“I found him very patient, very forbearing, and yet an exacting master: he expected me to do a great deal; and when I fulfilled his expectations, he, in his own way, fully testified his approbation. By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind: his praise and notice were more restraining than his indifference. I could no longer talk or laugh freely when he was by; because a tiresomely importunate instinct reminded me that vivacity (at least in me) was distasteful to him. I was so aware that only serious moods and occupations were acceptable, that in is presence every effort to sustain or follow any other became vain: I fell under a freezing spell. When he said “go,” I went! “come,” I came;
do this,” I did it. But I did not love my servitude: I wished, many a time, he had continued to neglect me” (Bronte 404-5).
In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the mental and physical imprisonment of Jane epitomizes the role of women. St. John Rivers, Eyre’s only living relative, strives to serve as her “master” portraying the domineering influence of men over women. In this particular quote, Jane explains what is, and what isn’t acceptable to St. John. She could not “talk or laugh freely” because Rivers ultimately “took away [her] liberty of mind.” Bronte suggests that Jane “fell under a freezing spell” implying that St. John’s actions seemed to restrict her from all parts of life. This controlling behavior of men was typical of the Victorian time period, because women were considered to be of lower status than men, and just be caretakers (which didn’t require much thought). Bronte uses words such as “exacting,” “influence,” “importunate,” and “servitude” to describe how much of an influence Rivers had over Jane, and to express Jane’s distaste at the situation. Through her words, “I wish…he had continued to neglect me,” Jane expresses her desire to be free from the overbearing constrains St. John binds her in.
This overarching concept of imprisonment is apparent throughout the entire novel. Although not constrained by a man in Gateshead, being trapped in the Red Room ultimately enables Jane to recognize the suffocation, oppression and isolation she has been living with. In describing the red room, Bronte’s uses words such as, “seldom…remote…quiet…lonely” (14) to emphasize the isolation Jane was put in. The entrapment in this room forces Jane to question her situation; “Why was I always suffering, always brow-beaten, always accused, forever condemned?” (14). This is one of the first instances Jane starts to think for herself, and realizes that she needs to move on from the restraints of Ms. Reed, and the Reed family. Jane goes to describe the red room as a prison, and no other was “ever more secure” (15). This shows that Jane felt like she was confined behind bars and had almost no way out. Ms. Reed seemed to take on the responsibilities and ethics of a man as soon as Mr. Reed died. This encompassing personality, of...