Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a novel of the life of a small, plain and orphaned girl who struggles desperately for love, simpatico, and independence. From the onset of the novel, we see the world through the eyes of Jane as a strong character who wishes to overcome her birth rite as an orphan in Victorian times. Jane is set to be socially degraded in future from the time when she was a child, because she was an orphan from unknown origins. Jane Austen’s Emma, of course, is luckier to be born from a wealthier family in a wealthier town at that age.
Although something similar of Emma with Jane, that is, she does not have a mother, it does not cause her any problem to become a leading lady of Highbury with the highest social rank. Because Emma’s life is so perfect comparatively to Jane, she does not have to struggle for the things that Jane does for. Emma would spend her days working on a portrait of Harriet Smith for Mr. Elton, which reveals her life as the one of complete leisure, in which she spends time drawing, playing games and visiting with friends. Talking about wealth, Emma is the heiress of a large estate, Hartfield, which belongs to her widowed father.
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As for love or simpatico, it all lands in Emma’s decisions whether she wants to give or not because a lot of men respects her and pursues her either for her fortune or for her beauty. For example Mr. Elton the vicar, proposes to Emma primarily for the purpose of climbing up the social ladders. Although Jane lives in a family wealthy enough to provide her with decent meals, clothing and a proper shelter, it all ends right there! The place provides her with no spiritual strength and satisfaction, as she lives under constant containment and complete mercy of the Reed family. Mrs.
Reed and her two unattractive daughters in some ways resemble the wicked stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella. Mrs. Reed treats Jane as a stepchild instead of a niece and often sides with her children even if Jane is right. For example, when Jane is reading a book about birds and secretly wants to be able to fly away from all the bad things at Gateshead, John came and condemns her for reading “his” books. Jane is physically abused by John and because she fought back due to her unbearable fury, Mrs. Reed sends Jane to the Red Room even though she did not initiate the fight.
Jane is being excluded from the family like an outcast, as she is a dependent with no money and no property. On the contrary, Emma is a “handsome, clever and rich” independent. She is tyrannized over by no one. Everyone spoils her and causes her to become self-centered. This is revealed when Miss Taylor, Emma’s governess since five is married to Mr. Westons. Emma becomes moody and depressed at the sudden loss of a companion, as she is less concerned with Miss Taylor’s new happiness than what she has just lost herself. But Emma is not fully to be blamed.
Her father, Mr. Henry Woodhouse is partly the cause of Emma’s attitude. His focus on the gloomy part of things and his constant complaints of what he perceives to be his burdens has given him a narrow view of the world and Emma has come to share. Although Emma feels the same way as her father does, she keeps it all to herself because of her close bond with him and acts as carefree as possible in order to reduce the burden of her father. But the situation for Jane is a rather different one. She has the qualities of endurance, yet her heart is passionate.
She is forced to keep it all to herself as she didn’t have a choice. The torturous experiences for Jane in the Reed family becomes a type of containment in which she must obey them, as a slave would obey his master. When these physical containments, along with her mental ones comes to her one after another, it takes her to her limit and finally her emotions burst out. She begins to rebel and before she left for Lowood school, she stood up for once and for all to her aunt and said, “I am glad you are no relation of mine.
I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty. ” This seen of Jane is very passionate and almost violent to me, which is something that is almost never to be seen in Emma. Emma may have some likes and dislikes against people in her mind but this much passion is never felt in her character, she is generally ordinary and calm.
This of course is because of the environment that she is brought up in. Nothing really exciting or thrilling happens in her life in the novel. Highbury is always the center of activity, and Emma’s activity. Only a few incidents occur in the outdoors, and only a few other places, such as London and Bath, are mentioned in the course of the novel. Also as it was mentioned already, that her life is all leisure. She has the freedom that Jane does not have, and she does not have the pressure that Jane has.
Such different environment can surely cause very different characters. Both novels are love stories, or at least they’re based on the relationship and feelings between men and women, and Jane and Emma are the protagonist of these love stories. But the two protagonists have two very different attitude towards love. Jane searches for love and acceptance almost throughout the places where she lived. For example, at Gateshead she has become a shy and emotionally deprived child because everyone in the family detests her.
As she is always excluded from the family members, it drills into her head that she is different, disliked and inferior to the other members, physically and emotionally. Therefore she tries hard to do whatever that can turn herself to become loveable and acceptable. When Jane began her life at Lowood, her desire for human affection is evidently proved when she said to her friend Helen Burns, “If others don’t love me, I would rather die than live. ” She became a very diligent student later on at Lowood, often being complimented and loved by the teachers, and that is what Jane has been trying to achieve throughout the novel.
Emma’s attitude towards love is more idealistic. As she is strongly attached to her father, she has decided not to marry. Therefore she satisfies her romantic desire by trying to be a matchmaker. This is obviously different from desiring acceptance or affection, she even fantasizes a perfect match for herself. Emma’s attitude, her best and worst qualities is revealed when she tries to improve Harriet Smith. She has good intentions toward Harriet and tries to find her a suitor.
But Emma turned one of the suitors, the Martins down because she automatically thought that they are too common for Harriet, and without considering Harriet’s own feelings. This reveals the main problem of Emma, that is she must learn to be a better person with greater respect for others. While Jane is just the opposite, she must learn to love and be happy about herself. Social background and positions of characters The Victorian society always expected men to protect and care for women. The image of a perfect woman should appear as delicate, fragile, pretty and dependent on a rich man.
Therefore in Victorian novels, behavior of women which are concerned with “delicacy” such as nervousness and fainting were commonly accepted by readers, because it proves the weaknesses of women in contrast to men’s strength. As weakness, frailty and sensitivity is the best character of a woman, they were given almost no political power at that time. Also because of the inconveniences of the type of dress women used to wear at that time, such as frocks (they never mentioned women wearing trousers or shirts in Jane Eyre and Emma), and their health problems involved with childbirth all contributed to the idea of a “delicate woman”.
They needed special care and sheltering. Therefore they are supposed to depend on the father when they’re young and shift to husbands when they get married. They’re not encouraged to work, and that’s why there isn’t much choice for Jane besides becoming a governess after her schooling. As far as Jane’s character is opinionated socially at that time, Charlotte Bronte really has made a very daring decision in creating the character of Jane Eyre because she presented the readers with a heroine who was not beautiful.
But in the first half of the 19th century, readers almost took it for granted that heroines of novels were supposed to be beautiful, gentle and classed, just as how we would assume fashion models are supposed to be tall and slender. On the other hand, Jane Austen’s Emma seems more of a typical Victorian style. Beautiful ladies and gowns, wealthy land-owners and evening balls and parties where people of higher classes in society all gather together. In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte seems to be going very much against the traditions of the Victorian society, as Jane strives to overcome her fragility.
Charlotte tries to criticize sex prejudice through Jane, that she has trouble settling into society not just because of her passion or family background, but also because of her gender. During the industrial revolution at that time, many new jobs in factories and households were offered to the lower-class women, but it did not do any good for women like Jane at this economic level. They had only one option for respectable employment that is to become a governess. Women either need to be like Emma, belong to the higher-classes, or the lower-class servants.
Otherwise women like Jane always had an uncertain social status because employing one was a sign of culture and means in a Victorian home and therefore she was from the social level of the family, but the fact that she was paid a salary(usually very low) put her again at the economic level of the servants. Therefore her presence was usually isolated because she was somewhere between the servants and family members. Although a woman could maintain a decent living with the job, a governess will have to remain a governess all her life if she did not marry and had no relatives to care for her.
Well usually it’s hard to get a governess married to someone because men always wanted a wealthy woman with large fortunes, except if this governess is amazingly beautiful! That’s why the criticism of the social positions of women is very obvious in Jane Eyre. Jane is not the least amazingly beautiful, she’s a governess, yet she is still chosen by the man far above her social position. This shows that women has the ability to read and learn, they have the desire to learn and most importantly, they have the ability to achieve equal intellect with men!
And this very bold declaration, which would have struck readers of 1847 as “infeminine” is very significant in the character of Jane: “Restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes… 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 constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer. ” On the other hand, Jane Austen is also trying to criticize something of the society through the character of Emma, that is, the snobbery of the British upper class.
She also pointed out in a realistic manner, something similar with Jane Eyre, the problems which young women of marriageable age in her times faced. Since women were unable to have a career, families and marrying properly has become the most important thing in their life because this is the only way to achieve comfort and economic security. Because of her beauty, wealth and intelligence, Emma begins as a domineering and conceited person without an intention to marry, though for a while has fallen in love with a man of immaturity called Frank Churchill.
But in the end when Emma marries Mr. George Knightly, a sensible man, noble and sincere, she eventually had to become moral and modest in order to suit her husband and be fit for the marriage. Emma here carries out the same meaning as Jane has done, that it’s not enough for women to be able to sew and look pretty. They need to be equivalent in intellect with men in order to achieve a successful marriage. moral values of Jane and Emma Both Jane and Emma has gone under a period of change and maturity. But before that, they were two very different women of different positions.
Mr. George Knightly in Emma is the critique of Emma’s behavior. He is the voice of sound judgment in the novel, pointing out where Emma has gone wrong in actions. Emma is inferior morally to Mr. George Knightly, while Jane is superior in moral values to Mr. Rochester. Jane has tried to play match-making for many couples, but the most significant one in the novel, which is also the most disastrous one is the one for Harriet Smith. Harriet Smith is an orphan adopted by Emma to replace the companion of Miss Taylors. They have a friendship, but it is not one between equals.
Emma is in the upper rank of society, while Harriet is from unknown origins. This automatically prevents Harriet from going up in social rank. She is also nai??ve and gullible, as she follows whatever Emma has decided for her and is very dependent on her. Therefore by looking at the outcome of Harriet, the best and worst of Emma is also revealed in her attempts to improve Harriet. Emma knew that Harriet and Robert Martin had a romantic feeling towards each other, but she tries to dissuade Harriet from a romance with him because she thought that he lacks proper “manners”.
But for Emma, “manners” actually mean status. She disapproves of Robert Martin before she has even met him and only knows that he is a farmer. Therefore she purposely degrades him in front of Harriet that he is remarkably plain and clownish, along with his “awkward look”, “abrupt manner” and “uncouthness of a voice. ” She does this through comparisons of him with the better people of Highbury such as Mr. Knightly or Mr. Weston or Mr. Elton. The judgment of Emma towards Robert is a very shallow one, that he is supposed to be clownish and uneducated because his social rank is low.
This reveals the character of Emma that contrasts the character of Jane. Jane is completely blind towards money, social status or appearance in dealing with marriages. Mr. Rochester is surely not to be handsome or heroic looking, but she loves him for what he is, for their equality in character and worth, and for love they marry. The moral values are very important in the character of Jane. It is the moral values that give Jane the beauty in the essence of the mind. And it is this inner beauty that gains her the man who loves her solely for her mind, and it is this inner beauty that contrasts the physical beauty of Emma.
Jane has learned to value her intelligence as a child at the Lowood Institution. She satisfies her hunger for knowledge there and received one of the greatest gift of her life: a good education. At Lowood, she also matures herself during her adolescence by questioning everything around her, for example she asks, “Who is God? ” “Where is God? “. When she enters her adulthood, her ideas of inner beauty conquering exterior appearance is reinforced and becomes her lessons. Such beauties like Ms. Blanche Ingram even fails to win the heart of Mr.
Rochester. In fact, as Mr. Rochester explains later in the novel: “my equal is here, and my likeness. ” Physical appearances and social classes seem to mean nothing to them, they only desire to have a mental attraction. Emma though, is very lucky to have a sincere and true friend like Mr. George Knightly. He corrects her directly and through him, Emma matures. He is able to perceive the harm in the friendship between Emma and Harriet, as Harriet will only flatter Emma and do nothing good in Emma’s mental stimulation.
He also pointed out to Emma that Harriet is taught to be so refined that she will not fit among her true social equals, and a friendship with the woman at the center of Highbury society will only confuse the young girl. Her vanity is shown her, but finally Emma learns one of her lessons and is forced to awaken from her daydreams when Mr. Elton proposes to her and turns Harriet down because he says that she socially beneath him and confesses his love for Emma. Emma rejects him without hesitation because Elton can never love anyone whole-heartedly. At night in her bed, Emma reviews the event and realizes her mistakes in judgment.
He feels terrible that she has persuaded Harriet to turn down Martin’s proposal and believe in Elton’s love. This shows a new side to Emma. Although she make mistakes of judgment, she can analyze herself and admit she was wrong. She understands that she has totally misjudged Elton’s character. She is also capable of feeling remorse. But ironically, by the end of the chapter Emma is again thinking of husband for Harriet. Emma’ s imagination is also stimulated for a while by Frank Churchill, who arrives at her house looking good with well-bred manners.
Her romantic fancy is shown here when she believes that Frank is interested in her. But Frank is just cleverly playing on her emotions. He seem to have gathered immediately that Emma wants to be admired and flattered. He therefore praises Emma for having absorbed the qualities of elegant manners of her governess Miss Taylor. Emma does not realize the intentions behind his words and has no idea about his romantic relationship with Jane Fairfax. Emma’s behavior is way too different from Jane. She’s arrogant and vain at first, while Jane has always been humble and wise.
That’s why as a mature man of reason, Mr. Knightly is not blind to the imperfections in Emma though he thinks her beautiful. He wants Emma to rise above elegant “manners”, to become thoughtful and modest and somehow his concerns for her seems to suggest a romantic feeling he has for her and he, therefore desires to see her has a perfect young lady who is able to balance her heart with her head. After going through all the faults and wrongs, analyzing and reviewing, Emma realizes Knightly ‘s superiority over Frank.
Because she was so concerned about the love affairs of others, she did not have time to discover her own feelings for Mr. Knightly, that she almost missed out on a perfect marriage. Then she almost ruined Harriet’s chances of marrying Martin. Her romantic fancy towards Frank also almost destroyed the love between Jane and Frank. Emma finally, in a mature way, solved all her problems which will not be discussed in details here. Emma has learned to control her emotions, perceive matters in a different view and most importantly, accepting the idea of her own marriage and submitting some of her own independence.
The same way, with the love of Mr. Rochester and the years of experience, Jane Eyre has transformed into a Cinderella after the ball, because when she returns to Gateshead in order to visit the Reeds, whom I already mentioned resemble the wicked step mother and step sisters, have already lost their power to make her life miserable! Jane and Emma’s newfound ability to love wholly themselves and others is the essence of their maturation towards morality and the essence of their womanhood, as they both ends up happily marrying the man they truly loved with their heart!