Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Essay

1215 words - 5 pages

If a middle class family in Victorian England was able to afford employing a governess it certainly meant they were wealthy. Governesses aided the development of middle class children by teaching them in history, languages, music, art and geography (Smith 203). However, the lives of these middle class governesses were not as good as they might sound. A governess had a unique position in the family she worked for, because she was not part of the household, nor was she a servant. Governesses had the social position of middle class women, yet they received a salary. Being a governess meant having financial worries like a fear of unemployment. Besides that there was a possibility of being socially rejected by the servants and their masters. One of the most influential governesses was Charlotte Brontë. In a letter from 1839 she wrote that “a private governess has no existence, is not considered as a living rational being, except as connected with the wearisome duties she has to fulfil” (Gaskell, ch. 8, ¶ 243). In 1847 Brontë published the novel Jane Eyre, which deals with this very subject. The novel Jane Eyre provides a sound insight into the class system of the Victorian era and the place of the woman in this system. The novel achieves this by making Jane Eyre climb the social ladder. The young Jane Eyre is a poor orphan, who receives an education and becomes a governess, after a while she inherits a substantial amount of money and eventually she marries the master of Thornfield.
The novel starts with giving an outlook on how the lower classes were being treated. The young Jane Eyre lives with Mrs Reed, who was the woman married to her uncle. Jane’s uncle adopted her, and when he died she had to take care of her. Jane is ambiguous in class, because she comes from good family but she has no money. At Gateshead Hall Jane is continuously told she is poor and therefor is inferior to the other people in the house. She is told she “ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed …They will have a great deal of money and you will have none…” (Brontë 16). Even Jane herself has a low opinion of the lower and poorer classes. When living at Gateshead she is asked if she would live with a poor family if she had any family besides Mrs Reed. But she has been made to believe “poverty is synonymous with degradation” (30). She would not even live with them if they were kind to her because she “could not believe how poor people had the means of being kind…” (30). This shows the way poor people of the lower classes were seen by people of a higher class, but also the self-loathing Jane experienced as a child. She is poor herself, but she would never identify with people that are poor.
When the social position of the poor Jane Eyre advanced people started to see her differently. She attends Lowood to receive an education, and now she is not a member of the lower class anymore. This shift in class is evident when Jane first comes to work...

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