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Jane Eyre As A Feminist Novel

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Jane Eyre is a feminist novel.

A feminist is a person whose beliefs and behavior are based on feminism (belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes). Jane Eyre is clearly a critique of assumptions about both gender and social class. It contains a strong feminist stance; it speaks to deep, timeless human urges and fears, using the principles of literature to chart the mind?s recesses. Thus, Jane Eyre is an epitome of femininity - a young independent individual steadfast in her morals and has strong Christian virtues, dominant, assertive and principled. That itself is no small feat.

Firstly, Jane Eyre is a young woman who faces hardships with great determination. Raised by Mrs. Reed, a cruel aunt, she is sent to Lowood, a bleak charity school run by the tyrannical Mr. Brocklehurst, where she endures a lonely and sad life. ?Human beings must love something, and, in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow.? Jane faces the prospects of a young woman lacking the social advantages of family, money, and beauty, and therefore especially vulnerable to the fascination of admiration and security. Jane endures so much suffering through out the novel - Jane suffers through the cruel treatment of Lowood because her aunt wants to punish her for her rebelliousness, she suffers heartbreak for her attempt to marry her beloved Rochester, and suffers an estrangement from St. John when she chooses to uphold her belief that marriages should be for love and not for convenience. Despite the pain her choices bring her, she manages to maintain her independence in the face of these overwhelming powers over her. And despite the "happy" ending when she is reunited with Mr. Rochester, it is not love but courage that defines her character.

Secondly, Jane Eyre is an independent individual. She completes her schooling, and spends two years teaching, as well. After Miss Temple marries, Jane realizes that she has a great desire to leave Lowood, to see more of the world, and to better her living position. She becomes a governess ? plain and hard-working governess. She believes that "Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex." As a great friendship and affection grow for Jane and Mr. Rochester, Jane notices that Rochester wishes to shower her in jewels, buy her fancy dresses, raise her up to some impossible image of the bride or woman, which does not suit her at all. This new treatment feels unequal, as Rochester would pay for her completely, she feels too dependent on him, and not her own woman. Jane acknowledges that she makes Rochester promise to let her continue on as Adele?s governess and being paid for that so that they are equal, or as she puts it: ?By that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides. I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give me nothing but your regard: and if I give you mine in return the debt will be quit." Jane's views on this affair are extremely feminist when taken out of past perspective. In actuality, she attempt to not change the power dynamics of her relationship with Rochester, to be paid for work, instead of becoming his object or property. But she admits later: "My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol." Jane feels the difference easily though, finally making Rochester promise not to buy her anything, but that she will continue to take care of Adele when they marry, and he will continue to pay her for this work, she will earn her keep and buy her own clothes, so that she is his equal, and nothing of these power subject and gender treatment will change. This goes well with Jane completely and she is greatly happy to have him calling her rude and playful descriptions once again. Her self-respect is most important to her, and this theme dominates the novel.

Moreover, Jane is dominant, assertive and lives according to her values. Though Jane is nothing more than an impoverished governess, she can retort to her haughty employer Rochester: "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? - You think wrong!" And there are no deceit between Jane and Mr. Rochester; rather they converse as almost equals even though they are of different classes and Mr. Rochester is over twenty years Jane's superior in age. In many ways, Mr. Rochester speaks to Jane rudely and sharply; he is commanding in nature and often very diminutive toward her although never in a nasty manner. She criticizes him though, that he is no superior for age or experience but rather because she is a paided governess in his charge. When asked if she feels he is handsome, she blurts without even thinking first:

"--'No, sir.'

'Ah! By my word! There is something singular about you,' said he: 'you have the air of a little nonnette; quaint, quiet, grave, and simple, as you sit with your hands before you, and your eyes generally bent on the carpet (except, by-the-bye, when they are directed piercingly to my face; as just now, for instance); and when one asks you a question, or makes a remark to which you are obliged to reply, you rap out a round rejoinder, which, if not blunt, is at least brusque. What do you mean by it?'

'Sir, I was too plain: I beg your pardon. I ought to have replied that it was not easy to give an impromptu answer to a question about appearances; that tastes differ; that beauty is of little consequence, or something of that sort.'

'You ought to have replied no such thing. Just so: I think so: and you shall be answerable for it. Criticize me: does my forehead not please you?'" And even when her beloved Rochester threatens her beliefs, still Jane chooses to remain her own person even when it means having to part with him. She struggles to resist the efforts of others to mold her to their own views of who she



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