Jane Eyre: an unconventional heroine. Explore how the female position is presented

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‘Ms. Eyre is one of those heroines who refuse to blend into the traditional female position of subservience and who stand up for her beliefs’

Explore how the female position is presented.

Jane Eyre was written by Charlotte Bronte and was first published in 1847 in the Victorian era.  During this period, women were expected to remain at home and their time was to be spent taking care of household duties and their children.  Females were regarded as properties rather than as humans: they either belonged to their fathers or their husbands.  As they were believed to be incapable of surviving on their own, they had no independence.  Permission was required for almost everything and they were expected to abide by rules set out by their owners.  Men were considered to be very much superior to women and they were to be treated with respect by the latter, whether they agreed with their views or not.  In general terms, society’s portrayal of a conventional woman was very different to what it is now, so it is not surprising that modern readers may find their attitudes as shocking.

Although Jane Eyre was written during this period, Bronte portrays her character in a very unconventional way, following the trends of the Gothic genre.  The character of Jane is used to mainly challenge the Victorian attitudes towards women, religion and class.  The fact that Bronte chooses a female character to portray her views is surprising to the Victorian reader.  During that period, inequality between the genders prevented the views of females from being expressed, and if expressed, they were not regarded with respect.  Expressing their ideas in any way was extremely unconventional as it would have been shocking for a woman to be passionate.  By using Jane as a device to put forward her views, Bronte challenges the idea that women did not have views worth considering.  Jane is a character who is sure of herself and her behaviour is described as “a picture of passion.”  However, the reader cannot deny she is very intelligent and that she has a very good judgement of character.  Jane’s uniqueness is detectable from the start.  Even as a child, she is different from her cousins at Gateshead.  Instead of taking pleasure in playing, she prefers reading books such as “Goldsmith’s History of Rome” and “Gulliver’s Travels” and forming opinions on the characters involved.  Jane has a strong wish to travel and see the lands that she reads about, showing that “women feel just as men feel.”  Here Bronte uses Jane to present the idea that women are capable of being intelligent; that they can form right judgements and that they have ambitions and dreams, just as men do.

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This idea is reinforced throughout the novel, especially when it comes to religion.  Bronte makes the character of Jane Eyre stand up for her beliefs by challenge the views of men.  She uses this character to challenge different ideas about religion.  Mr Brocklehurst, the headmaster of Lowood Institution (her second home), represents the hypocrisy in the Evangelical Movement and the forceful authority of men.  When referring to his students, he feels the need “not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence,” but to encourage “spiritual edification to the pupils” by making them suffer “temporary privation,” contradicting his own ...

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