Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte was born in 1816 in Yorkshire. At that time England was fast becoming Europe’s most stable and prosperous country. The Industrial Revolution was initialising. The Industrial Revolution was a time of dramatic change, from hand tools and handmade items, to products which were mass produced by machines. Workers became more productive, and since more items were manufactured, prices dropped, making exclusive and hard to make items available to the poor and not only the rich and elite. The industrial revolution was a time for change.

More opportunities appeared to be offered with the introduction of more factories and ships, railways and steam engines; and all this was taking place under a government and legislature, which were still narrowly restricted to the privileged few that were wealthy by birth or becoming wealthy in commerce. Despite the Industrial Revolution, England remained mostly countryside housing the rich in elaborate homes, the middle class in comfortable homes and even the poor lived in pleasant cottages. By the time Charlotte Bronte was writing ‘Jane Eyre’ it was becoming more evident that a price was being paid for this prosperity.

The Industrial Revolution introduced dirt and squalor, ugliness and crime into the lives of the poor whose circumstances forced them to live and work in the mills and factories of the new towns. Pollution increased, working conditions were harmful, and capitalists employed women and young children, making them work long and hard hours. In Jane’s society a small agricultural community would still be more or less governed by a lord of the manor. The social structure was largely well – ordered and accepted. On the whole it was reasonably fair and humane.

Such was the society in which Charlotte Bronte grew up and such is the setting she provides for her heroine. In Charlotte Bronte’s time women would use marriage to gain money and social status. In marriage women had stability and would rely on their husbands for security a clear example of this in Jane Eyre is the character of Miss Blanche Ingram. She pretends to be in love with Mr Rochester. At the fortune-teller incident she is told that Mr Rochester does not have as much money as she had thought. This immediately dismissed him as a good husband in Blanches eyes.

At that time women were seen as very inequal to men. They were physically inferior meaning they were weaker and perhaps seemed less capable of doing things. Emotionally, men stayed sombre and emotionless whereas women were seen as over- emotional . Men also thought themselves to be smarter. This is all very unfair and sexist. Jane was against this and was strong physically, emotionally and mentally. Jane’s early years clearly formed and shaped her character in her adult life. As a child she was orphaned and was adopted by Mrs Reed.

Mrs Reed adopted Jane because her husbands dying wish was for Jane to be part of his family. At Gateshead with the Reeds Jane was an outsider. She was banished from the Reed family’s cosy domestic scene for an unspecified offence. She would often take refuge in a room from them and read. She was often tortured by John Reed and looked down upon by all the family members. Here she is sullen and withdrawn but also spirited. At times her anger and resentment cause her to flash out at the Reeds. When Jane moves to Lowood we see a different side of her character, a desire to be loved.

When treated kindly she softens, repaying the love shown to her with interest. Even so her anger and resentment continue quietly. Leaving Lowood reveals a sprit of independence and determination. Although impulsive she is not headstrong. Her character continues to develop at Thornfield. She is kind to Mrs Fairfax and looks to befriend Adele while sincerely working in her charge’s best interest. From the beginning she refused to be cowed by Mr Rochester’s frequently over-bearing character. Jane is not easily seduced or intimidated by class.

Jane’s irony is a defence, a means of keeping her deepest feelings hidden from a potentially hostile world and, at times, even from herself. As she gains in trust, she gains in directness but once again she is capable of asserting herself if challenged or abused. Jane has a great source of strength and determination and is able to command herself to do what she feels is right. At Mr Rochester and Jane’s first meeting Mr Rochester is very abrupt with her while she is trying to help. He tries to refuse help from her showing that he did not want to be helped by her maybe because she is a woman.

He does not tell her that he is her employer. This is perhaps so that Mr Rochester could feel intellectually superior because he knew something she did not. At the beginning of Mr Rochester’s and Jane relationship they are quite formal with each other but Jane realises she feels something for him but she is not willing to express this. On through the story Mr Rochester and Jane begin to become more open with their feelings. Jane seems to bottle hers up more than Mr Rochester. When Miss Blanche Ingrim comes to visit Jane realises her feelings for Mr Rochester because she is jealous of Blanche.

When Jane realised the wedding between Mr Rochester and Blanche was not real she was happy. Her and Mr Rochester declared their feelings for eachother and were to be married. There was an urgency in the wedding. There was no guests. Just as they were about to be married Mr Rochester’s secret is revealed to Jane. The fact that Jane did not know about Mr Rochester’s previous wife shows a lack of equality between Mr Rochester and Jane. It was unfair of him to keep the secret from her. It shows that perhaps he thought she did not deserve to know.

This shows that their marriage was unequal and would not have worked. After Mr Rochester tells Jane all his secrets and the stories of his past she leaves. She leaves because she fears she will become just another mistress to him. She leaves early in the morning so that he does not know where she has gone. This act again asserts her independence and free will. She does not need any body else and shows it. After going away from Thornfield for quite a while she returns a slightly different person. She is more mature and quite. She has been through quite a lot of events.

She has learned and developed. When Jane returns it is also evident that Mr Rochester has also changed. There was a fire accident at Thornfield and Mr Rochester is blind and is badly damaged. Janes real love is revealed as she stays with him even though he is not perfect. Mr Rochester was also very depressed and sad. At the end of the book Mr Rochester and Jane are married and together. There seems to be a lot more equality between them. This may be because Mr Rochester had been so dependent on Jane for most things becasue of he was blind.

He has learned that women are equal to me. They are both happy, open and friendly with eachother. This is a complete contrast to their first meeting. At the first meeting they are abrupt, almost cheek and firm with eachother. They did not know each other so they did not talk then. I think that at the end of the book M Rochester has realised not to be sexist. His experience from being almost completely depended upon a woman would have changed him quite a bit. A the end the story is very equal. Neither have any secrets or mysteries between them and both see eachother as equals.

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