Jane Eyre is a novel written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte. During these times women were supposed to be seen and not heard. Women were expected to be submissive to men, obedient, and have little to no independence. Women in this century generally accepted these standards and roles that society placed upon them. Charlotte Bronte shows a freedom of choice, independence, unwilling to submit to a man's power and being able to speak her mind all in the main character, Jane Eyre.
Jane's early childhood experiences at Gateshead where she is the subject of Mrs. Reeds cruelty gives Jane the desire for independence. While being punished in the Red room Jane realizes she is cannot live in an unloving environment and is driven to survive with dignity, more than her aunt and cousins. When Jane is sent to Lowood she feels "my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty." This feeling is the start of gaining her independence and this attitude carries throughout the book.
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Jane Eyre has the attitude and courage to stand up to men, and is able to speak up in front of them, ignoring the ways of a typical Victorian woman. Mr. Brocklehurst who is stiff, imposing and already has insulted Jane, is the first male we see Jane showing courage. She answers his question regarding "Where do the wicked go after death?" Jane, just a girl, standing up to a man who runs the school, can impose on feminism because it clearly shows how women should have enough willpower to stand up to a man of any importance. I fell Miss Temple shows us a role model that Jane can look up to and that the reader likes. At Lowood, Miss Temple is a successful teacher, ambitious, open minded, and unmarried. She also stands up to Mr. Brocklehurst and encourages the spirit of dignity and independence in Jane.
The relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester is a constant struggle for Jane to maintain her own identity, but through it all seems to come out a stronger and better person. Jane is more moral and spiritually that Rochester. "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!-I have as much soul as you,-and full as much heart!" Bronte choice of Rochester characteristics of not being on the straight and narrow path, manipulating power over Jane, and trying to make her jealous make him seem less worthy, and that maybe the reader will see that Jane is more deserving of a better man. However, Jane and Mr. Rochester still fall in love with one another, and Jane accepts Rochester's proposal, but throughout the engagement Jane wants more out of life than to marry rich, raise his daughter Adele, and be "under" Mr. Rochester. This shows a great deal of feminist that love cannot conquer all, and that Jane does not want to be submissive under the household at Thornfield. Jane forms an unhealthy love for Rochester to the point of worship, and being submissive to him. When this is realized Jane can no longer bare it and knows that the marriage will not work. Jane defies the Victorian expectation of leaving a man of high status not knowing where she is going to end up. Jane's courage again is brought up again when she leaves Thornfield, a life of security, for her freedom, not to be unequal to a man. Jane did not want to be a mistress, maintaining her dignity of a powerful woman, even though the physical and emotional aspects were there. When Jane returns to see Mr. Rochester, he has lost more physical looks than he already had, and has a weaker soul in him, calling out and wanting only Jane. Jane returns being more moral, having wealth, and some family and is happy in herself and the choices she made. It seems like she is now more superior to Rochester, and can be happy with him, knowing her journey of self-discovery is complete. Feminism in this part can seem that when Jane was under Rochester, she couldn't be with him, but when she was superior it was okay in the marriage.
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In the relationship with St. John there is no love, but Jane feels she must repay god by doing ministry work with St. John and go to India. St. John also tries to make Jane fell guilty by that saying God would not be pleased with two people living together with "a divided allegiance: it must be entire". He wants full and complete ownership over Jane, and tries to tell Jane it is want God wants as well. "Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent? Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made on principle? No: such a martyrdom would be monstrous. I will never undergo it." Jane knows if she agrees to this loveless marriage she will submit herself to him and losing all independence she has already gained. Again, Bronte uses Jane to be classed under a male, and this does not settle easy for Jane. She does not want to be submissive at all, and luckily has the chance to walk away and chooses not to go to India.
Blanche and Jane were opposites. Blanche was clearly not the example of a feminist as her components of "marriageability" was based on social status and physical beauty and looks. She was willing to submit to Rochester for money and not love. Jane wanted compatibility, and real love, "the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation". Jane clearly did not define herself as materials buying her happiness, and wanted more out of life. In the end, Jane strived to be a better woman and was able to find true happiness in a non-submissive marriage. In this time period Jane was not conformed to a typical woman's lifestyle and I think in that manner can be considered feminist. Jane went after things she knew to be the "right" and was still forced into horrible situations but managed to pick herself up and still find happiness. I think each person can learn a lesson from Jane that you need to stick to what you truly believe in, and do not settle for items or people that can make you happy at the moment, but look for happiness that will last a lifetime.