Jane Eyre, its film and sequels whatever their differences- always return to the eternal struggle between male dominance and female victimhood

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200703824        First Year        Landmark Texts: Matt Mitton

“Jane Eyre, its film and sequels – whatever their differences- always return to the eternal struggle between male dominance and female victimhood”

The novel Jane Eyre subverts the patriarchal society. Jane Eyre was wrote in a time when married women had no existence in the law and, and “female emancipation conjured spectres of sexual permissiveness and the masculinisation of women, threatened the patriarchal family and state” (xv).  

Right from the very start Jane continuously goes against the customs of how females should act, not only to the opposite sex but overall. Jane flies at “Master John” when he strikes her and even the women saw this as “shocking conduct”, and perceived her as a “mad cat” to strike her “young master”.  Jane then replies that he is not her master and she is not a servant, to then hear that she is “less than a servant” (15).  This is the first time we see Jane go against male dominance and this outburst ends in her been imprisoned because of her acts.  Thus proving that male dominance is acceptable but a female has to take it dutifully to resist further punishment.

The battle of dominancy continues at Lowood. This section not only shows a clash of dominance but it shows also what “class” you are, really has a difference on how a female body should be presented. We see throughout this section, Jane, Helen, and Miss Temple all fight against patriarchal authority. It is Miss Temple who we see first fight for dominance by telling Brocklehurst that it was she who gave the orders for the children to have “two clean tuckers in a week”, and to have a lunch of “bread and cheese”. When he asks “who introduced this innovation? And by what authority?” Miss Temple simply replies “I must be responsible for the circumstance”. Here she is clearly trying to gain authority, but Brocklehurst throughout the rest of chapter 7 shows Miss Temple who is boss by appropriating “Christian spirituality to justify the physical starvation and regulation of the female body. To serve "a Master" "whose kingdom is not of this world" (96), Brocklehurst proclaims, "my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh" (97). The discipline is imposed on behaviours as well as activities” (Chih-Ping Chen 2002)

This is where we see how “Brocklehurst’s position expressed a middle class interest in preserving the economic status quo, and that division required cleared division between the classes themselves” (Godfrey 2005). As he tells Miss Temple to cut the girls hair and how they should not spend so much time on themselves yet his wife and children walk into the room dressed in luxury clothing clearly showing that they are “ladies” proving he does not have a problem with all women dressing as they wish, just the orphans.

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Brocklehurst then goes on to belittle Jane in front of the Brocklehurst’s, teachers and children; Branding Jane an “Evil one”, “interloper” and an “alien” and warning the teachers of her behaviour and instructing the children not to talk to her as he does not want her to “contaminate” their “purity”. (78-79).

But Brocklehurst does not realise by placing Jane on top a stool he is symbolically giving her power. A compassionate observer of Jane’s public humiliation, Miss Temple persuades Jane to redeem herself and to challenge the Reverend’s allegation about her “You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself ...

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