The novel Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, depicts the coming of age of a woman who encounters great hardships, obstacles, and heartbreak. During the Victorian era women were subordinate to men and often times lacked the same opportunities and privileges that society and the family structure gave to men. Although society and the family structure of the Victorian era treated men and women differently, men were also oppressed, experienced suffering, and had to overcome poverty, but due to the masculinity that men were forced to portray during the era often times the hardships of men have been overlooked when analyzing the men in Jane Eyre. The characters John Reed, St. John Rivers, and Edward Rochester suffer various forms of lack and poverty that contributes to their oppressive and suffering nature precipitated by societal and family structure as well as being impoverished by their circumstances throughout the story even though they come across as having wealth and power.
John Reed becomes greatly oppressed and suffers, due to societies expectations and the Victorian family structure. In the beginning of the book John Reed is portrayed as a young pompous tyrant who has the sense that when he comes of age he will have everything of the Reed fortune. When explaining to Jane her position in the Reed house John says, “…they are mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years”(Brontë). Because the social and family power structure during the Victorian era maintains that the eldest boy, or in this case the only boy, inherit the families belongings John Reed is led into suffering, poverty, and ultimately death. Without the guidance of a father John Reed is raised as a “‘Wicked and cruel boy...like a murderer…like a slave driver…like the Roman emperors!’”(13). The family structure failed him, and as soon as he has all the power the system gives him he fails horribly. When explaining the outcome of John’s life to Jane Robert Leaven says:
[John] could not do worse: he ruined his health and his estate amongst the worst men and the worst women. He got into debt and into jail: his mother helped him out twice, but as soon as he was free he returned to his old companions and habits. His head was not strong: the knaves he lived amongst fooled him beyond anything I ever heard. He came down to Gateshead about three weeks ago and wanted missis to give up all to him. Missis refused: her means have long been much reduced by his extravagance; so he went back again, and the next news was that he was dead…they say he killed himself. (255-256)
John Reed’s social and family structure fails to serve him. Instead of creating an equal and stable life or a wealthier lifestyle with his inheritance he becomes a gambler and loses most of his families wealth and most importantly his life. Not only does he impact and ruin his life, but also he causes his mother to have a stroke and eventually her death.
John Reed appeared to have power and wealth, but because...