Having gone through the hardships of life, Charlotte Bronte%u0308 uses the character of her book Jane to challenge the unfounded preconceptions of the traditional Victorian society. The writer believes that her character can do everything that human beings are meant to do, regardless of the gender relations that the society has prepared to her fellow women. Instead of accepting these ideologies of the traditional women being dependent and helpless members of the society, Jane resolves to work for her social and economic freedom despite several hurdles that life throws in her way. Jane draws the strengths and motivation to walk her way. Through this, she manages to set herself apart from the rest of the traditional Victorian women despite the challenges of social injustices, social classes, and gender relations.
Jane versus the Traditional Victorian Woman
Jane opens her narration about the sad and unbearable condition to which her aunt has subjected her. However, this severe condition sets Jane for the life-long task of fight for her freedom and refusal to accept the long Victorian believes that women are the weaker gender. Her first confrontation with social injustices was after being pushed to the wall by John’s insults. Jane decides to fight his abusive cousin rather than stand unbearable treatment that traditional women tolerate. Her rebellious actions have led to the red-room punishment. Even after receiving the punishment of loneliness in the red-room, Jane continues to express her disapproval of unjust treatment by resisting two servants, who were ordered to take her to the red-room (Bronte%u0308, 2008). Jane does not only show her disapproval of the unfair treatment but also opts to show women’s ability to stand on their own.
Proving to be the exact opposite of what would be expected of a child, if not a woman in the traditional society, Jane decides to confront her assailants fearlessly and independently. After being accused of deceit, Jane abandoned her position as a young, submissive woman and proceeded to confront Mrs. Reeds plainly. She got so fed up with all the injustices of Mrs. Reeds. She defended herself aggressively without considering the issue of fate as would be expected of any traditional woman.
The author illustrated the vivid contrast between Jane and the traditional Victorian woman by the two distinct personalities represented by Jane and Helen. Helen represents the typical, traditional, submissive woman. She has eventually learnt the art of patient endurance of any hardship without objection, though she takes refuge in Christ’s comfort. To Jane, such fanatic believes and obedience are not any reason to give up on her search for freedom and desire to be treated respectfully. The later believes that women should not just sit helpless and take injustices passively but rather “strikes back again very hard” whenever they are hurt by any individual, whether male, rich or senior (Bronte%u0308, 2008).
As opposed to the traditional Victorian thinking that men are supposed to be naturally superior to women, Jane severally sought for both economic and social equality with men. After Rochester successfully found her to get married, Jane declined Rochester’s offer to dress her in feminine finery, a Cinderella treatment that any ordinary woman would cherish. According to Rochester, a loved woman should be happy to accept the proposal to marry. Jane’s perception of Rochester’s proposal is a possible loss of her freedom. She rejects the possible confinement and repression that is known to characterize the wifehood of a typical Victorian marriage. Of all things, Jane dreads losing her autonomy that this kind of marriage would cause.
Jane wanted marry Rochester as an equal partner. She was looking for wealth, instead of seeking for love as a traditional Victorian woman. Jane chose to suppress her feeling in attempts to be John Eyre’s heir, an option that would make her more economically stable and comfortable to marry Rochester. Eventually Jane’s thirst for equality was quenched when Rochester had lost his wealth and sight. She even became morally superior to Rochester after their failed wedding (Bronte%u0308, 2008).
Whereas many traditional Victorian women would long for a lifelong marriage, Jane saw such marriages as ways of losing woman’s freedom. She felt that living with Rochester as his mistress would result to her dependent and social bondage. Even though she had the feeling of love and emotional desires to be appreciated, Jane refused to be driven by this love. She believed that it would prompt the loss of dignity and freedom. Therefore, the main heroine has acquired her economic and social strengths, not to be swayed by her loneliness, poverty or psychological vulnerability into marriage. The traditional Victorian woman would be expected to go in to marriage in search of these securities. Jane’s strength was further demonstrated by her willingness and eventual move to marry Rochester after losing his sight and most of his fortunes.
In the entire novel, Jane serves the protagonist and facilitates Charlotte’s purposes of expressing discontent with the perception and treatment of women. As many women would seek for social and economic stability in marriage, Jane opposes such ideologies and rather prefer being stable before going into the institution of marriage as an equal partner. The firmly guarded principle of autonomy distinguishes Jane from the rest of the traditional Victorian women.
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