Jane Eyre Gender Roles
The Victorian Era was a period of time where both women and men were treated differently based on their sexuality. Men were recognized as the superior ones in a household and the ones who did all the heavy labor. Women, on the other hand, were usually housewives that were constantly told what to do. Women never really had much of an opinion towards anything that went on in their lives, everyone pretty much expected them to listen to what they were told to do. Even though several people accepted that things were reckoned to be that way, there were also many that understood that there happened to be more to everyone’s life than a crowd of people judging one another, specifically judging women. Writers, such as Charlotte Bronte were really big on women’s rights. Bronte was born on April 21, 1816, in Thorton, England (Poetry Foundation). Bronte at a very early age had to learn how to be independent and strong. After the death of her mother, Maria Branwell, Bronte, and her four sisters were sent away to the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge, Lancashire.
While attending school there, her two oldest sisters, Elizabeth and Maria, died from tuberculosis, resulting in Bronte and her surviving sisters to move on with their lives and accomplish many things. In 1847, Bronte made her first-ever publication Jane Eyre that marked her career as a novelist. The novel, Jane Eyre, fairly remains high on the list of the most successful English novels and brought significant credit to Charlotte Bronte. Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, includes meaningful reflections of the author’s own life story which brings attention to readers. The novel is about an orphan girl named Jane whose determination and good character helps her through a series of personal problems at a very early age. Growing up, she encounters herself with many difficult situations as a woman but in the end, gets the happiness and success she deserved her whole life. In the book Jane Eyre, the author Charlotte Bronte shows the issue of sexuality and how it influences the creation of power and oppression, specifically through the use of perspective and symbolism.
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Charlotte Bronte uses perspective to illustrate the creation of power and oppression in Jane Eyre. In the novel, Bronte gives readers an insight into Jane’s opinions and beliefs as a woman and helps readers emerge a connection with Jane and her journey through the use of perspective. During the Victorian era, sexuality heavily impacted people’s behaviors and women had very powerful ideas on a woman’s position in their society. In the book, Jane has an uphill battle to become independent and acknowledged for her achievements. According to the character Jane, “Women are supposed to be very calm generally: 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; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings” (Bronte 112). In the novel, Bronte uses Jane’s point of view to reveal to us how Jane feels about sexuality and gender roles. Jane believes that women have just as many advantages as any man does and women should not be obligated to do something they do not want to do.
During their period of time men were very close-minded and only accepted that women were deemed to dedicate themselves to their household but Bronte uses Jane’s viewpoint to acknowledge that things should not always be the way they are set to be. In the book, Jane challenges many men such as Rochester and St John who do not respect women as their equals and attempt to control or subdue women. During an encounter with Rochester, Jane and him have a discussion on having the right to be masterful with women like her since he is older and has dealt with many challenging situations because he is a man. In response back to him Jane states “I don’t think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience” (Bronte 136). Women during this era had no way of defending themselves especially against men of the higher class, they were pretty much told what to do and had no choice but to do it. Bronte, on the other hand, had other ideas, she believed women had the right to use their voice to say when necessary. This was the case with the character Jane, Bronte used Janes point of view to speak up on how she felt she was being treated. Jane tells Rochester that just because he has the attributes to speak to her in a certain way that it does not mean he has the right to command her just because she is a woman.
Charlotte Bronte also uses symbolism to illustrate the creation of power and oppression in Jane Eyre. Bronte uses various things to symbolize sexuality and gender roles in the book. One of the most prominent pieces she uses in the novel is marriage. Bronte uses marriage to characterize the struggle for supremacy between the two sexes. During the Victorian era, in a marriage, the husband always had authority over the wife. With that being said, women were always deemed to answer them and do whatever they were being told to do. In the book, Jane Eyre, the character Jane has a lot of controversies on how women should be in general. Bertha Mason, a character in the novel, is a definite symbol of how women can be repressed and controlled. In the book, Jane is about to marry Rochester when a young man comes in and tells everyone that Rochester has a wife. Rochester confesses he does and he states her name as Bertha Mason and how she is locked away because she had gone mad. The character Jane described her as, “What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it groveled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face” (Bronte 290).
Bronte made the character Bertha a symbolic representation of the “ambushed” Victorian wife, who is required to never leave or work outside the house and becomes very hysteric as she finds no way out for her frustration and fear. Within the novel, Bertha’s madness serves as a sign to Jane of what marrying a man like Rochester could bring into her life. The character Jane also states, “What crime was this, that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner? What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman’s face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon…” (Bronte 209). Women during the Victorian era were trapped in their marriages because they were never allowed to do what they wanted just like the character Bertha. The author, Bronte made the character of Jane as someone who strives for equality in relationships and someone who wants to be recognized. With this being said, Jane fends off marriage proposals that will crush who she is and her personality. Marrying Rochester would do that to her life just the way he did to Bertha.
In the end, the author Charlotte Bronte could agree that sexuality should not determine what you are allowed to do. The Victorian era was a difficult time period for women, this was a time concerning power and oppression. It was an era where women would finally stand up for themselves and let others know that they had a voice and that they should be able to do what they want. In the novel, Jane Eyre, the author Charlotte Bronte debates how the issue of sexuality influences the creation of power and oppression, specifically through the use of perspective and symbolism. Improvements were made and difficulties happened too but it never stopped women and many others to fight for what was right.