Charlotte Bronte was an English novelist whose contribute to literature has been nothing short of masterful. Being brought up in a Victorian era and one of very few female writers during that era, Charlotte Bronte was in a position to specifically comment about the social classes and feminist actors pertinent to that era. Amongst her novels have been Villette and Shirley but arguably her most renowned and illustrious novel has been Jane Eyre given the hugely publicised content on feminism and social classes progressing her protagonist that is Jane Eyre through five distinctively orientated phases culminating in Jane Eyre's childhood at Gateshead to her reunion with Rochester. Furthermore, the novel's main objective is to rejuvenate the upper class spheres which have become riddled haughtiness and debauchery. The gender theme is of particular importance due to the fact that Bronte's description of Victorian class hierarchy involves a subtler condemnation of gender inequalities in that era. The whole novel is centred around economic and gender obstacles as the novel present's scenarios where it is evident that Jane's position as a woman precludes from fully exploring the world. This discourse will present a research proposal designed to analyse the theme of feminism in Jane Eyre.
"Feminism" is the term that has been firmly established in contemporary mind and society, everyone has certain associations with female emancipation and equality with men; however, it may seem that several decades ago feminism could not boast such popularity. If feminism may be traced in the literary works of ancient authoresses, it may also be found in any literary era, the Victorian era included. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte was published in 1847, over a century and a half ago. It became popular immediately and has continued to find appreciative audiences throughout every decade since its initial release (Teachman, 185). The long-lasting popularity of the book and its appreciation by contemporary audience may be explained by the topicality and everlasting interest to the main problems tackled by the authoress, such as "gap between the rich and the poor" (Teachman 185), the methods of educating girls, and, certainly, the role of a woman in society. Vital importance of the topic of feminism for contemporary society proves the necessity of study of the literary source under consideration in terms of the gender role in the text of the novel. The challenge of the present research consists in the following: it is necessary to study the existing sources that are devoted to the topic under study and to analyze them, besides, it is necessary to define new directions in the study of the theme of feminism in "Jane Eyre".
One prominent literature critic goes by the name of Sandra Gilbert. Gilbert (2000) in undermining the instances in Jane Eyre makes particular reference to the so called "red room" confinement where Jane Eyre contemplates an escape route from the Reed house either by means of battle or starvations. Gilbert (2000) argues that such a choice is prominent within the entire novel and was not entirely uncommon for heroines during that era of the nineteenth century literature by women. Gilbert adds that such heroines were also faced by a third alternative namely escape via madness or insanity which according to Gilbert was what lead character Jane's momentarily succumbed to. However, Gilbert offers some concession buy adding that whist this emotion was not permanent, the actual rage and fire encased within Jane was. Furthermore, Gilbert is adamant that the hardships faced by Jane appear due to her search for self hood and equality which inadvertently lead to her facilitating the slow moderation of an incendiary rage.
Alma (2006) does cite that Jane's rage does come under some control after the presence of Mr Rochester which progresses through to equality and so underlines "his requirement for solace and parity". However, the parity is jeopardised by the knowledgeable Rochester on the subject of sexual content and likewise Bertha. Such dangers compel Jane to reminisce about the threats she faced in the red room. Gilbert brands Bertha as Jane's criminal twin and is intent on correlating the character with Jane's ferocious bouts of rage. Gilbert concludes that the novel is indicative and representative of the ferocious rage and fire felt by women is a masculinity culture and reminisces about the concept of criticism but rather more reflects on a feminist perspective of the literature about and by the feminist gender. Gilbert is intent on conceptualising about the relation to fairy stories that mirror and reinstate patriarchal values expanding that Jane's experiences and rage regarding the class based economic and social role that limited Victorian women particularly referring to the angel in the house and governess. In summary, Gilbert conceptualises the broad culture milieu within with a young woman by the name of Jane Eyre would have habituated and within which another young woman namely the author Charlotte Bronte did reside and therefore devise the novel.
Similarly in the madwoman in the Attic, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar discuss the concept of literary potential for women in a world designed for and determined by men. More specifically, Gilbert and Gubar refer to nineteenth century woman and how their role was based on their affiliation with the symbols of angels and monsters. Since, the role of an angel was passive and the role of monster was deadly, both roles restricted a woman's behaviour into quiet and shy content characterised by few words in objection. Both authors claim that in the nineteenth century, women lived a quiet and passive live synonymous with the ideals of the eternal feminine vision. The character of Bertha indicates an ominous representation of cynical bouts of passion and insanity. Her violent nature sharply contradicts Jane's calm and collective morality, and as cited by Base (2002) it is of little surprise that Bertha's presence at Thornfield is a pivotal factor in transforming Mr Rochester into a hero. Bertha's position as the "Madwoman in the Attic" raises social questions with respect to femininity and authorship in the Victorian era. In criticism literature analysis from Marsden (2009) cites that Charlotte Bronte didn't restrict her characterisations to the strict dichotomy between angel and monster. Jane Eyre comprises of numerous qualities correlated to the angel i.e. riddled with purity and has moral value.
Simultaneously though as noted by Alma (2006) she is very passionate and independent. Jane declines to capitulate to an inferior position to the men in her life even during instances when she has to choose between autonomy and love. Moreover, as Alma (2006) cites Jane's childhood signifies the equivalent rebelliousness and frustrations qualifies which are characterised by the monster. As such the literature gives a collective perception that the lead author is strong, charismatic and intensifies in her role as she embroils herself in difficult circumstances but continues to remain quietly confident.
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