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Early Feminism In Jane Eyre

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Autor:   •  June 30, 2011  •  5,548 Words (23 Pages)  •  336 Views

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Introduction

Charlotte Bronte has long been considered as an outstanding woman literary figure in the Victorian time. Despite of the largely autobiographical content of her novels, Charlotte Bronte breaks the conventional, and ignorant in the nineteenth century. Her novel, Jane Eyre, has been translated into many languages and is always high in reading popularity. The highly acclaimed Jane Eyre best demonstrates the breakthrough: its heroine is a plain woman who possesses the characteristics of intelligence, selfвЂ"confidence, a will of her own.

Charlotte Bronte, as well as her sister, lived and died in the first part of 19th century. At that time, there had long been the rapid industry growth in England. Connected with the improvement in industry and transportation there came the rise of a kind of new ruling class, the owners of the mills and miners of the industrial age, who began to compete with the old landed gentry. In order to improve themselves, they tried to provide a good education for their children. This opened a new opportunity for the impoverished gentlewomen to take the career as governesses. In this economic and social situation, girls of good background began to go out to work. It was with this situation in mind that the Bronte sisters made their plans for earning their living, which would be necessary if they were unmarried when their father died. The position of the governess was as uncomfortable one, for, though they were of higher class than servants, they could not reach the level of family. Consequently, they often suffered from loneliness and humiliation.

Charlotte Bronte, the third and oldest of the “Bronte sisters”, was born in Haworth, Yorkshire in 1816. Her father, Mr. Bronte was a poor clergyman in a little village. Because there were so many children in her family and all were born in so short time, and because her mother become very ill with cancer, she and her sisters were let much on their own. Isolated in the moors, they cherished in their souls the love of liberty. After the death of the mother, Charlotte and her sisters, except the youngest, were sent in 1824 to a charity school at Cowan BridgeвЂ"the Clergy Daughters School for the daughters of poor clergy-men, which prevented the girls from having normal mental growth, for the school’s object was to bring them up submissive slaves to the rich, was just like a prison.” The site was low, damp, and unhealthy, the food unappetizing, and the rules very strict for children accustomed to affection and freedom.”

After two of the sister died in the school, Charlotte and Emily were brought home and educated by her father. And Charlotte had a good time with her sisters. Once the children’s chores and lessons were done, they were free to read or play as they pleased. Their powerful imagination added strange and marvelous fantasies to the fact they heard or read. Soon they began to invent their own stories. In 1847, Charlotte published Jane Eyre, which brought her fame and placed her in the ranks of foreвЂ"most English realistic writers. In the writing of Jane Eyre, Charlotte drew a great deal from her own life experience. And we can find that it was very extremely same of Jane’s lifeвЂ"experience and the author’s. Charlotte expressed her own feeling, idea and thoughts through the words of Jane Eyre. And the author used the first person in the novel to show the reality of the novel.

Jane first appears an orphan lodging with her aunt, who resents her and shamelessly favors her own children. Later, Jane is sent away to a charity school run by Mr. Brocklehurst, where through the harsh regime, she learns how to survive and eventually succeeds in becoming a teacher there herself. She advertises for a post as governess, and is appointed to care for Adele, the ward of Edward Rochester at Thornfield Hall. What attracts Rochester to Jane is not her looks, as she is small and plain, but the honesty with which she speaks her mind, and her practical common sense, which enables her to save his life; above all, her wit and sensitivity, which help her cope with social complexity. He proposes marriage, but she discovers at the altar that he already has a life, Bertha, a lunatic woman who is kept in the attic at Thornfield. In her mind, Jane does not think it right to become Rochester’s mistress and decides to leave Thornfield. At the critical moment of her life, she is rescued by the Rivers family, who coincidently turns out to cousins and tells Jane that she is the heiress to a decent sum of money sufficient to give her the economic security for life. St. John Rivers, who is planning to go to India as a missionary, asks her to marry him and follow him in his calling. On the point of accepting the offer, Jane hears a supernatural cry from Rochester. She rushes back to Thornfield only to find that the house has been burned down by Bertha, and Rochester himself has been maimed and blinded in an unsuccessful attempt to save his wife. Now Jane decided that it is time that she can marry him.

The protagonist of the novel asks only for the simple---- “recognition that the same heart and the same spirit animate both men and women, and that love is the pairing of equals in these spheres.”1 (It’s quoted in George P. Landow’s article In What Sense is Jane Eyre a Feminist Novel, 2000) The famous plea that women ought not to be confined to “making pudding and knitting stockings, the playing on the piano and embroidering bags” (Jane EyreпјЊP111) is not propaganda for equal employment but for recognition of woman’s emotional nature and the independent state of her life.

Jane’s insistence on liberty of mind and feeling, liberty to develop oneself to the full is thoroughly illustrated in her declaration she makes when she believes Rochester will marry Blanche Ingram: “I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.” (Jane EyreпјЊP256) The fulfilling happiness of her own marriage to him is expressed in terms of freedom: “To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company.” (Jane EyreпјЊP456)

Chapter One Material independence

1.1 Jane’s poor situation

In Victorian England, a great stratification existed between the upper and lower classes. The upper classes claimed that the lower classes “cannot be associated in any regular way with industrial or family life.” And that their “ultimate standard of life is almost savage,

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