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A study about Jane Eyre
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Marţi, 08 Ianuarie 2019 00:00

A STUDY ABOUT JANE EYRE

Prof. Adriana- Maria Ştefănescu

Liceul Tehnologic Energetic „Regele Ferdinand I”, Timişoara

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, the third of six children. In 1820 the family moved a few miles to Haworth, a remote town on the Yorkshire moors. This is where the Brontë children would spend most of their lives. After her father began to suffer from a lung disorder, Charlotte was again sent to school to complete her education at Roe Head School in Mirfield from 1831 to 1832. The school was extremely small with only ten pupils meaning the top floor was completely unused and believed to be supposedly haunted by the ghost of a young lady dressed in silk. This story fascinated Brontë and inspired the figure of Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is a first-person autobiography of emotive, narrative, and at times mythic power. The orphan heroine suffers, is tried many times, and triumphs. Jane is sent by her aunt, Mrs. Reed to attend the girls’ school Lowood, where she befriends a young girl named Helen Burns, whose strong, martyr-like attitude toward the school’s miseries is both helpful and displeasing to Jane. A massive typhus epidemic sweeps Lowood, and Helen dies of consumption. Jane spends eight more years at Lowood, six as a student and two as a teacher. After that, she accepts a governess position at a manor called Thornfield, where she teaches a lively French girl named Adèle. The distinguished housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax presides over the estate. Jane’s employer at Thornfield is a dark, impassioned man named Rochester, with whom Jane finds herself falling secretly in love. Rochester proposes to Jane, who accepts almost disbelievingly.

The wedding day arrives, and as Jane and Mr. Rochester prepare to exchange their vows, she finds out that Rochester already has a wife, a woman named Bertha. Knowing that it is impossible for her to be with Rochester, Jane flees Thornfield.

Penniless and hungry, Jane is forced to sleep outdoors and beg for food. At last, she is taken by the Rivers, and Jane quickly becomes friends with them. St. John is a clergyman, and he finds Jane a job teaching at a charity school in Morton.

St. John decides to travel to India as a missionary, and he urges Jane to accompany him—as his wife, but she cannot accept St. John’s proposal, who turns out to be her cousin. However, she realizes that she cannot abandon forever the man she truly loves when one night she hears Rochester’s voice calling her name over the moors. Jane immediately hurries back to Thornfield and Rochester, now blind and Jane rebuild their relationship and soon marry. At the end of her story, Jane writes that she has been married for ten blissful years and that she and Rochester enjoy perfect equality in their life together. She says that after two years of blindness, Rochester regained sight in one eye and was able to behold their first son at his birth.

Our heroine puts conscience before love, refusing to become Rochester’s mistress and declining marriage to a clergyman less interested in her than the support she would give his mission. She returns to a Rochester now free to marry, and in need. Jane’s “master”, his mad Creole wife locked in the attic, the foiled bigamy, Jane’s surprise legacy, the telepathic call across the moor, and the blazing Hall, are all representatives of Gothic romance, a genre which the Brontës had adopted in childhood.

Jane Eyre is far more than an English Bildungsroman. Brontë infused the work with the antislavery and revolutionary rhetoric that she and her sisters had read in many 19th-century political tracts. In Jane Eyre, this political language is not used in reference to humanity in general, but with specific regard to middle-class women in Victorian society and the domestic constraints placed upon their lives. In one of the most passionate passages of the novel, Jane tells her readers that women “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.” This plea for equality among the sexes runs throughout the novel as Jane Eyre progressively builds a case for women’s need for liberty, independence, and action.

These feminist aspects of the novel did not go unnoticed by Brontë’s contemporaries. While many early reviews praised the novel, some criticized its radical content and “unfeminine“view of womanhood. Jane Eyre, however, quickly became one of the most influential literary heroines of her time. After the publication of the novel a new type of female protagonist was apparent in Victorian literature—a plain, rebellious, and intelligent one.

Jane Eyre opened the door for other female writers of the period to explore the limitations of women’s lives and their desire for equality. It was a theme that was apparent in many of the great Victorian stories. George Eliot’s Middlemarch, for example, criticizes patriarchy and its moral weaknesses, and brings the frustration of women’s ambitions into focus. The reality of domestic responsibility dictating women’s lives, which Brontë introduced into the Victorian novel through her own evocative use of domestic spaces in Jane Eyre, continued to haunt women writers throughout the 19th century.

Many feminist readings of Jane Eyre focus on key spaces such as specific rooms, windows, and the infamous attic at Thornfield Hall in which Jane’s love interest, Edward Rochester, locks up his first “mad” wife. The domestic sphere is intimately linked with the female body and the female self, and for this reason, much women’s fiction of the time is riddled with details of domesticity. Feminist critics have argued that these are the natural fictional manifestations of women reacting to the strict boundaries and gender ideologies of the time.

References:

1. Duff, A. and Maley, A. 1990. Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press

2. Knights, B. 1992. From Reader to Reader: Theory, Text and Practice in the Study Group. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

3. Paterson, R. W. K. 1979. Values, Education and the Adult. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

4. Swales, J. 1990. Genre Knowledge: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 


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