eyre merely wanted recognition that both sexes are similar and equal in 'heart and soul'. However, Jane's thoughts and views on the value of women gave way to many campaigns fighting for political, legal and educational equality strengthening the argument that Jane Eyre was a feminist novel. When Jane Eyre was published in 1848, critics had a field day. Bronte's creation of Jane Eyre challenged every boundary set for women in Victorian society. Jane's failure to be subordinate in a patriarchal dominated society, wild passionate nature and belief the female status is at the very least equal to that of men, all created a totally new model for women in the late nineteenth century. In spite of efforts to repress this new model woman, once the candle is lit, the flame is never extinguished. She portrayed a new type of female challenging traditional stereotypes in the latter part of the nineteenth century. This 'new woman' developed by Bronte helped contribute to the rise of feminist ideology making it fair to judge that Jane Eyre was the 'first major feminist novel. ...read more.

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