Jane Eyre was a modern woman for her time
Jane Eyre was a modern woman for her time
The novel Jane Eyre introduces a woman with a troubled childhood that could be considered modern because she is described as having the mind and thoughts of a woman from modern times. She performs a series of heroic deeds, which also leads us to consider her a heroine, with a series of leadership skills, and a belief for equality between men and women. This is found appealing by Mr. Rochester, Jane's patron, and later lover.
Firstly, Jane could be considered a heroine, as she performs heroic deeds, saving Mr. Rochester from a fire in that destroys Thornfield Hall. The latter is the most highlighting of her heroic deeds throughout the novel. She can also be seen as a heroine from the feminist point of view because of her resistance to male authority and the independence she gains, as she becomes a strong and well educated individual at a time when women were under the strict authority of men, being considered inferior, and practically only servants to men.
She succeeds as a leader by demonstrating her psychological strength at various times even during her childhood, resisting the oppression of her stepmother, obtaining a victory against her when she threatens her with telling others about the vile punishments she suffered at Gateshead hall. She also is a source of encouragement for other women her age, especially at Lowood, where she leads by resisting the public humiliation inflicted on her by Mr. Brocklehurst.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Moreover, Jane demonstrates her similarities with the modern woman because of her way of thinking. Just like the aforementioned, she does not see herself as any different from men, "but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do" (page 96). This is a clear example of feminism, which also occurs in the modern society, because of the pursue for equality between women and men.
Jane starts to prove this equality as well as her independence from a very early age, when receiving education equal to that of any man at her time. Brontë's protagonist is then made a completely independent woman who does not want to become either Rochester's mistress because she finds bigamy demeaning and doesn't desire to become a nun for the same reason. She believes that marriage has to be based purely on love, which is rarely true in the society of the Victorian age.
Because of this pursuit for true love, she decides to return to Thornfield hall to reunite with the man that she considers her soul mate, Edward Rochester, even though she does not agree with the Victorian custom of marriage arranged by parents. She yet again proves her similarity with the modern woman by taking matters into her own hands, not allowing herself to become the mistress of Mr. Rochester or to marry someone she does not love. This is a consequence of her belief that “marriage without love is sacrilege”(page 354). Also, referring to her true love, she states “No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh”(page 523).
Again relating to the way of living of a modern woman, she searches for true love until she finds it, unfortunately in the already existing couple between Mr. Rochester and his wife, where love is reciprocal. "I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. She found Rochester whom she will love and respect forever, and who will love and respect her until death will separate them, "Edward and I have been married for ten years now and on our sixtieth anniversary we will still dance to all the songs we love" (Bronte 547). She thinks that he prizes her "as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all" (Bronte 356).
Mr. Rochester finds the series of aforementioned features of Jane extremely appealing, especially after the fire, which defaces him and leaves him blind. This very blindness, as with Odin in the Norse legend, gives him more wisdom in trade for his vision, parallel to the legend of Tiresias, which again states that the protagonist gave his vision to gain “inner sight”, greater wisdom. Thus, this loss of Mr. Rochester's vision follows a mythological and literary tradition of exchanging physical for metaphorical sight, although in this specific case, the trade results in more depression than happiness.
This imbuement of wisdom also allows Rochester to see a series of problems that would negatively impact Jane. Specifically, he sees that bigamy is an important issue that prevents a marital relationship from forming between him and Jane, although he does not see it as a negative impact in a moral sense. “I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower – breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. [...] Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. His chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane – only – only of late – I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.” (page 248)
Finally, the return of Mr. Rochester's eyesight also means that whatever wisdom he gained with his blindness, disappears, and he goes back to feeling entitled to pleasure and happiness because of his position within the social classes. It also brings an end to his relationship with Jane.
In conclusion, Jane's leadership, heroism and her similarities with the modern woman appeal very much to Mr. Rochester. This creates the possibility of true love forming between the two protagonists, the increased wisdom gained by Rochester because of blindness also contributing to this cause, which is later lost and culminates in the termination of the relationship.