Marxism in Jane Eyre
In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte portrays the strict, hierarchical class system in the early 1800s in England. Bronte develops a complex character, Jane, to put a crack into the strict hierarchical class system. Bronte does this to challenge the class system in England which required everyone to stay put in his or her class position. Bronte does this by questioning the role of the governess and whether she should be considered upper class, because of her higher education, or lower class, because of her servant-status within the family. Bronte also puts in question the relationship development between two people of different classes, such as Rochester’s and Jane’s. Charlotte Bronte demonstrates that class boundaries are not finite and that individuals can transcend them.
Since the beginning of the novel, Jane's ambiguous class status is evident. Jane is a poor orphan living with relatives who despise her. John Reed, ...view middle of the document...
" As a governess, Jane is left in an ambiguous status. She is neither a member of the family nor a member of the serving classes.
The relationship between Jane and Rochester also demonstrates class issues. Rochester treats Jane like a good servant, because she has been a "dependent" who has done "her duty." Jane accepts her lower status by referring to Rochester as "master," and by believing "wealth, caste, custom," separate her from him. She fears he will treat her like an "automaton" because she is "poor, obscure, plain and little," mistakenly believing the lower classes to be heartless and soulless (Bronte 154). Rochester defines Jane as his "equal" and "likeness."
Before Jane can become Rochester's wife, Jane must become of a higher class. When Bessie sees Jane at Lowood, she is impressed that Jane has become "quite a lady" and that her accomplishments outdo that of her cousins, yet they are still her social superiors based on wealth. Bessie and Jane’s conversation shows the ambiguity of Jane's family's class status and of the class system in general. The novel criticizes the behaviors of most of the upper-class characters Jane meets. Blanche Ingram is superficial and conceited. John Reed is wicked and Eliza Reed is unsympathetic. Mr. Rochester is a primary example of upper-class corruption, with his many mistresses and his attempt to make Jane one of them. In her final view of Thornfield, after Bertha has burned it down, Jane emphasizes the contrast between her soothing dream of Thornfield, and the reality of its wasted grounds. The contrast is a symbol of how the world views the upper classes and the reality of the upper class. The doll’s house in “The Doll’s House” also had a similar symbolic meaning. The doll’s house and its little lamp represent a world where wealth and the social position are important.
One of Jane's tasks in the novel was to renew the upper classes, which have become hindered in corruption and arrogance. Just as Rochester sought Jane for her purity, the novel suggests that the upper classes in general need the pure moral values and work ethic of the middle classes.