From a feminist point of view Jane Eyre is a confusing novel! On a given page one may think that Jane has a seemingly weak character, but on another page one would want to sympathize with her, or want to help her. This is why it is difficult to label Jane Eyre as a feminist novel, or just a story about a who overcomes hardships in her life.
Jane Eyre can be easily seen as an antifeminist novel. There are many characters and events in the story that would force one to believe that this novel is not feminist. One of the most obvious reasons would be the characters that Jane looks up to.
At Lowood the only people that Jane has to look up to are Mrs. Temple and Mr. Brocklehurst. Mrs. Temple was a negative role because she only had her position when the male figure wasn’t around. She was often told that she was trying to overpower Mr. Brocklehurst, and when he did, she gave into him! Brocklehurst was a negative role for Jane because he didn’t believe that women were equal to men. He used his power to control everything that he could. He also publicly embarrassed Jane, which made her quest for independence and equally even harder.
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Even the marriage between Mr. Rochester and Bertha Mason give the novel an antifeminist twist. It shows that a man is using a woman for her money, and status. He married her for all of the wrong reasons…he didn’t marry her for love or equality. When Rochester realizes that he really doesn’t love Bertha, he locks her up so he can feel free to pursue other women. That’s just not right.
These reasons are why Jane Eyre could be considered an antifeminist novel. Those were just cover-ups though to the truth theme of the novel: the equality of women. There are many reason to believe that the novel is feminist. One of the most obvious reasons would be Jane’s dream to been seen equal to Rochester. Jane’s only wish was to marry a man who would see her as his equal, because she wouldn’t fight and compete with him to be seen that way.
Charlotte Bronte imagined a world where the husband treated his wife with respect and thought of her as his equal. When Jane and Rochester fall in love she makes it clear to him that she will not be walked all over, and wouldn’t stay in his shadow. Unfortunately, Jane finds out about Bertha and sees how overpowering Rochester can be. This causes her not to want to marry him, and then she had no one to turn to.
At that point in Jane’s life she knew that she couldn’t marry Rochester, because she did not want to be the next Bertha. Jane knew that she had to establish herself as an independent woman before she could consider marrying Rochester.
There are many events in Jane Eyre that show that Rochester needs Jane in his life. That shows that if Rochester is capable of needing Jane then he would be ready to treat her as an equal. That was shown when Jane pulled him out of his bed fire. Had Jane not been there, who knows what would have happened, therefore showing that Rochester needed Jane.
When Jane returns to Rochester’s and learns that Bertha is and he is blind she goes to find him and realizes that she is capable of being his equal. For the first time he realizes that he truely needs Jane, and she feels truely needed. She decided to follow her heart and marry him for love, not money or status.
Although Jane Eyre wasn’t written during a time when women were seen as equals, it is a feminist novel. It should be labeled as feminist because when it was published Charlotte didn’t want to give away that she was a woman, because she knew that it wouldn’t have been published. It would have lost readers if the novel had been seen as purely feminist. Another reason that Jane Eyre is a feminist novel is that it was hard for Charlotte to make strong independent characters, because she herself wasn’t able to be independent. Even though Jane Eyre is not often viewed as a purley feminist novel…it is, and Charlotte Bronte did an amazing job creating a world where women were equal to men even though in the real world it wasn’t possible.
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