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Women's Roles In Jayne Eyre Essay

1557 words - 7 pages

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is set in the mid nineteenth century, during the Victorian era where class and gender roles are clearly defined in the patriarchal society. The general ideology of the era expresses the idea that if gender categories were not maintained as binary oppositions, catastrophic chaos would likely ensue (Gill, 109). Throughout the novel, Jane is faced with the issue of oppression. The typical characteristics of an ideal female in Victorian society would include submissiveness, simple dress, low ambition, longing for a male love interest and passiveness. Bronte clearly shows her stance on this Victorian ideology as, although the heroine Jane Eyre settles for the ...view middle of the document...

Bronte portrays Mr. Brocklehurst, the mean-hearted hypocritical master of Lowood, as someone who expresses his middle-class interest in preserving the economic status quo, and clear divisions between the classes is required. Jane and the other girls at Lowood are therefore taught to endure and except their positions in society. He hides his hypocritical motives behind his religion shown in his response to Miss Temple’s defense of a student’s naturally curly hair. “Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature: I wish these girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance” (126)? Through Mr. Brocklehurst, Bronte shows that in order to maintain the status quo, women will have to endure these examples of oppressive hardships. The hypocritical nature of the Victorian norms and the male oppressor is exemplified when Brocklehurst’s wife and daughters appear with clearly defined middle class wardrobes drenched in silk, velvet, fur and of course with their curly hair. At a young age, Jane was learning what kind of endurance, fortitude and acceptance it will take to exist in this oppressive society, base on something she did not have any choice in: being a lower class woman.
Mr. Brocklehurst’s negligent treatment of the students at Lowood is exposed and group of overseers are brought in to run the school and with dramatically improved conditions, Jane excels in her studies for the next six years and gets a job as a teacher there. After two years of teaching, she is spurred on by the departure of Miss Temple to move on and seeks a job as a governess. This advancement from her position at Lowood to a private governess at Thornfield Hall signifies an important development in Bronte’s attempted subversion of gender as “governesses served as the invisible wall between working class and middle class gender identities” (Godfrey, 857). As a caregiver and educator to middle-class children, the governess had important influence on the middle-class. Jane is anxious about her new position as she is moving from a working-class world up to a middle-class world. Jane decides she wants “[a] new place, in a new house, amongst new faces, under new circumstances” (152), but still questions her own qualification for moving up in class. The transition is uncertain and upon her arrival, social-class gender differences are apparent. Jane has a solemn appearance, reflecting where she came from and she contains none of the traits of her rival Blanch Ingram or her very feminine pupil Adele. In order to fit in Jane has to put on a middle-class front when called to officially meet Rochester. Mrs. Fairfax instructed Jane to dress for dinner when Rochester is home and she explains: “This additional ceremony seemed somewhat stately: however, I repaired to my room and, with Mrs. Fairfax’s aid, replaced my black stuff dress by one of silk; the best and the only additional one I had” (189). Bronte shows the class and gender distinction as Mrs....

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