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Jane Eyre - Was she a woman of her times?

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Introduction

Dinah Youziel English Coursework Jane Eyre Was she a woman of her times? Jane Eyre is a pre-twentieth century novel set in rural England. The novel written by Charlotte Bronte chronicles the progression of a 19th century child to adulthood. The story is placed in a time when women - particularly in northern England - were seen as second-class citizens, inferior to men, and required to be obedient to them. To be a lady wasn't defined through one's character or actions, but by social breeding, physical beauty and musical accomplishment. In most cases these character traits were to assure a woman (in most cases) a wealthy, but loveless arranged marriage. Girls that were orphaned, due to their parents dying from one of various diseases prominent at the time, were often resented if taken in by wealthy relatives. Alternatively they were simply cast away, in institutions that would neglect and abuse them. Yet they were obliged to accept, and silently endure this treatment, as a benefit to them and their ostensibly wicked, indulgent lives. Bronte transcribes much of her own life and experiences in to the character of Jane Eyre, just as Bronte quite clearly through her writing is an independent and passionate woman, so is Jane Eyre. Jane consciously and proudly contradicts all that is expected of her 19th century lifestyle, adamantly refusing to submit to the characteristics others try to impose on her. Instead, throughout the novel she seeks to fulfil her own expectations and desires, such as independence, knowledge, and most importantly the need to love and be loved and to be loved in return. Jane's life consists of five significant episodes, being Gateshead, Lowood School, Thornfield Hall, Morton, and subsequently her marriage to Rochester. Bronte cleverly gives us warning as to how Jane's life will develop, through the name given to each chapter. Even though she is already ten years old, Jane's time at Gateshead metaphorically opens the 'gate' to her life. ...read more.

Middle

Whilst Jane still craves affection and love, she has grown in character with her experiences of life making her wary of forming strong relationships with people. "The promise of a smooth career Thornfield Hall seemed to pledge was not belied on an acquaintance with the place and its inmates." Jane wants to find her own happiness in life, without it being reliant on the presence of others, as it previously was with Helen Burns. With adulthood bearing on her Jane wants to gain everything in life independently, and not from what others give her. A completely different approach to how the likes of Georgiana Reed was prepared to live; taking what others gave her because of her looks. Yet Jane is still not fulfilled in her life, she feels that she was obliged to become a governess, since it was the only independent route open to her. She is very aware of her lack of opportunities, and believes that women have more to offer than paid companionship - which was only a choice for 'beautiful ladies.' "It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied tranquillity; they must have action ...millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine...women are supposed to be calm generally; but women feel just as men feel...they suffer from too rigid a constraint and it is narrow-mindedness in their more privileged fellow creatures to say they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting socks, to play on the piano and embroider bags." In this one passage, Jane clearly sets herself apart from women of her time. She speaks of something that most women wouldn't dare, or just didn't care about - equality between men and women. Jane speaks about it so fervently, and with conviction in an attempt to prove her worth is that of any a man's. In the 19th century women were thought of as the inferior sex, whose minds weren't equal to that of a man's, but here Jane challenges that notion. ...read more.

Conclusion

It also shows how much Jane has grown, because she is able to put a present perspective on the actions that she has taken. Many other characters, besides Georgiana Reed are used to contrast the temperament that Jane has chosen to uphold; Helen Burns is quite an important example of this. At the age of ten years old, Jane is the complete opposite to Helen, but their friendship prepared Jane for later live. Even though she is the same passionate person, under Helen's nurturing Jane learns to control herself. This prepares her for being compared to the personality of Edward Rochester. In terms of personality, Jane has found an equal in Rochester and he allows her to be, which is why she is able to find such passion with him. At the same time, Jane has grown to value her morals; she wants to do what is right, and so in her most courageous in the book gives up Rochester for her integrity. Then at Morton Jane also comes to the realisation that she cannot live without passion. For Jane being able to achieve these things in the 19th century once again depicts her as strong. It also signals the completion in Jane's life, something that many women of her where oblivious to, or were content to supplement any such desires with wealth. 19th century society was structured by wealth and social status, the novel Jane Eyre, and thus the narrator aim to break down those barriers. This is gradually displayed in the book, through Jane's development, for example when Jane, a rich woman, chooses to marry a cripple following in the footsteps of her disowned mother. Unlike any women of her time, Jane Eyre truly is one of the greatest heroines of world literature. The capacity of her mind, and the intellect it possessed by many decades surpassed the women of the 19th century. ...read more.

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