"There Are As Many Different Ways Of Interpreting And Valuing Texts As There Are Readers." Do You Agree? (Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre")

1117 words - 4 pages

Clearly, every individual reader perceives a text in a different way; it is the result of our different upbringings and our different social, cultural and moral choices. From a mathematical viewpoint, if a single reader is able to draw two different sets of meanings from a text, then there are more unique interpretations of the text than there are readers. Charlotte Bronte's 19th century masterpiece, "Jane Eyre", is a useful textual example to how these meanings may differ from reader to reader and, indeed, from different readings by the same reader. As will be seen, many different interpretations can arise from the same section of the text - differences in our observation of the themes and symbols used in "Jane Eyre", coupled with our ability to imagine further - to construct a boundless number of opinions, views and, indeed, literary "eye lenses" through which one may examine a text. Jane Eyre is not only a fable about a girl, but a modern feminist plea, as in the opinion of Pauline Nestor, author of Striking A Balance. In this respect, the novel fundamentally justifies the view that a text may be interpreted in as many ways as there are readers.Bronte's depiction of Jane's upbringing can be seen simply as a story about her sufferings as a young girl and her struggles with authoritarian figures at school, such as Brocklehurst, all the while searching for equality. Mrs. Reed plays Jane's guardian who, through numerous socio-economic means, controls Jane's development as a person and the extent of her power in the household. Bronte's prose does not take the reader outside the Reed household; in fact, Jane's situation is depicted entirely as a consequence of her status and relationship with members of the Reed family. The reader is told that the decision for Jane to be educated was made with neither her consensus nor opposition. She comes to attend the school of Lowood, first as a student and later as a teacher. However, a feminist interpretation of her life up to this point reveals a different picture. Considering the chronology and setting of the novel, Victorian society did not offer many opportunities for women in the first place, especially in comparison to men. Many did not receive an education to the extent Jane did, and the female population as a whole was under the oppression of men. Jane was treated as if she were "less than a servant" (12), serving not only Mrs. Reed, but also her son, John, whose reckless disposition and cruel personality can only be seen as the victim of the reverse implications of society's discrimination against women. John's sense of power and megalomania guides him to control not only Jane, but also his mother. This reading reveals that the experiences and hardships through which Jane survives were, as in the opinion of Nestor, common to many of Jane's contemporaries1. Thus, when the social values and morals of Victorian society are considered, the text can be read very differently, not merely as a fable, but as a...

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