Women And The Poor In Victorian England In Jane Eyre

2105 words - 8 pages

How does Bronte explore the position of women and the poor in
Victorian England throughout her novel Jane Eyre?

Jane Eyre was Charlotte Bronte’s first successful novel. Published in
1847, Bronte presents us with critique of Victorian assumptions
regarding social class and gender. Way ahead of its time, Charlotte
Bronte (or publicly none as Currer Bell), caused much commotion
critically. In her novel Bronte explores many issues of Victorian
society such as women’s stature both generally and amongst poor in the
19th century. She also explores patriarchal male domination, and the
segregation and unspoken restrictions between the different classes
and stations.

Society in Britain in the 19th century was very different to today’s
women had a very different role back then as education was limited,
there were certain ‘requirements’ of being a ‘lady’ such as playing
the piano, sewing, drawing and speaking French. Also at this time
there was allot of poverty in great Britain and although Bronte
doesn’t delve into it she does keep a constant fear over Jane’s mind
of slipping in to it, which could easily have had been done with out
her determination, “if she were to turn you off you would have to go
to the poorhouse”.

Bronte opens ‘Jane Eyre’ with the setting of a “cold winter” and uses
pathetic fallacy in the first opening paragraph to deposit a mood,
“clouds so somber, and a rain so penetrating” , portraying the
loneliness and bitterness Jane may be feeling as she goes on to
describe her current position. Bronte’s first hint of discrimination
between the social classes is in the second paragraph as she talks of
the nurse, Bessie “humbled by the consciousness of my [Jane] physical
inferiority to Eliza, John and Georgiana Reed”. Eliza, John and
Georgiana Reed are Jane’s cousins who she is now reliant to live with
after the death of her father. Unfortunately soon after, Jane’s Uncle
(the Reed children’s father) died, leaving Jane’s connections with the
Reed family lost but her burden upon them still present. Mrs. Reed,
the mistress of Gateshead Hall, widens the gap between Jane and her
cousins as she has brought up her children to be continually aware
that Jane is a constant dependent on them, therefore influencing her
children’s unsociable attitude towards her, “you are a dependent mamma
says; you have no money”.

In addition to the constant exclusion, her eldest and only male
cousin, John Reed, is a persistent bully to Jane throughout her time
at Gateshead verbally: “bad animal!” and physically; ”he struck
suddenly and strongly”. At this time this type of behaviour was common
in society but was rarely referred to, either in the spoken or written
form; the brutal exposure to the bullying issue was maximized by
Bronte’s vivid wording, “I instinctively started aside with a cry of
alarm”. Jane’s passionate rebellion against the mistreatment
intensified the situation as it was regarded as an unfeminine trait.

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