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"Jane Eyre is a typical novel of its time". Discuss.

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Introduction

"Jane Eyre is a typical novel of its time" Discuss this quotation, paying particular attention to the social, cultural and historical context within which it was published. There are a large number of elements in the novel 'Jane Eyre' that are very typical of the way of life in the mid 19th century, and also of other novels at that time. Through the novel Charlotte Bronte puts across exactly the factors which were characteristic of the late 18th and 19th century: class and status - both of women and of poor people; public health and illnesses at the time; religion, as well as the gothic elements which were particularly common in 18th/19th century books. Outside even of the actual story, we see evidence historically of the status of women during the 18th and 19th century through the fact that because Charlotte Bronte was a woman, to get her novel published - regardless of its quality - she was forced to use a male pseudonym, Currer Bell. This is a classic demonstration of how women at the time were seen as inferior to men and the sexist views that restricted them in the mid 19th century. The second example of typicality in the novel is the "Red Room"; Charlotte Bronte uses the room to incorporate into the novel the gothic elements which were popular culturally at that time. Bronte puts the room across as a gothic, sinister omen through Jane's fear of it and the association she makes with it and her uncle's death. ...read more.

Middle

If Jane marries Mr. Rochester, her life will change dramatically. She would have money for the first time in her life, and she would actually be elevated from educated, lower-middle class to upper class, she will be amongst the likes of Miss Ingram and Mr. Rochester's other friends. This possibility highlights Jane's 'plainness' which had not been shown to trouble Jane previously. Beauty was considered very important by the upper class during the 19th century; when Jane compares herself to the exquisiteness of Blanche Ingram, her jealousy is apparent when she entitles her appearance: "portrait" of a "poor, plain Governess". Miss. Ingram and Mr. Rochester are, socially speaking, considered a perfect match; because Jane is "plain" and lower class than him, their partnership would be frowned upon. Another factor in 'Jane Eyre' which is typical socially of the late 18th to mid 19th century is the ending. Linking also to religion, it was typical in novels of this time, as well as socially and culturally for there to be a punishment if there had been wrong done; particularly for disobeying God's law. This is echoed in 'Jane Eyre' through what happens to Mr. Rochester - he tries to commit bigamy and at the end of the novel is left maimed and blinded after the fire. Religion is therefore another aspect of Jane Eyre which is traditional of the time the book was written. During the 19th century nearly everyone went to church and the Bible was strictly followed by most; religion had a heavy influence on culture and society at the time. ...read more.

Conclusion

The controversial quotation from Jane Eyre, in chapter 12 which basically argues against the entire social acceptance of the mid 19th century was so rare for its time that it is claimed to be the first and original murmurings of radical feminism, and the basis of female discontent in society. Never before had a woman publicly stated "men" and "women" to be equal or questioned her role in life as Jane did. In conclusion, it's clear that the novel 'Jane Eyre' conforms to a number of the social, cultural and historical factors which were typical of the era it was written, and of other novels of its time. Many of the situations Jane finds herself in are undeniably similar to Bronte's experiences which were characteristic of the time she was alive - public health and illness in the 19th century; social incongruence and status; the importance of religion and the position of the poorer class and of women. What, however, is most definitely not typical of the mid 19th century, is the radical feminism which is expressed through 'Jane Eyre'. Jane's belief in herself as an equal individual is arguably the impetus of the questioning of class, status and male superiority that followed the mid 19th century. Subsequent to 'Jane Eyre', the late 19th and 20th century saw the disintegration of social segregation. The absolutely unique themes of the novel, in particular the extreme feminism and strength of a woman's mind confirm that there are aspects of 'Jane Eyre' that are most definitely not typical of the time it was written. Kelly Nash 10P ...read more.

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