It is society’s nature to label certain expectations out of the population based on age, race, clothing, accent, skin tone, etc. With only one glance, a teacher might label a sophomore as a moron, a southern accent indicates an uneducated person, or a Pakistani person may be a labeled as a doctor. These expectations are mediocre when compared to one’s gender. Society portrays men as dominate, educated, passionless, and ambitious; while women as dependent on men, uneducated, emotional, empowered by the glass ceiling, and serve as a decorative sex for the pleasure of men. These gender-relations have existed from the existence of human life, but are decaying at an exponentially slow rate. Nevertheless, many female novelists of the Victorian era modeled successful novels based on the gender relations. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre demonstrates gender roles expected of males and females in Victorian Society. Jane and Rochester, respectively depict the ideal female and male, while Bertha Mason, the opposite of Jane, represents a corruption in gender balance. Bronte incorporates Victorian era gender roles within Jane Eyre to express the nature in which society judges individuals based on misogynistic principles.
Mr. Rochester, the Byronic hero of the novel, easily manipulates Jane Eyre to love him. Rochester is often moody but can easily show affection to Jane, “”He kissed me [Jane Eyre] repeatedly” (Bronte, 271). The reader becomes aware that Rochester may have had sexual encounters with numerous women in the past. Upon learning Adele, is “”the daughter of a French opera-dancer, Céline Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a grande passion” (Bronte, 159), Bronte, depicts how men during the Victorian era could do anything they pleased. As a male in Victorian Society, he is dominating, educated, and ambitious in pursuing Jane Eyre to become his wife. Rochester plays multiple devilish tricks on Jane for her to fall for him. For one, he talks constantly about his marriage to another, extremely beautiful women, Blanche, “I am sure I shall not be able to sleep. Will you [Jane Eyre] promise to sit up with me to bear me company? To you I can talk of my lovely one” (Brontë, 235). Rochester again plays a trick by disguising himself as a gypsy woman. He tells Jane, “If you knew it, you are peculiarly situated: very near happiness; yes; within reach of it” (Brontë, 214). Rochester’s intentional mingling of Jane’s heart portrays the role of men in the nineteenth century. Brontë reveals to the reader that men of the Victorian Era could easily control their emotions to achieve anything they wished to desire much like Rochester plays with Jane’s heart for amusement and benefits. Bronte portrays a disruption in gender balance in the novel through the use of Bertha Mason.
Bertha Mason, the antithesis of Jane Eyre, represents disruption in gender balance. Mason is insane, free-spirited, and challenges any ideal that comes in her way. Victorian Era women are quiet, passive, and loyal; Bertha is physically large, violent, and aggressive as displayed on her first appearance, “the lunatic sprang and grappled his [Rochester] throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek. She was a big woman, in stature almost equaling her husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force in contest” (Bronte, 307). Due to her behaviors, Bertha is secluded from society, to live in a hell like room until death. Bronte reveals to readers, that Victorian era women were a disgrace to society if they were not the ideal female. Through Bertha Mason, Bronte is able to accurately portray the inhumane nature disgraceful females were forced to live in.
Characters in Jane Eyre demonstrate the gender roles expected of males and females in Victorian society. Jane represents the ideals of females while Rochester depicts the ideals of men; Bertha Mason, the antithesis of Jane, represents turmoil in gender balance and must be secluded from society. Through these characters, Bronte effectively outlines gender roles, in a successful effort to express the nature in which society judges individuals based on misogynistic principles.
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