The classic novel Jane Eyre is a story by the British novelist and poet Charlotte Bronte. The story revolves around Jane Eyre, who becomes an orphan at a very young age. Like most orphans in the 19th century, Jane's life is that of hardship. She lives with her aunt who mistreats her after her uncle died and ends up sending her to an orphanage, the orphanage turns out to be a bittersweet experience for Jane as it makes her be a teacher and places her on the path to meet Mr Rochester, who is the master of Thornfield Hall. Jane meets Mr Rochester while teaching his daughter and ends up falling in love with him. The story happily concludes with Jane becoming Mr Rochester's wife.
The novel Jane Eyre was written during the reign of Queen Victoria, known as the Victorian era. During this time, many artistic styles and literature schools flourished (Inge 14). Moreover, social, political and religious movements thrived. Material prosperity grew, extensive imperial expansion took place, and significant political reforms were carried out. However, this was also a period associated with prudishness and repression.
Bronte's novel catches the ambiguities of the period. Here is Jane at Lowood, reflecting on her position in the world. As we see, her vision is social, expansive, imperial and urban:
I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen: that I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach. (111)
However, the novel also deals with hardship, emotional and physical abuse, typical of the period and intrinsically linked to gender issues. As Inge mentions, "Jane Eyre is the reality of women's oppression and identity that is a reality of many Victorian women's lives." (15). Similarly, the period also saw a rising interest in women's employment, education, and rights. It is an essential background in Bronte's novel. In this essay, I argue that the conflicts central to the Victorian period are also fundamental to the narrative conflicts in Jane Eyre. Further, I claim that Jane's relation to dispute is itself important and that it is played out in three central themes in the novel: conflicts between wide outlooks and the domestic sphere, conflicts in gender inequality that relates to social class and disputes related to love.
The flow of my essay is divided into two chapters. The first deals with the Victorian period, looking particularly at its divided society as this was both a time of advancement and growth and a time of poverty and repression. The chapter also includes a section on previous research. The second chapter is an analysis of the novel that falls into three parts. The first part deals with three major themes of conflict, and these are the following: the conflict between wide outlooks and domesticity; the second is about conflicts in gender inequality related to social class, and the third is about Jane and love conflicts.
Thus, this essay demonstrates that Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre can be claimed as a story that shows how Jane's relation to conflict changes when she opens her heart to the world, whose norms she was not entitled. Moreover, I would argue that Charlotte Bronte's novel focuses heavily on the societal criticism related to criticism of gender roles. Thus, the narrative critically analyses Victorian norms in various social settings.
My main aim of this research is thus to determine conflicts central to the Victorian period and Jane Eyre's response to conflicts through themes. In this research paper, I will also demonstrate how the novel resonates with the Marxist theory of feminism, which condemns the capitalist concept of private ownership of properties, which disadvantages womenChapter
1-Background in the Victorian Period
1.1 A time of advancement and growth: Opportunities for Women
The novel Jane Eyre is recognized as essential in presenting a female's perspective in Victorian society. The Victorian period saw socio-economic, political and religious progress and allowed some social spheres to flourish, such as the growing middle-classes and the new wealth of industrialists. On the other hand, members of the lower classes had very different experiences and outcomes. My examination of the novel stresses this polarized state of British society. Further, the protagonist Jane Eyre is presented as a character shaped by both ends of the polarized society and for this reason, endures both internal as well as external conflict.Many of the sources highlight how the Industrial Revolution was a significant element, given that it enabled immense economic growth in the country. The new wealth created during the period is highlighted to be a primary contributor to the emerging social divisions that took place, creating a three-tier system, with the aristocrats and the monarchs at the top, followed by the middle class and finally, the working class at the bottom. Esther Godfrey in her article Jane Eyre, from governess to girl bride (2005) discusses how an occupational shift took place, in which agrarian occupations such as farming were replaced with factory jobs (Dentith and Simon 130). She significantly highlights that contrary to popular view, gender disparities in the working class became largely diminished, given that both men and women worked in factories. For the working classes, this led to a weakening of women's homemaker role. Hence, gender disparities have made the women struggle to attain love, esteem, independence and equality. For instance, Jane has been fighting for justice in marriage and the economy where her passion cannot be manipulated with property or power and status but relies on steadfast and loyalty. Another example, Jane realizes herself through struggling to attain true love, which she understood as a divine, pure, which cannot be measured by property or power and status. Having lived as a miserable, hopeless and helpless child, she expected to enjoy true love. For example, Jane created a friendship with John and her sister during her teaching a situation which reflected her determination and struggles for pursuit love. Besides, Jane fears humiliation in marriage and realizes when she offers a heart to John, she may not enjoy the love as expected in the family because she emphasizes that true love is based on mutual understanding, respect and equality.
Therefore, Feminists believe that injustice is a threat and begin forming women movement to fights for equal rights in education and political aspects. For instance, the female gender was not recognized in academia as many suffered economically, education, sociology and psychiatry. Jane Eyre was struggling for the pursuit of independence and equality. For example, she was living with her uncle well before his death, where Aunt Reed started neglecting and abusing her. Jane was treated like a maid and viewed as an inferior creature until feminists stood out and began criticizing discrimination, thus building the self-esteem through showing rebellion to John and Mrs Reed. Therefore, One can see women's newly gained economic independence as a mark that the period was progressive for this group because Jane reflects women who are struggling with oppression, or discrimination in education, businesses or politics and the efforts employed to fight gender equality.
1.2 A time of poverty and repression: Class Stratification and Lower-Class Oppression
However, aside from the polarization identified in the above sections, we should take further note of some adverse aspects related to the Victorian Era. Godfrey points out that wealth and economic gains were critical factors in the period. Therefore, the key drawbacks associated with the period include the social divisions brought about by class and economic stratification. Victorian society was characterized by a strong and highly inaccessible upper class (Aristocrats and Monarchs), the Middle Class, and finally the lower working classes. As Godfrey highlights, lower class workers laboured under strenuous and terrible conditions for menial pay as (854). Also, lower class members were also constantly reminded of their place in society, in numerous social contexts and aspects. For instance, clothing was a key distinguisher of class, as working-class taters and rugs were contrasted with the elegant fashion of the period. Notably, the novel Jane Eyre also to a high degree of portrays fashion about class.
The benefits and drawbacks associated with the Victorian age that are discussed above can be identified in the novel Jane Eyre. For instance, human oppression is mostly linked with the middle-class level. For example, Jane is the unloved, needy, dependent orphan child who lives in a venerable situation of discrimination and oppression without hopeful and prospects in future. Besides, poverty is seen in Jane Eyre who is an orphan, and she depends on her Aunt Reed after the death of his uncle, but due to her vulnerability, she is mistreated both emotionally by Aunt and physically by Cousin John. Jane studied in a poor institution which was supported by wealthy individuals in the society where her peers were also orphans, and they lived in very pathetic conditions without enough meal or water where even her friends suffer due to unfavourable studying environment. Thus, even though she does not belong to the industrial working class, the protagonist seems to represent the experience of lower-class members of society and how oppression was a fundamental reality for these individuals. As an orphan, a lower class and a woman, Jane is subjected to mistreatment on numerous occasions, something that she gets accustomed to as seen in the statement: "Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it: my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult." (Bronte 14). A negative experience as a result of class or social/status does not only take place at Reed's residence but follows Jane to the Lowood Institute. The prevailing conditions in this setting affirm the proposition on the plight of the lower class, given that numerous instances and episodes reveal the oppression that the group faces in society. In the case of Jane, she experiences both mistreatment and rationing of food, which ultimately demonstrates the cruelty present at the time and the adverse conditions of individuals such as Jane. A perfect example is that of Helen, Jane's best friend at the Lowood institution who dies in Jane's arms from negligence-related conditions. However, the story brings the issue of poverty and repression since regardless of the devastating scenario Jane faced, she struggled to fights poverty through self-realization in pursuit for love, esteem and fight against discrimination. Also, the setting is an essential backdrop to Jane, and many of the struggles of British lower class (Hamamra, 10) and shows the contrasts to the growing political and economic developments of the time.
1.3 Previous Readings
Identity Renaissance for Women in the Victorian Age
In a paper published by Julia Rodas On the Spectrum, she discusses the positive aspects of the Victorian period that can be viewed in the context of Jane Eyre. These aspects are largely associated with self-identity and the coming of age (3). Rodas's discusses various perspectives of Jane Eyre, particularly highlighting how the novel's author presented a self-centred viewpoint. This focus of self in Jane Eyre, which according to Rodas is simply a parallel to Bronte's self-view or self-image that can be an indication of the "Victorian Individualism," as discussed by Rodas (5). Similarly, Angela Andersson, in her study Identity and independence in Jane Eyre, proposes t...
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