Jane Eyre – A Feminist Interpretation

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Jane and Bertha’s struggle against Patriarchy In this essay my primary analysis will focus on the main character ,Jane, in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I will apply Gilbert and Guber’s idea about women in the Victorian Age and use it in the analysis of Jane and her development. The idea is based on the fact that women at the time had to overcome oppression, starvation, madness, and coldness in order to arrive at the ‘end-station wholeness.

A secondary focus will be on the similitude between Jane and Bertha Mason and I will try to demonstrate that Bertha is, in fact, Jane’s ‘truest and darkest double. My methodology relies on relevant secondary literature sources found on the web. I will use the famous work of Gilbert and Guber The Madwoman in the Attic, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and Mary Wollstonecraft A Vindication Of the Rights of Woman and apply it to my investigation on the main theme. The primary source used is the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The concept of Patriarchy is used by Simone de Beauvoir and is ‘by definition, sexist, which means it promotes the belief that women are innately inferior to men’(Tyson 84).

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It is clear that in the Victorian Age in which the action of the novel takes place, the Patriarchal system is one of importance. Jane Eyre, the main character, confronts with such a society where the power of men is above the power of women. It was regarded as a ‘sin’ the want of women to broke that well-preserved system. The only option for women was to have ‘’manly virtues’’(Wollstonecraft unpaged) or to become the “the invisible and unheard sex” (Murfin). Jane represents an importat character in the Victorian Age because she did not accept her position in the society and fought against it.

According to Gilbert and Guber, Jane’s life and development can be divided into four periods in which she tried to fight against the patriarchal system. In the first period Jane lives with her aunt and her cousins at Gateshead. There she is almost all the time unjustified and her fight is against oppression. In this period can be observed her desire to overcome the system because her aunt was for her a kind of ‘man’ who looked down on her because she was orphan.

Her reaction was very impressive because she did something unbearable for Mrs Reed, she spoke to her in a way that she never had done before “It seemed as if my tongue pronounced words without my will consenting to their utterance: something spoke out of me over which I had no control” (Bronte 95). But the woman who tries to become free from the “man” represents the rupture, the destruction of the patriarchy system, in relation to French feminism (Selden 177). The rupture in Jane’s case is represented by her being sent away to school.

In the next period Jane found herself in Lowood Institution where she seemed to be more happy but her main struggle was against starvation” Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains. . . .Then the scanty supply of food was distressing: with the keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to keep alive a delicate invalid.

From this deficiency of nourishment resulted an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger pupils: whenever the famished great girls had an opportunity, they would coax or menace the little ones out of their portion. ”(Bronte 236) When she got to Thornfield she fell in love for the first time and her main aim was to overcome madness. That feeling was due to Mr. Rochester’s behavior that made her fell inferior  “a favourite with Mr. Rochester? You, gifted with the power of pleasing him? You, of importance to him in any way?

Go! your folly sickens me. And you have derived pleasure from occasional tokens of preference–equivocal tokens shown by a gentleman of family and a man of the world to a dependent and a novice. How dared you? Poor stupid dupe! –Could not even self-interest make you wiser? You repeated to yourself this morning the brief scene of last night? –Cover your face and be ashamed! He said something in praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their bleared lids and look on your own accursed senselessness! ‘(Bronte 346).

But even when she came to work as a governess, a kind of change in her behavior could be seen because she had the possibility to decide for herself “I pray God Mrs Fairfax may not turn out a second Mrs Reed; but if she does, I am not bound to stay with her” (Bronte 109-110). Although she knew that she was inferior to her master she didn’t want to stop achieving her goal, that of wholeness. What made Jane fell in love was the fact that he treated her like his equal “My bride is here because my equal is here” (Bronte,348) but this was not enough because when she found out about Mr. Rochester’s wife her dignity didn’t let her tay in that place any more. For her, Rochester became inferior due to the fact that he kept his current wife in a locked room on the third floor. That’s how a new period of her life begun, with Jane finding her family. But that came with a new challenge that of overcoming coldness from another man’s part, his cousin. In the last period of her life she managed to become rich and reached the feeling of being equal to men“ Are you an independent woman? A rich woman? Quite rich, sir. If you won’t let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door” (Bronte 483).

The opinion of many Victorians did not support the way Jane acts in the novel. From my point of view this novel represented very well the desire of all women in the Victorian Age to be seen as human beings and not as ”alluring objects. ” (Wollstonecraft unpaged) They were quite aware of men’s superiority that’s why feminine representatives like Mary Wollstonecraft didn’t reject the concept of Traditional Gender Roles “which cast men as rational, strong, protective, and decisive” and “women as emotional (irrational), weak, nurturing, and submissive. (Tyson 83) but she put the blame on “the false system of education’ which promoted women as ‘objects of desire” who were just good when they looked beautiful and young. (Wollstonecraft unpaged)This is the situation with the Lowood Institute where girls were prepared for their adult life where they had to be kind, to forgive, to be like ”angels in the house”. Helen, Jane’s friend , is such an example of kindness and obedience, unlike Jane and even Bertha who tried to set themselves free from the patriarchal society.

A very interesting matter in Jane Eyre is the bonding between Jane and Bertha. At first sight they seem to have nothing in common but Gilbert and Gubar interpret Bertha as “Jane’s darkest and truest double: she is the angry aspect of the orphan child, the ferocious secret self Jane has been trying to repress ever since her days at Gateshead” (360). I totally agree with their statement because Jane and Bertha have a lot in common. Firstly, Jane is an orphan and was raised by a wicked aunt when Bertha was raised by a drunk mother.

Secondly, not only Jane wanted to set herself free from patriarchal society but also Bertha wanted this thing. Jane felt herself trapped in life while Bertha was trapped in the attic at Thornfield. Bertha is believed to be ‘“Jane’s darkest and truest double” because she does things that Jane thinks but cannot do due to her status. Jane secretly wants to destroy the garment of her wedding dress, so Bertha destroys the veil for her. Jane wishes to put off the wedding because she didn’t fell confortable, and again it is Bertha’s presence that does that for her.

What is different at this point is the way they succeed to achieve their goal. Bertha set herself free by commiting suicide while Jane by overcoming oppression, starvation, madness and coldness. In the end Bertha seemed to help Jane reach wholeness by letting Rochester free to marry her. My aim with this essay was to investigate Jane’s life in the novel Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronte and her development into wholeness. The break of Jane’s life into periods made a better understanding of the road that she had to make in order to reach wholeness.

Moreover, I analysed how another feminine character, Bertha Mason, influenced Jane in achieving her goals. Jane meets and succeeds to overcome oppression, starvation, coldness and madness in different periods of her life, that’s what makes her free and independent. Works Cited Primary source Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre 1874. London: Penguin Books, 1996 Secondary sources Gilbert, Sandra M and Susan Gubar. The Mad woman in the Attic. 1979. New Haven: Yale University press, 1984. Selden, Raman, Peter Widdowson and Peter Brooker.

La teoria literaria contemporanea. 1985. Barcelona: Editorial Ariel, 2004. Tyson, Lois Critical Theory Today. A User-Friendly Guide. New York& London: Garland Publishing, 1999 Online sources From:< http://www. ux1. eiu. edu/~rlbeebe/what_is_feminist_criticism. pdf > 13 January 2013 From:< http://dooku. miun. se/engelska/englishC/C essay/HT06/Final/maria%20holmstr%C3%B6m_final%20essay. pdf>13 January 2013 From:< http://www. gradesaver. com/jane-eyre/study-guide/section8/> 15 January

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