http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1260/1260-h/1260-h.htm face of such hardships in life, a courageous

 

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Jane Eyre’s story tells
us that in a man dominated society, a woman should strive for decency and
dignity. In face of such hardships in life, a courageous woman should be brave
enough to battle against it and self esteem is the primary element to protect.
And the feminism taught how to defend ourselves. Whenever we are helpless in
the bad conditions, we should try to survive the life. As to a happy marriage a
certain amount of fortune is necessary. While as to the lover, independence and
equality as a human is the first task. A marriage without love is lifeless
therefore a perfect match is based on love, equality in status and a good
fortune.

Jane goes against the
expected type by refusing subservience, disagreeing with her superiors,
standing up for her rights and venturing thoughts. She is not only successful
in terms of wealth and position but more importantly in terms of family and
love.

Charlotte Bronte
depicts Jane Eyre’s image through three steps. The first step is her feminism
thought starts to sprout from her fighting to her poor child life and the
second step is her feminism thought shapes from the miserable experiences in
the boarding school. The impressive part is the third step of her pursuit for
true love, independence and equality, where the feminist thought grows to
mature.

Jane’s major aim is not
to get married, but to preserve her identity and freedom in a male governed
society. That’s the reason which makes Jane, courageous to stand up, to defy
the rules of her society and to speak out each time when she feels that she is
being treated unfairly, it does not matter to her whether if it is her aunt,
her bullying cousin, the cruel headmaster of the school, or even the man she is
in love with.

Jane faces great
unconformity with the social environment at that time. Though she dares to
fight against the conventional marriage ideas, which well reflects all
feminists voice and wish for a true love.

During this period Jane
covered her name, she wanted to make a new living. While being a teacher in a
small village she made friends with John and his sisters. Though John appears
to be a handsome guy and he proposed to Jane, she cannot accept him this is the
reflection of her iron determination in pursuing love. She does not want an
affectionless love. A decent and handsome man as John is, Jane Eyre cannot accept
him because his love would be “one of
duty, not of passion.”  She knows very well that humiliated marriage
is not a true love. He makes an offer of marriage to Jane because he thinks
that Jane is a good choice for a missionary’s wife. He finds her docile, firm
and tenacious. Because John just needs this kind of assistant. Jane says that
if she joins St. John she is abandoning half herself and if she goes to India,
she is going to premature death. She insists that true love should be based on
equality, mutual understanding and respect. So she refuses John’s proposal.

In Jane’s life, the
pursuit of true love is an important representation of her struggle for self
realization. For her love is pure as well as divine, it cannot be measured by
status, power, or property. Having experienced a helpless childhood and a
miserable adolescence, she expects more than a consolable true love. She suffers
a lot in her pursuit of true love. Though, she obtains it through her long and
hard pursuit.

As a feminist woman she
represents the insurgent women eager for esteem and without esteem women like
Jane cannot get the real emancipation.

In most of people’s eyes, nobody would like to marry
a man who loses his sight and most all his wealth. But as to Jane, she is
different. In her mind pure love is the meant to be meeting of hearts and minds
of two people.

Jane does not think that she is making a sacrifice.
She says: “I love the people if love is
that to make a sacrifice? If so, then certainly I delight in sacrifice.”

By the end of novel,
Jane returns to Ferndean Manor and marries Rochester. By that time Mr.
Rochester loses sight of both eyes and disabled. In this circumstance Jane
comes back to Mr. Rochester caring for nothing but this man. She says: “I find you lonely, I will be your
companion, to read to you, to walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you,
to be eyes and hands to you. Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you
shall not be left desolate, so long as I live.”(Bronte 618)

She
wants recognition that both sexes are equal in terms of heart and spirit. Jane
Eyre defines herself as a spiritual human being, the proof of her free spirit
and feminist ideals is her relation with Rochester. Though she is a governess
she does not consider herself inferior to him.

Do you think, because I am poor,
obscure, plain and little, I am soulless or heartless? You think wrong! I have
as much soul as you and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some
beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as
it is for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of
custom, conventionalities, nor even of moral flesh: it is my spirit that
addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we
stood at God’s feet, equal-as we are! (Bronte 356)

Jane’s relationship
with Mr. Rochester is a constant struggle for her to maintain her own
individual identity; she plays the role of servant yet makes it perfectly clear
to him that she does not consider herself below him in terms of spiritual
qualities. She insists she is more than her social status, saying:

Jane’s leaving of Mr.
Rochester, exhibits her courage. By this deed, she both defies the Victorian
expectation of submitting man’s will, and shows that she can break from the
emotional power that Mr. Rochester wields over her. Jane’s refusal to become a mistress
shows that she has maintained a certain dignity.

Though she had a deep affection for Rochester, she
could not stand any compromise in her marriage. She is the whole one and cannot
be laughed or argued by others in this aspect, she wouldn’t give up her
independence and self respect. So she decided to leave her beloved one Rochester
and wanted to make a new life.

I care for myself. The more
solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will
respect myself. I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man. I will
hold to the principles received by men when I was sane, and not mad as I am
now, laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation,
they are for such moments as this when body and soul rise in mutiny against
their rigor, stringent are they, inviolate they shall be. (Bronte 447)

The time Jane spends,
in the Thornfield hall is the most splendid part of the whole book. Meeting
Rochester and falling in love with him, reflected the feminism in Jane and her
new thoughts. She loves Rochester with all her heart but Rochester’s wealth and
status make him so high above for Jane to approach, though she never feels
herself inferior to Rochester. She is a humble family teacher. She believes
that they are fair and should respect each other, it is her uprightness,
loftiness and sincerity that touch Rochester. He feels from the bottom of his
heart that Jane is the spiritual partner that he longs for. When the heroine is
moved by his whole-heartedness, they fall in love deeply. But at the time of
wedding she finds out the fact that Rochester has had a legal wife. Jane feels
heartbreaking on this news and it makes her trapped in a dilemma whether she
should stay or leave. She says to Rochester:

Jane Eyre’s rebellion
against Mrs. Reed and John represents her feminist consciousness in getting
esteem from other people as a decent and respectable person.  Little Jane was send to Lowood boarding
school where she learned a lot and became much stronger and independent. During
Jane Eyre’s stay at the orphanage of Lowood, she is aware of a fact that even
in the face of powerful and authoritative people like the chief inspector of
the charity school, Brocklehurst, as long as her esteem and dignity hurt ruthlessly
she will never submit but rebel against it decidedly.

How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I?
Because it is the truth. You think I had no feelings, and that I can do without
one bit of love or kindness, but I can’t live so, and you have no pity. I shall
remember how you push me back roughly and violently pushed me back into the red
room, and locked me up there-to my dying day. Though I was in pain, though I
cried out, have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed! (Bronte44)

Jane must be thankful
to her aunt Reed rather than being rude. When Jane was about to leave Gateshead
to the charity school. Mrs. Reed thinks she can make Jane frightened by her
status and decides to give a hypocritical and sanctimonious talk to guide Jane
to express gratitude in front of Mr. Lloyd. But Jane Eyre refuses to be this
rich lady’s doll being treated as unemotional and shameless. She retorts back
straightly and powerfully:

Jane was very young
when she lost her parents, unfortunately her uncle Mr. Reed also dies after few
years, Jane could live a good life if his uncle would be alive. Her aunt Mrs.
Reed regarded Jane as a jinx and let her children John, Eliza and Georgina
neglect and abuse Jane. They dislike Jane’s plain look. These only relatives of
Jane do not show sympathy or care to this pitiful girl, they always criticize
and bully her. Aunt Reed always treats Jane as an encumbrance inferior to a
maid. Eventually one day little Jane had an argument with her cousin and was
beaten. Being locked in a room for a night, Jane was ill at that time her early
feminism came out. In the face of Mrs. Reed Jane refuses to be treated as
inferior being and speaks out against discriminations to her with cold and
sharp exposure. When Mrs. Reed reproaches Jane for telling a lie out of all reason,
Jane defends herself: “I’m not deceitful.
If I were, I should say I loved you,
but I declare, I don’t love you. I dislike you the worst of anybody in the
world except John Reed, and this book about the liar, you may give to your
girl, Georgina, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.” (Bronte43)

Jane Eyre, did not take
to the streets with her feminist ideals, but she expressed her view of women’s
equality in a subconscious way, through word and deed. Jane however is an
orphan with no fortune, and repeatedly is described by her author as
unattractive, but she is still able to break the conventions of her age. She
faces hardships with great determination.  Firstly raised by Mrs. Reed, a cruel aunt,
then afterwards she is sent to Lowood a bleak charity school run by the
tyrannical Mr. Brocklehurst, where she endures a lonely and sad life. Jane
faces the prospects of a young woman lacking the social advantages of family,
money and beauty. She endures so much suffering throughout the novel. She
suffers through the cruel treatment of Lowood because her aunt Mrs. Reed wants
to punish her for her rebelliousness, she suffers heartbreak for her attempt to
marry beloved Rochester, and suffers an estrangement from St. John when she
chooses to uphold her belief that marriages should be for love and not for the
convenience. Despite the pain that her choices bring her, she manages to
maintain her independence in the face of the overwhelming powers over her. And
despite the happy ending when she is reunited with Mr. Rochester, it is not
love but courage that defines her character. Her kindness, intelligence and
independence attract the hero. She loved Mr. Rochester but she proves to have
even stronger command over her dignity than her emotions.

The purpose of writing this paper is to analyze the novel Jane Eyre from a feminist perspective,
given its significant statements about issues central to women and their lives
in the Victorian society. During the mid nineteenth century, the women were
supposed to carry the burden of “staying in her place”. In other words a woman
was a subject to generally accept the standards and roles that the society had
placed upon her which did not necessarily provide her with liberty, dignity or independence.
In Victorian period the society is man controlled and man dominated, and women
are subject to the voice of men. It is impossible for a low status woman to
have a decent life or a good marriage. Women are discriminated in the patriarch
society, in this period the female writers take the pens to speak for the
oppressed women and Jane Eyre comes
to be the most influential novel. Jane Eyre is clearly a critique of
assumptions about both gender and social class. It contains a strong feminist
stance. Jane Eyre is an epitome of femininity, a young independent individual
steadfast in her morals and has strong Christian virtues, dominant, assertive
and principled.

A
Feminist Approach to Jane Eyre: Struggling for self realization

15 January 2018

Research Methodology

Dr. Naveed Rehan

Meher Mehdi