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The whole of the work is a critique of Victorian Englands social hierarchy and inequality for women. Jane struggles against social class and gender inequality, both of which she considers great injustices.
Free Response Question (Year and Paraphrase of Question)
1997. Novels and plays often include scenes of weddings, funerals, parties, and other social occasions. Such scenes may reveal the values of the characters and the society in which they live. Select a novel or play that includes such a scene and, in a focused essay, discuss the contribution the scene makes to the meaning of the work as a whole. You may choose a work from the list below or another novel or play of literary merit.
Opening Sentence for (your) Essay (Be prepared to write an essay on this novel at any given time during the quarter!)
In the novel, Jane Eyre, a certain scene depicts Victorian England's social class hierarchy. This scene is of when Mr. Rochester brings a party of distinguished gentry and ladies to his home and they all converse and relax in his parlor. In the scene, they indulge in their own splendor and think nothing of those who are considered to be in a lower social class than they. Their treatment of Jane, whom they consider beneath them, reveals just how little the higher classes of the time regarded those of lower classes. This value of social class in the society where they life greatly adds to the meaning of the work as a whole.
Key Plot Incidents
Jane Eyre is an orphan living with her terrible aunt, Mrs. Reed. In that home she is treated cruelly and disliked by all but Bessie, a servant in the home. One day, Jane is hit by John Reed, and she loses it and attacks him. As punishment for "starting the fight" she is sent to the red room where she has a vision of her dead uncle's ghost she screams and faints. She wakes up in the care of Bessie and Mr. Lloyd, who makes the suggestion of Jane attending school. Mrs. Reed does so after Jane goes on a spiteful tirade against her. At Lowood School, Jane finds a miserable situation. The school is in horrible condition with inadequate means for survival and stern rules installed by the hypocritical headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst. Jane has a dear friend there, Helen Burns. This angelic friend dies of consumption when an epidemic of typhus sweeps Lowood. So many girls die, it attracts the attention of the public who discover the horrible living conditions. Brocklehurst is replaced by better men.
Jane stays for six more years as a student and then two as a teacher. She soon desires new experience after her time there and after her idol, Miss Temple, marries and leaves. Jane puts out an advertisement and is soon employed as a governess at Thornfield Hall. She teaches an illegitimate little French girl named Adele and meets the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, both of who she befriends. The gentleman at Thornfield is Mr. Rochester, a dark and moody man. He and Jane have deep conversations often and confine in each other. Jane sees his flaws but falls in love with Mr. Rochester. One night she saves his life from a fire which creates a mystery for Jane concerning Grace Poole, a servant. Jane concludes that she is unaware of all the facts.
One day, Mr. Rochester brings home a party of gentry and fine ladies. They stay for a couple of weeks. Jane is in silent despair as she sees Mr. Rochester fancy a beautiful but vicious woman, Blanche Ingram, and expects them to me married soon. Jane begins to make arrangements to leave Thornfield but then Rochester confesses love for Jane and proposes to her. She joyfully accepts. Their wedding day is ruined by the announcement that Rochester is already married. Mr. Mason, when attaining knowledge of Mr. Rochester's intentions concerning Jane, made it known that Mr. Rochester is married to Bertha, Mr. Mason's sister, who is insane and who Mr. Rochester has kept hidden in the third story of his house.
Jane, a strong defender of morality, cannot stay with Mr. Rochester, who is a great temptation. In the night she flees from Thornfield. She has nothing and is reduced to begging and is received by no one. Finally, when she is on the verge of death, she is taken in by three siblings, Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers, at their manner, Marsh End. She becomes very close to them, especially the sisters. St. John finds employment for Jane as the teacher in a school for poor girls. One night, St. John comes and tells Jane, after discovering her identity, that she has inherited a large fortune of 20,000 pounds from her uncle, John Eyre. She also learns that she and the Rivers' are cousins and is thrilled. She splits her fortune with her beloved relatives.
As she lives with the Rivers' she studies with Mary and Diana until St. John entices her to do so with him. She does and he soon asks her to accompany him to India as a missionary and his wife. She will not go as his wife because she does not love him. One night when he as almost convinced her to marry him, she hears Mr. Rochester cry out her name and she returns the call. The next morning, she sets out for Thornfield and her love. Upon arrival she discovers that Thornfield has been burned to the ground by Bertha, who jumped off the roof, killing herself. Mr. Rochester was stricken blind and crippled (he lost his hand) in the fire will trying to save all the servants and Bertha. He now lived with only two of his trusted servants in a dark place, Ferndean. Jane goes to him and they love as they did before. They are soon married and the story end with Jane's short recount of the next ten happy years.
Key Characters (Who and Why)
Jane Eyre- Intelligent, moral, and opposes the injustice of oppression and inequality. She is plain but engaging and seeks fulfillment. She maintains high values throughout the whole book. She is a metaphorical challenge against Victorian treatment of women and those who are poverty stricken
Edward Rochester- Master of Thornfield and wealthy employer of Jane Eyre. He is passionate, dark, and secretive. Jane falls in love with him and he loves Jane. Despite societal norms, he marries her. Before Jane, his life was reckless and lost. He was moody and miserable.
St. John Rivers- Jane's benefactor when she had nothing. Also her cousin and deliverer of good news. He is devoted to God. He wishes to be a missionary in India and asks Jane to accompany him as his wife. He is cold and ambitious. He is handsome.
There are many other characters, with smaller roles, who come in and out of Jane's life.
Gateshead- Mrs. Reed's home. Jane grew up there for ten years.
Lowood-the miserable school Jane attended and taught at. She gained her education and values there.
Thornfield- The home where Jane was a governess. She finds a place there and falls in love. Mr. Rochester's home.
Marsh End- the home of Mary, Dianna, and St. John Rivers. Becomes Jane's home after she inherits her fortune.
Significance of Opening Scene
The significance of the opening scene is to establish Jane's first thoughts of injustice and the beginning of the development of her high morals and her sense of right and wrong.
Significance of Closing Scene
Jane is rewarded for her living of high values and morality with the love of her life. Her reward is just.
Style of Narration/Point of View
The point of view is first person. It is from Jane herself. She narrates as though she is telling her life story from far in her future.
Love vs. Autonomy- Jane longs to be loved, not only romantically, but by family. She wants to belong but not enough that she will lose her autonomy. Her fear of losing her connection to God motivates her to flee from temptation (Rochester).
Religion- Jane is very religious. She struggles, throughout her story, to balance her desire to serve her God and with her desire to serve herself. Jane is very strong in her faith and has high principles as a result. She meets three religious figures. Mr. Brocklehurst represents hypocrisy and the danger of the Evangelical religious movement. Helen Burns represents passive hope and trust in God. St. John Rivers represents finding glory in God and self-importance. Jane does not accept any of these.
Bertha- Serves as a symbol of Rochester's unhappiness, and tribulation for Jane. Bertha is Jane's trial. Bertha is also a symbolic critique of England's "locking away" of other "inferior" cultures. Bertha represents Victorian wives who are kept under tight leash.
The Red Room- symbolic of struggles Jane must overcome. Jane recalls the Red Room every time she is struggling.
Jane's desire to find more fulfillment in her life is symbolic of all feminine unrest.
A slap in the face of injustices. Deep-rooted misery and search for fulfillment.