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The Poverty Prejudice Essay

1259 words - 6 pages

In the Victorian Age, people unfairly discriminated against others due to their lack of social status. This theme is emphasized in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The protagonist, a poor orphan named Jane, is a victim of this prejudice. With the settings of Gateshead, Lowood, and Thornfield, Brontë illustrates how someone in Jane’s position could be treated badly or differently simply because of poverty and a lack of rank.
When Jane is a young child, she stays with her aunt and cousins at Gateshead where they regard her both negatively and differently because of her lower level. Mrs. Reed, Jane’s aunt, separates Jane from her cousins because, as her aunt tells her, “She really must exclude ...view middle of the document...

This shows that Mrs. Reed associates Jane with the servants instead of as her own family, resulting in an inferior care because of her ancestry. Also, when Jane meets Mr. Brocklehurst, Mrs. Reed is very quick to inform him of Jane’s ‘faults’ and ‘wickedness’. This demonstrates the power of wealth and social rank because Mr. Brocklehurst believes Jane’s “benefactress” without any doubt. In the eyes of a wealthy, high-ranking man during the Victorian Age, others dominant on the social ladder will always seem more candid and reliable than those lower in rank. Others exclude, abuse, and neglect Jane, and consider her deceitful only because she is poor and low in status.
Besides families mistreating their own relations, Jane and all the students at Lowood Institution are treated badly because of their poverty and lack of rank. The students are not fed adequately, and Jane notes that, “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” (60). This starvation is just because the children are orphans, and Mr. Brocklehurst considers any amendment or addition to this meager diet a luxury and indulgence for the poor. Also, at Lowood Institution, there are distinct levels of the students based on ages, where the older girls are above the younger schoolgirls. This slightly higher class of older students takes advantage of the lower rank. Jane notices that the earlier mentioned lack of food, “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” (60). The elder girls manipulate the younger girls because their rank is marginally superior. Then, when Mr. Brocklehurst is inspecting the school, he notices one girl’s curly hair, and asks Miss Temple for the reason. When Miss Temple tells him that the curls are natural, he replies “Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature. I wish these girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance? I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl’s hair must be cut off entirely…All these top-knots must be cut off” (64). These are his expectations for the poor, low-ranked orphans because he claims the braids and curls are vain and take up too much time. However, not five minutes later his wife and daughters enter “Splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The two younger of the trio…had gray beaver hats…shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this graceful headdress...

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