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Feministic Feminist issues have always been controversial throughout history and

gender topics remain debatable matters in the context of the democratic society of the 21st
century. Social, political and economic inequality between men and women are still
important issues for the contemporary world. Womens rights concerning motherhood or
abortion, the domestic violence within the family, the right to equal pay or the sexual
discrimination and harassment are all issues that are frequently debated in the society of
our century.
The first consideration to be made The first point to be made/ the first thing to say
, when discussing feministic feminist issues is the fact that the concept of gender is
usually defined in terms of social performance. Gender does not exist as such, but it is the
product of social practice. It is continually produced, reproduced, and indeed changed
through peoples performance of gendered acts, as they project their own claimed
gendered identities, ratify or challenge others identities, and in various ways support or
challenge systems of gender relations and privilege.1
The word "feminist" is defined as one who which advocates equal rights for
women. The feminist movement manifested appeared in an organized form during the
late 19th century. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir is one of its major theoretical
texts. The feminist movement in an organized form was in fact the product a
consequence of an older tradition of thought and action expressed by different authors
such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Olive Schreiner or Virginia Woolf.
The aim of this essay is to answer two major questions: can we analyze the novel
Jane Eyre from a feminist perspective?; and what relevance does a heroine from 1847
have for the contemporary woman?
Originally published in London, in 1847, under the male pseudonym Currer Bell,
Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronts Jane Eyre is a complex novel that allows a
variety of critical approaches. It could can/may be regarded as a gothic or a psychological
novel, a romance or a Bildungsroman. The novel can also be analyzed from a feminist
perspective, given its significant statements about issues central to women and their lives
in the Victorian society.

1
Penelope Eckert, Sally McConnell-Ginet, Language and Gender, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 14
In 1966, R.B. Martin stated that Jane Eyre was the first major feminist novel,
"although there is not a hint in the book of any desire for political, legal, educational, or
even intellectual equality between the sexes."2
Jane was not a modern feminist in the sense of claiming her feminist ideals in the
streets, but she expressed these ideals through speech and action. She lived in a "world
that measured the likelihood of her success by the degree of her marriageability," 3 this
involving involved/ included her familial connections, economic status and beauty. On
the contrary,(you are not really contradicting anything) Jane however is an orphan with
no fortune, and repeatedly is described by her author as unattractive, but yet she is able to
break with the conventions of her age. Compared to other young women of her age,
marriage is not Janes main aim in life. When Rochester disguised as an old woman able
to tell her future asks her what tale she likes would like to hear, she replies: Oh, I have
not much choice! They generally run on the same theme courtship; and promise to end
in the same catastrophe marriage. 4
Her major aim is not to get married, but to preserve her identity and her freedom
in a male governed society. That is why Jane has the courage to stand up, to defy the
rules of her society and to speak out each time when she feels being that she is treated
unfairly it does not matter if it is her aunt, her bulling cousin, the cruel headmaster of
the school, or even the man she is in love with. From the very beginning of the novel Jane
has the courage to defy her aunt when she is unfairly punished in the red room. The
cultural and social context of the age must be taken into account when analyzing such a
behavior. At the time, Jane Eyres gesture of talking back to people was totally improper,
because women - especially poor oneswere expected to meekly accept their lot in life.
But she cannot keep quiet and merely accept her condition as a poor orphan, because at
the end of her discourse, she feels her soul begin "to expand, to exult, with the strangest
sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt... as if an invisible bond had burst and that I had
struggled out into unhoped-for liberty" 5. This is the beginning of a spirit that Jane carries
forward into her future relationships with men, beginning with the detestable Mr.
Brocklehurst.
2
<http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/bronte1.html >.
3
http://mina131.hubpages.com/hub/Feminist-Ideals-and-the-Women-of-Jane-Eyre
4
Charlotte Bront, Jane Eyre. London: Penguin, 1994, p. 128
5
Idem, p. 7
Another proof of her free spirit and feminist ideals is her relation with Rochester.
Even if she is a governess (less than a member of the family, but more than a servant
given her education), she does not consider herself inferior to Rochester in terms of
spiritual qualities. She insists she is much more than her social status, saying "Do you
think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and 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 now for me to leave you" () Do you think I am an automaton? a machine without
feelings?...Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and
heartless? You think wrong I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart...I
am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of
mortal 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.6
She wants recognition that both sexes are equal in terms of heart and spirit. She
defines herself as a spiritual human being, refusing to be defined in terms of so-called
"marriageability". She merely rejects the idea of being objectified, even if Rochester tries
to objectify her, when he buys her all kinds of expensive jewels and garments. (the more
he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation") 7.
Marriage is a sort of entrapment that will make her loose lose both her independence and
her true self. That is the reason why she cannot accept a marriage as a mere convention
and why she refuses his cousins proposal. His attitude towards her refusal is relevant for
womens condition in the Victorian Age. St John is angry with her because he rejects the
idea that a woman does might not want to get married:
(A)nd do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but God. Through my
means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife only can you enter upon it. Refuse to
be my wife, and you limit yourself forever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity.
Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have denied faith, and
are worse than infidels!8

6
Idem, p. 198
7
Idem, p. 164
8
Idem, p.215
To refuse getting married was seen as an act of refusing God Rejecting an offer of
marriage was seen as rejecting God and by doing so Jane was even worse than infidels
in her cousins eyes. Even so, she cannot deny her free spirit and her strong urge for
independence makes her feel trapped by the mere thought of marriage. Becoming a wife
means being forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn
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inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital
The comparison to an imprisoned flame is a strong metaphor for her feelings of
entrapment.
There are critics such as Sandra Gilbert in the The mad woman in the attic who
consider that it is not Bertha who is the impediment to Janes marriage with Rochester,
but Janes female rage in a patriarchal culture governed by economic and social roles that
constrained women to be the angel in the house. From this perspective Bertha becomes
"Jane's truest and darkest double: the angry aspect of the orphan child, the ferocious
secret self Jane has been trying to repress ever since her days in Gateshead." 10 It is
important to observe that Jane accepts the marriage with Rochester only after having
received a large inheritance from her uncle and only after Berthas death. In other words
Jane becomes Rochesters wife after freeing herself from the raging specter of Bertha"
and from the "self-pitying specter of the orphan child", briefly from her past. She is not
only Rochesters wife, but also his equal. Marriage is her free choice and becoming a
wife does not mean any longer to keep the fire of her nature low.
Taking into account all these arguments, it is evident that Jane Eyre can be
analyzed from a feminist perspective. The other question this essay tries to answer is
whether this kind of character is relevant in any way for the women of in our
contemporary society. Why should we be interested in Janes story? Why was the last
movie launched in 2011 and based on Charlotte Brontes novel, launched in 2011 was a
real succes?
Even if we assume that attitudes towards marriage have changed in our society,
that and women are no longer defined in terms of marriageability, they may have not
change as much as we would like to think. Bridget Jones Diary, a best-seller dealing
with matrimonial issues, published by Helen Fielding in 1996 is a good example in this
9
Idem,p.216
10
http://www.coursehero.com/file/1722830/whatisfeministcriticism/
sense. The novel was first published as a diary in The Independent and later on in The
Daily Telegraph. Shortly after, a movie called Bridget Jones; the edge of reason ,
having with the same subject as the book was launched. The movie was a great success.
In 2012 Helen Fielding announced that the story would continue and that she was
working on a third novel about Britain's favourite singleton, Bridget.
The novel is a diary of a single woman in her early thirties living in London in the
1990s. The plot is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Bridget seems
obsessed with her own personal life. Moreover, Bridgets mothers main goal is to find a
man for her daughter. Fielding received much criticism from a feminist point of view.
Being Her heroine, obsessed with getting married, she seems to contradict everything that
the feminist movement has achieved. On the other hand, there are also critics considering
who consider that Bridget is the epitome of the liberated woman she can match macho
in drinking, smoking and swearing; she will stand up to anyone; and she takes both
reputable career and sexual freedom for granted. 11
However, analyzing Bridget Jones from a feminist point of view is not the aim of
this essay. The example was mentioned in order to demonstrate that the contemporary
society that is supposed to be free from any prejudice is still very interested in marriage
and courtship matters. The actions of the two novels are set in very different ages; the
Victorian age and the 1990s. The characters are also very different in terms of values and
attitudes towards marriage (Jane does not want to get married, whereas Bridget is
obsessed with it). Despite this fact, the expectations that the society has from of the two
young women are very similar. According to Millett, this is because our society, like all
historical civilizations societies in history, is a patriarchy and patriarchys chief
institution is the family 12
To sum up, people are still interested in the story of Jane Eyre, because in our
society, as it was said at the beginning of the essay, feminist issues are not at all solved by
no means resolved and continue to give birth rise to many debates and controversies.

11
Marsh, Kelly. A. Contextualizing Bridget Jones. 12 Jan. 2007,
<http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3709/is_200401/ai_n9469551>.
12
Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. 7 Jan. 2007, http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/book-sum/millett.html>.