Charlotte Bronte’s Example for Women
Charlotte Bronte, in her novel, Jane Eyre, establishes us with a first-hand account of a women’s triumph over hardships. Jain was born orphaned, poor, and grew up in an un-loving home. To add insult to injury, she was a woman in Victorian society; a subordinate position to begin with. Throughout the novel, Jane faces many hardships that truly tested her spirit and integrity. She refused to have her life determined for her, and stayed strong through adversity. By giving us the character of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte gives us a medium in which to feel the suffering and powerlessness of Jane’s situations. The first-person narration helps the reader relate more closely to the situation, and the triumph of Jane’s character through her adversities is an example for women to live their lives by.
When Jane is only ten years old, we are shown a glimpse of her strength of character. Facing much resentment and evil in the Reed house, Jane cannot be degraded much longer, at least without saying something about it, and confronts Mrs. Reed:
“I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not 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 Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I(p.45).”
Further portraying Jane’s passion and toughness is what she thought right before standing up for herself.
Speak I must: I had been trodden on severely, and must turn: but how? What strength had I to dart retaliation at my antagonist? I gathered my energies and launched them in this blunt sentence:- (p.45)
This is a huge turning point in Jane’s life; one that greatly affects her for the rest of her life. After continuing her retaliation at Mrs. Reed, Jane feels over-powered. “Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt.”(p.46) This gives Jane a sense of confidence in herself to go out in the world and be what she wants to be. She directly addressed a fear, stood up for herself, and, in the process, gained the strength and fortitude she would need to face her upcoming hardships.
Jane grows up with a natural questioning of authority and an independent, un-coercive mind. She was not going to lay down for just anyone, and was always aware of the oppression she was suffering, and where it was coming from. When Helen tells Jane to be less impulsive and just to obey the rules of her school and god more obediently, without questioning, Jane thinks to herself, “I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance; and still less could I understand or sympathize with the forbearance she expressed for her chastiser(p.66).” When Helen continues to preach about loving your enemies and letting people get away with victimizing you, Jane replies, “But I feel this, Helen: I must dislike those who, whatever I do to please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me unjustly. It is natural as that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved(p.68).” This shows a great deal of insight and moral strength on the part of Jane at such a young age. Jane is sympathetic, affectionate, and spiritual, but that doesn’t mean that she can be walked over.
Jane again faces hardship in her relationship with Mr. Rochester. While taking her shopping and showering her with lavish gifts, Jane feels uneasy. “Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a jeweler’s shop: the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation.”(p.301) Degradation usually is not a word associated with receiving nice gifts. However, Jane felt dependant and inferior, as the way a child would receive gifts from a father because they cannot support themselves, however, without the blind acceptance and lack of guilt that comes with children. Jane again discusses her relationship with Rochester: “It would indeed be a relief, I thought, if I had ever so small an independency; I never can bear being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester”(p.301) This shows Jane’s frustration at not being independent; she has two strikes against her, being a woman, and being poor. She refuses to live in this subordinate situation and tells Mr. Rochester:
“I shall continue to act as Adele’s governess: by that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides. I’ll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money, and you shall give me nothing but-”
“Well, but what?”
“Your regard: and if I give you mine in return, that debt will be quit(p.302).”
Jain, throughout her life, faced many situations in which she had to fend for herself and be independent. This is something unexpected of a young woman during the time-period, her financial independence being particularly unique.
Charlotte Bronte gives us Jain Eyre to serve as an example for women to live their lives after. Born poor and orphaned, Jain maintained strength and integrity through life’s hardships. Life gave her many mountains to climb, but as a result of her perseverance, she gained strength, peace of mind, and a price-less sense of self-worth.