The Men of Jane Eyre

In many works, gender relationships play a significant role.  In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the main character has, to state it meekly, an interesting relationship with males.  The novel is considered a bildungsroman.  A bildungsroman is a novel that tells the story of a child’s coming of age, so to speak.  It is the narration of the maturation including all childhood experiences, situations, and the emotions that follow with them.  Knowing this, the audience can ascertain that Charlotte Bronte’s life involved many disheartening situations and relationships with men.  In the novel there is no significant completely positive male characters.  Having viewed some biographies on the author, I fell it is safe to say that this is consistent with Bronte’s real life.  Being a male, I must state that the novel is upsetting in the fact that it appears at first glance to be quite feminist.  However, if that is how her life truly transpired, who am I to judge her novels intention.  A motif is a recurring theme, structure, or literary device used in a given work.  The goal of this essay is to observe the motif of gender relationships in the early part of this novel through the male characters.  I will specifically analyze Jane’s relationships early in the novel with John Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, and  Mr. Rochester.  The aim is to show the male influence to deny Jane’s desire for equity and dignity.  

The first relationship the audience views Jane have with someone from the opposite gender is with her cousin, John Reed.  Jane’s relationship with John can be described in one word: intimidations.  Early in Jane’s life it is evident that she can be intimidated rather easily.  Let she had enough intestinal fortitude to lash out from time to time when she felt the line had been crossed.  For example, on page 22 Jane states, “John had mot much affection for his mother and sisters and an antipathy to me.  He bullied and pushed me; not two or three times in the week, nor once or twice in the day, but continually: every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh on my bones shrank when he came near.”  Here Bronte shows John’s complete and total disrespect for people, specifically women.  His constant hitting and abusive attitude toward Jane brought her to conclude on page 22, “I was bewildered by the terror he inspired.”  Obviously John is not a good soul.  This is even noticeable at an early age.  As we find out later in the novel. According to Mrs. Reed, he does not turn his life for the better.  On page 232 she states, “John gambles dreadfully and always loses – poor boy!  John is sank and degraded, I feel ashamed for him when I see him,” he is even suicidal.  

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The lack of strong positive male influence early in life is blatantly obvious to the reader.  Which is brought Jane to become, as seen on page 23, “habitually obedient to John” as what becomes common with men in general throughout much of the novel.  This, coupled with Mrs. Reed’s negative influence, “investigated some strange expedient to achieve escape from insupportable oppression” (pg 27).  This, the reader goes on the novel as Jane moves on to the next stage in life: The Lowood School.  And with that experience with the Reeds, the audience can observe foreshadowing in her future relationships with ...

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