Jane Eyre (published in 1847) isconsidered to have invoked admirable exquisiteness, creating lustful and daringactions to occur through being written in the form of bildungsroman. Thecharacter of Jane has been but one of controversy through literature, thequestion of whether her independence is obtained in a world dominated by malesupremacy and authority is proposed. The suggestion that Edward Rochester isused to promote positive implications of femininity offers an interesting butcomplicated effect on the heroine. However, Bronte? presents ‘Jane Eyre’ insuch a way that in fact our heroine is independent, rational and self- willedthroughout, but indeed possess natures of dependency and being irrational inparts of the novel which defies the normality of a typical Victorian woman.From a youngage, Jane Eyre is under the control of men and obliged to become submissive totheir commands. John Reed is one of the first male figures who abuses Janeindicating that age does not define the distinction between men and women orboys and girls.
John Reed harshly attacks Jane by stating ”you have no business to takeour books; you are a dependant, mama says; you have no money” (Chapter 1) thesignificance of class and gender here emphasises the emotional abuse Jane isreceiving from a young and vulnerable age. This evidently shows the impactmentally on Eyre as she is deprived and stripped back from the society she hasbeen forced into, being the upper class. Jane explicitly witnesses the abuse ofpower intertwined with wealth when living with Mrs Reed. John Reed claims sheis ‘dependent’ portrayingto the reader that he does not understand the concept of reality and what Janehas been through. Gilbert and Gubar identified that every woman in a patriarchalsociety both in the Nineteenth and the twenty-first century experience someform of oppression. Jane experiencesoppression at Gateshead, coldness at Marsh End, starvation at Lowood andfinally complete insanity at Thornfield. Therefore, readers gain an insightinto the true and raw suffering from the start to the end.
Concluding that shehas never interacted with men in a way that would be conducive to submissioneven though it seems logical that not being exposed to men would eradicate theneed for equality with men, Jane was never one to follow expectations. Theyoung protagonist builds up an identity which blocks out the dominance andcontrol men will hold over her further on in her life. Furthermore, thecomplicated relationship between Jane and Mrs Reed is one of significant importancein criticising the extent to which Jane Eyre is opposite to the qualities ofdependency, irrationality and therefore left to wallow in self-pity. Janeopenly speaks with confidence against Mrs Reed; ”I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I lovedyou; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in theworld except John Reed” (Chapter 4). This wall which has been built byJane started at this point, she refuses to be treated in such a manner of abuseand control not only by male figure but female ones. This young heroine is thereason why many readers appreciate the way in which Bronte? has created her.The character ofEdward Rochester is one which affects the independency and strength in which Janegains throughout the novel. However this is done through the absurdity andmanipulation explicitly created by this dark and threatening man.
Themes ofsexual desires are targeted to the character of Blanche Ingram; ”as brilliant as her jewels”this simile shows the extent to which the sexual attraction men have and targettowards women due to their looks and physical appearance. This objectifieswomen of the nineteenth century, claiming they are to bow down to therequirements of the men surrounding them. The way in which women oblige to menthrough speech evidently shows that they do not defy the norms placed on them.This subjectiveclaim has been proclaimed in the presence of Mr Rochester which Jane challengeswith the use of repetition towards Blanche Ingram; ”you, a favourite with Mr Rochester? You giftedwith the power of pleasing him?”(Chapter 16). This stands out amongst all declarations made by Jane as it indicatesher disgust that women should not need to defy to the needs of men to gaintheir attention, simply having gratification and modesty is what women shouldaim to show. Arguably this indicates she is obliging to the norms that womenare meant to maintain in the Nineteenth century, therefore portraying that inways she is submissive.
Jane defeats the perception of a stereotypical woman ofthe Nineteenth century through the rejection of marriage. This meant she wasrejecting God, and by doing so Jane was “even worse than infidels” in her cousin’s eyes. Even so,she cannot deny her free spirit and her strong urge for independence makes herfeel trapped by the mere thought of marriage. Women and religion link closelytogether as they have always been portrayed as religion has put men above assuperior against everything else.Many argue thatthe use of a woman was simply so Bronte? could relate to the main character.However, those who do see the feminist tendency in this novel may back theirpoint by citing Jane’s response to Rochester’s proposal as one of the earlierbreakthroughs towards feminism, she declares that ”I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart …”This explicitly portrays Bronte’s achievement of raising the issue of sexualequality. Jane is fighting for her individuality which is exemplified when sherefuses to be reduced to some mere “machine” controlled by the actions of male submission over herown body. Furthermore, Jane defies all rational thought about her when she claims ”I am not talking to you nowthrough the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; — itis my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through thegrave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal, — as we are!” (Chapter 23) Shewill not act in the manner that “custom” or “conventionalities”would deem her to act, but through her own free will.
This is vividly awoman’s attempt to break free of the mould that society has attempted to sether in and the independency of this woman who has matured throughout the novel.In addition, this enables any ready to witness the tragedy and abuse Jane hasgone through, yet she has pulled herself through and become. Though manyagree that Jane Eyre is a feminist novel, there are some who argue thatCharlotte Bronte?’s only intention was to argue the social structure of thetime, therefore creating Jane to be dependent the way she is with Rochester dueto the claim he has on her, hence why she returns to the man she is undeniablyin love with.
Bronte? draws attention to social structure as money plays aninfluential role in the novel. When learning of her inheritance from her UncleReed, she declares; ”athearing one has got a fortune; one begins to considers responsibilities, and toponder business” (Chapter 7) the tone of this identifies one ofseriousness but also mockery as everyone around her takes a huge amount ofwealth for granted. However, arguably there is a sense that Jane does relieveon money throughout which does make her dependent and displaying that a womanmust be reliable on money because she is brought into Rochester’s economicclass. When leaving Rochester,the feelings of sadness, betrayal, and remorse overcomes Jane and “the floods overflowed her”.However, she was still able to break free from the lies he kept from her,making her the heroine who is favoured by many. Jane leaving could beinterpreted in many ways: as an attempt to follow the moral pathways for onceas a display of the power she has accumulated as a woman and her ability toresist to power of others (something another woman may not have been able todo). Terry Eagleton interestingly suggests Jane inherits a strong sense ofdependency and power of the dominant power of RochesterHowever,arguably Jane loses her independency and sense of rationality at the end of thenovel, she confides to the reader, ”All my confidence is bestowedon him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited incharacter—perfect concord is the result.” (Chapter 38).
This interestingly recognisesthat inevitably Bronte? would return Jane back to her ‘rightful’ place withEdward Rochester, which instantly sparks the question; Does Jane have anyself-independence? Many critics view this heroine as one who has sacrificedherself and moulded with Rochester as one. There readers pity her confidencebecause it has completely dispersed. In conclusion,Jane Eyre promotes conflicting ideas on gender and its inequalities involvingfemales as the superior power men obtain impacts the way they are independent. Femalepower is still limited by emotion, as with all other aspects of human capability. Bronte?’s ability to remove Jane’sstrength towards the end displays the raw emotion of the heroine. She easilyreturned to Rochester which invokes the question of whether she is trulyindependent due to the fact she does rely on the support of Rochester.
Thisdefeats her feminist outlook because it conveys the idea that women have a needfor men. However Jane Eyre as a heroine is an evidently strong willed woman whodefies the restrictions placed on her unlike many women who would havesurrounded her.