In the first part of the novel, Jane undergoes many different forms of oppression that result in her desire for freedom. It begins with her mother who married down from her and who died with her father when she was very young. After being taken in by Mr Reed, and Mr Reed dying, she was left in a home of which no one wants or likes her. She is continuously being both verbally and physically abused by her cousin John and is ostracised by the whole family due t o the feeling that Jane is of a lower social class.
Jane tries to overcome this oppression by isolation and reading, by reading she feels she is in another world, one where she is away from all the oppression in her life. She also rebels in an attempt to escape her oppression, she rebels against John Reed when he abuses her, by fighting back, and rebels against Mrs Reed by sticking up for herself and proving Mrs Reed wrong. By the time Jane leaves Lowood School, much later in her life when Jane is 18 years old, she has leant a lot. Through her friend Helen Burns, she learns to rise above her oppression and hold back her desire to rebel by accepting and forgiving.
By learning all that she has, she reaches an emotional maturity by gaining the wisdom to know what she wants to do and when she wishes to do it, and finally overcomes her oppression. At the start of the novel, Jane is already in an oppressive family situation. After her parents died, she was taken in by Mr Reed and his family, against their will. Once Mr Reed, the only person in her life who loved her, she was left to live with his family. She is looked down upon by them and is considered to be of a lower social class to them, as she came from a poor family.
Because of her social position, Jane is constantly excluded and oppressed. She really must exclude me from privileges intended only for content, happy little children. ” As well as her exclusion from the family, she suffers many other forms of oppression. She is physically and verbally abuse by her cousin John, and constantly critised about her appearance and that she will never be a part of the family, putting her down and not accepting her. This has a massive psychological effect on Jane, and is one of the greatest forms of oppression in Jane’s life. She suffers from low self-esteem due to this, and her perception of herself is often a negative one.
She is also oppressed by the thought of hell, as the family is always telling her that she must be good or she will be sent to hell, and she is always made to feel sinful. The oppression makes her feel lonely as she is excluded so much and it makes her feel angry of the injustice and unfairness against her, getting the blame for things she hasn’t done , she is made to feel indigated. She desperately wishes to know why she is treated so badly, and is confused about all the forms of oppression she is under. After being excluded from the family, Jane tries to escape her oppression by reading books.
To Jane these provide entries into different worlds and an escape from her own. Whilst reading ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ this proves an unsuccessful escape. Jane realises what the book is really about. She learns that it is horrible and just emphasises how bad the world really is, and how desolate people can be. It is far from the fairy tale she used to believe it was. “I had, till now, never failed to find – all was eerie and dreary: the giants were gaunt goblins, the pigments malevolent and fearful imps, Gulliver, a most desolate wonderer in the most dread and dangerous regions”
Jane also tries to escape her oppression through a rebellion against John. This rebellion is due to years of abuse and oppression. She has reached a point of oppression that she has to physically resist. After reading a book on the Romans, and john hitting her, she uses the book as a symbol of her feeling. Her as a slave and John as a tyrant and it is her natural instinct to protect herself. “I don’t very well know what I did with my hands, but he called me ‘Rat, Rat’ and bellowed out aloud. ” This natural instinct means that she was not in control, meaning that another freedom attempt has failed.
After this rebellion, Jane is taken to the ‘Red Room’, where she is locked up and further oppressed. The language used describes it well. The fact that it is red suggests heat, passion and anger, strong emotions which Jane possesses inside her. Jane’s perception affects the appearance of the room. It is described as chill, although it is a warm colour, silent although it is suppose to be a guests meeting room, and sad although is suppose to be a cherry room, Although the room is luxurious and warm in life, it is a prison to Jane, where isolation does not prove an escape for her mounting oppression.
It has reached a peak and she realises that has no escape, no chance of freedom from oppression if she continues to live. After being locked up in the Red Room, Jane suffers a fit and becomes very ill. This illness leads to Jane becoming treated well. “Bessie, as she moved hither and hither, putting away toys and arranging drawers, addressed to me every now and then a word of unwonted kindness” Because of this kindness and care shown to her during her healing, Jane learns that poverty is not a worthy sacrifice just to be free, but that she should not take any opportunity of freedom if it should be offered.
This kindness also, for the first time in her life gives Jane an opportunity to tell Bessie about the oppression she is subjected to, she decides to be very careful in what she says as she does not want to be thought of as deceitful, as Mrs Reed makes her out to be. Placed with the option of going to school, Jane weighs up the pros and cons of each situation, either staying or going. Jane has never been to school and only hears of stories from Bessie and John Reed. She hears of oppression at school, oppressive subjects, discipline and harsh conditions, but the idea of an education is highly attractive to Jane.
In the end, Jane decides that an education, even with possible oppression, is far better than staying at Gateshead with the severe oppression she is under now, that any form of escape and freedom is worth the sacrifice of further oppression. This decision shows Jane that her character is one that is not prepared to pay the price of poverty, but will for any for any other chance of freedom from her present lifestyle, that even school is better then poverty. During her interview with Mr Brocklehurst, new forms of oppression seem to arise in Jane’s life.
He tries to keep her down and control her by oppressing her with the thought of hell. “No sight so sad as that of a naughty child, especially a naughty, little girl. Do you go where the wicked go after death? ” This has always been an oppressive part of her life with the Reeds, and now she is being further oppressed by Mr Broklehurst. Further oppression is also arisen in the form of Jane’s reputation. Mrs Reed restricts Jane’s freedom at school by poisoning her reputation and creating a negative image of Jane to Mr Broklehurst.
This apresses Jane as she wants her life at school to be a happy one, a new start to life, and she now feels that Mrs Reed has ruined it before it has even began, and that she has restricted her future freedom at the school. Janes rebellion against Mrs Reed is due to many reasons, She now has the chance of going to school and wishes to protect her reputation and depend herself and defend the truth, so when she hears Mrs Reed lying about Jane, saying how ‘deceitful’ and a liar she is, Jane feels she has to stand up for herself and her conscience will not allow her accept her lies anymore.
I am not deceitful: If I were, I would say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you, I dislike you more then anybody in the world. ” Her feelings during this rebellion are expressed using a hot/cold imagery. “Her eye of ice continued to dwell freezingly on mine” The cold imagery represents the lack of love between Jane and Mrs Reed and is used whenever Mrs Reed is mentioned, whilst the hot imagery represents Jane’s fiery, rebellious nature and her hatred towards Mrs Reed. At Lowood School, the orphans are subjected to all types of oppression and harsh conditions.
The food is often uneatable, and are of very small portions. The hunger of the children results in bullying over the food. Jane herself admits to being bullied for her food, “Many a time I have shared between two clairmounts the precious morsel of brown bread distributed at teatime, and after relinquishing myself to a third half the contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the remainder with an accompaniment of secret tears forced to me by the exigency of hunger” The girls were also made to wear insufficient clothing to protect them from the harsh winter.
They are restricted to subjects such as knitting, sewing, music, which are oppressive to the girls as they are being taught to be a perfect wife. The girls are often beaten with twigs and are oppressed physically, as well as socially and psychologically. When Mr Broklehurst visits, he oppresses them even further. He attempts to sexually and religiously oppress them by keeping them plain and simple and removing them of the femininity, as believes it is a Christian act to deny them of any individuality.
This is shown where he orders a girl’s naturally curly hair to be cut off because he believes curls in hair is an act of vanity and wishes the girls to be pure. “My mission is to mortify in these girls the lust of the flesh, to teach them to clothe themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety” He is later shown as a hypocrite when his family arrives, dressed in elegant and expensive clothing. Mr Broklehurst’s hypocrisy, how he is using religion to subjugate the girls, his double standards, and how he is teaching the girls to be poor and to feel ashamed of themselves are revealed to Jane.
In school Helen is treated very badly, she is picked on for the smallest of reasons such as her posture and her pronunciation of words, things which are completely irrelevant to their education. Miss Scatchard is continuously oppressing Helen, and a small mistake can leave her at the bottom of the class, or lead to her being beaten with twigs. This frustrates Jane as they have very different views towards freedom of oppression. Helen believes that if you suffer here on Earth, you will be rewarded for your hard times in Heaven, and that hope is her way of escaping oppression.
She feels that it is Christian to submit to injustice and as a Christian, fights evil with good and is able to forgive and forget. Whilst Helen feels that it is best to accept your fate of oppression, Jane feels differently. She feels that Helen is allowing evil to overcome her, that you should strike back to stop evil striking you, and that if you let evil win, it will become more and more powerful until it is uncontrollable. Jane feels it is natural to resist and to give in would be unnatural.
Helens beliefs teach Jane many things, she learns that poverty doesn’t matter, that acceptance is to try her best and that to endure pain is to overcome oppression. Helen Burns becomes a symbol to Jane, especially during Jane’s punishment. She becomes a martyr, a holy figure which gives Jane hope and strength to rise above the oppression rather then to rebel, it gives her a new route to take to free from the oppression. As Jane grows up, her feelings and state of mind are reflected in the external environment. As the school is regenerated and improved, Jane’s feelings change for the better.
“I had the means of an excellent education placed ithin my reach, a fondness for some of my studies, and a desire to excel in all, together with a great delight in pleasing my teachers, especially such I loved, I urged on. ” For the first time, Jane feels a sense of purpose in her life, has a truly positive opinion of the school, and has not the desire to escape and find freedom as her life is no longer oppressive. After the regeneration of the school, Jane continued to attend Lowood for Six years as a student, and two as a teacher. During this time, Jane learns the importance of companionship and when Miss Temple leaves the school, her companionship is gone.
She realises that there is no longer anything keeping her at the school and her restless, rebellious nature resurfaces once again. Jane goes to the window, which is used throughout the novel as a symbol of the oppression in her life and an escape for her, and when looking out she once again sees the hills surrounding the school. “It was those I longed to surmount, all within their boundary of rock and heath seemed prison-ground, exile limits. I traced the white road….. vanishing in a gorge between two. How I longed to follow it further. ”
She feels entrapped by the hills surrounding her and longs to escape into the unknown, “I desire liberty”. She decides she must leave Lowood. Unlike her time at Gateshead, and her student time in Lowood, she now has the chance to escape her oppression by choice, and she decides it is time to leave and continue her journey to freedom. She advertises as a governess. This decision to become a governess tells us of what Jane has learnt as she has grown. Instead of wanting complete freedom and independence, Jane learns that she is happiest with a balance between freedom and servitude.
Instead of fooling herself into complete freedom, she learns that if she is to escape oppression, she must serve someone new. By the time Jane leaves Lowood, she is not in need of the freedom she once wanted. Janes childhood, and growing up for Jane was indeed a matter of finding freedom from oppression, now that she is grown, she learns that it is not oppression which she is escaping, nor is it freedom she is in search of, she is trying to find a balance of the two in which she can happy. She has learnt to overcome oppression and so is now not in search of freedom from it, she is trying to find happiness within it.