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A Study of the Heroine of Jane Eyre

By Holly Turner,2014-07-09 13:52
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A Study of the Heroine of Jane Eyre

    论文题目 A Study of the Heroine of Jane Eyre

     --from a perspective of Feminism

    

     英语语言文学

     06

    

    指导教师

     教授

    2010 6月)

    CONTENT

     I.Introduction

    II.A Brief Introduction of Feminism

    III. Jane Eyre‟s Rebelliousness as a Woman

     3.1 Jane Eyre‟s Rebelliousness as a Woman 3.2 Jane Eyre‟s Desire for Equality and Liberty IV. Conclusion

    Bibliography

    Acknowledgement

    夏洛蒂?勃朗特作为十九世纪英国杰出的女作家之一,她的代表作《简?爱》

    自出版以来受到读者和文学评论者的广泛关注和欢迎。作者从女权主义的角度分

    析了作品中的女主人公 ---?爱,从而发现了女权主义在当时社会的发展情况。

    文共分为四部分。第一部分介绍了作者夏洛蒂?勃朗特的生平以及她的代表作《简?爱》,第二部分简要地介绍了女权主义及其发展。第三部分主要从女权

    主义角度分析了简?爱。这也是整篇论文的主体部分。简?爱是一位充满感情和激情的女性,在她生活的那个时代是不合时宜的。她渴望得到自由和平等,同时她

    的反叛精神贯穿了整部小说。更为可贵的是,她不仅争取自己在社会中的平等地

    位,她还关注所有女性的命运。简爱从孩提时就具有反抗精神,她认为她的舅妈

    和表弟对她是不公正地,并加以反抗,她希望与表兄妹处于平等的地位。后来她

    在罗伍德慈善学校时,她又希望与其他同学处于平等的地位;进入桑菲尔德庄园

    当一名家庭教师后,她还是努力地想获得尊严和平等,即使当她和罗彻斯特先生

    恋爱之后,罗彻斯特想给她很多奢侈品,但是她都一一拒绝了。当她在婚礼上得

    知罗切斯特先生有一位精神失常的妻子,毅然决然地拒绝成为他的情妇而离开了

    他。这些都能看出一位伟大的女权主义者的本色。

    第四部分是本文的结论。简爱在一定程度上反映了她的创作者所处时代的社

    会现实、女性地位和女性意识。本文认为随着时代的发展,女性地位和女性意识

    都得到了不同程度的提高。

    ABSTRACT

    Charlotte Bronte is one of the most remarkable women writers in the

    19th-century English literature. Her representative work--Jane Eyre -- has been enjoying enormous popularity since its publication.

    By analyzing the heroine---Jane Eyre from feminism, we can find the

    development of feminism. It can be clearly seen that Jane Eyre is rebellious and

    desires for equality and liberty, she is financially and spiritually independent in her

    relationship with her lover, Mr. Rochester, and appears to be a new woman.

    In short, Jane Eyre reflects the social realities, women‟s position and women‟s female consciousness in the certain period its creator was in .The thesis presents the

    improvement of women‟s position and women‟s female consciousness with the

    passage of time.

    KEY WORDS: feminism equality independence

I.Introduction

    Jane Eyre is one of the most famous novels written by women in England in the

    19th century and it‟s among my favorite novels. Jane Eyre tells the story of an orphan girl. Jane Eyre, the daughter of a poor parson, loses both of her parents shortly after

    birth. She lives at the household of her aunt, Mrs. Reed, an unfeeling woman, who is

    rude and unjust to the poor orphan. Mrs. Reed‟s children also find pleasure in teasing and mocking Jane. One day, unable to bear the ill-treatment any longer, Jane tells

    straight to her aunt‟s face what she thinks of her. Mrs. Reed is furious and gets rid of Jane by sending her to a charity school for poor girls in Lowood. Maltreated by the

    authorities and leading a half-starved existence, Jane stays here for 8 long years, spent

    in studies, and the remaining in the capacity of a teacher. Then Jane gets a position of

    governess in the family of Mr. Rochester, a rich squire. Rochester falls in love with

    Jane, and she with him. They are about to be married when Jane breaks the

    engagement on the wedding day, learning that Mr. Rochester has a wife, a raving

    lunatic who is secretly kept under lock and key in the house. Shocked by the news,

    Jane flees from the house. She goes through a lot of hardships. After nearly perishing

    on the moors, she is taken in and cared for by a parson, Rev. Rivers. He helps her to

    get the job of a teacher in a village school. Meanwhile, a great misfortune befalls Mr.

    Rochester: he loses his sight during a fire in the house, set by his mad wife who dies a

    tragic death by jumping off the roof in spite of his attempt to save her. Hearing that

    Mr. Rochester is penniless and disabled, Jane Eyre hurries to him and becomes his

    wife.

    Since its publication, it has attracted a lot of attention from critics and common

    readers. In 1847, George Henry Lewes, one of the soundest of Victorian critics,

    reviewed Jane Eyre in Fraser‟s magazine that “…reality --- deep, significant reality -- is the greatest characteristics of the book” (Blackburn, 2002:99). Then, some critics

    began to focus on its character drawing, its treatment of love, its plot, etc.. At the end

    of the twentieth century, discussions moved to Bertha Mason. Sandra Gilbert and

    Susan Gubar, in The Madwoman in the Attic in 1979, took the figures of Bertha Mason “as representative of the 19th century female imagination, forced to divide

    itself between a compromising heroine like Jane Eyre, and an outrageous figure like

    Bertha Mason who, by her very presence in the text, register the anger which is also

    experienced by the heroine.”

    From the literature review, the author of the thesis has learned that feminist

    criticism appeared after World War II as a literary branch of the women‟s liberation,

    which is a comparatively new kind of criticism and is still popular today. In the

    later part of the twentieth century, it becomes common for literary critics to pay

    attention to the feminist elements in Charlotte Bronte‟s novels. Feminism, as a literary

    criticism, has attracted my attention. So I decide to make a analysis of the heroine

    from a perspective of feminism. Through the analysis, I hope to find out the reflection

    of social realities in the literary work and women‟s position in a certain period of history and the improvement of women‟s position with the passage of time.

    This thesis, chiefly made up of four chapters, aims to analyze Jane Eyre from a

    perspective of feminism. The first chapter briefly introduces the life of Charlotte

Bronte and Jane Eyre, the argument of the thesis and the purpose that I wrote this

    thesis. The following chapter is an introduction of Feminism in literary history. The

    third chapter is the body of the thesis. In this part, the author make a deeply analysis

    of Jane Eyre from a perspective of feminism.

    The last chapter is the conclusion of the paper. On the basis of the analysis of Jane

    Eyre, it is concluded that women in nineteenth century desire to be as equal and

    liberal as men.

    II.A Brief Introduction of Feminism

    Feminism first appeared in France, which refers to “the belief and aim that

    women should have the same rights, power, and opportunities as men” (Collins Cobuild Advanced Lerner‟s English Dictionary, 2003:527). Then, it began to spread

    through England and

    America and gradually became popular. Later, it affected China through the medium

    of Japan. Virginia Woolf, an English woman writer, published A Room of One’s Own

    in 1929, which is the first major achievement of feminist criticism in the English

    language. The Second Sex, written by the French woman writer Simone de Beauvoir and published

    in 1949, declared that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Both of the women writers have had a great effect on the later development of feminism in the

    western world.

    Elaine Showalter, one of the leading feminist critics in the United States, has identified three historical phases of women‟s literary development: the Feminine

    phase as the period from the appearance of the male pseudonym in the 1840s to the

    death of George Eliot; the Feminist phase as 1880 to 1920, or the winning of the vote;

    and the Female phase as 1920 to the present, but entering a new stage of

    self-awareness about 1960. There are four significant current practices of feminist

    approaches, which are gender studies, Marxist feminism, psychoanalytic feminism

    and minority feminist criticism. “ Elaine Showalter has observed that „English

    feminist criticism, essentially Marxist, stresses oppression; French feminist criticism,

    essentially psychoanalytic, stress repression; American feminist criticism, essentially

    textual, stresses expression‟” (Guerin, 1999: 203). Marxist feminist criticism focuses on the relation between reading and social realities. Karl Marx argued that all

    historical and social developments are determined by forms of economic production.

    Marxist feminists thus combine study of class with that of gender. In Marxist

    feminism, personal identity is not seen as separate from cultural identity. Indeed,

    feminism and feminist literary criticism are often defined as a matter of what is absent

    rather than what is present. In its diversity, feminism is concerned with the

    marginalization of all women; that is, with their being relegated to a secondary

    position. Most feminists believe that our culture is a patriarchal culture: that is, one

    organized in favor of the interests of men. Feminists try to explain how power

    imbalances due to gender in a given culture are reflected in or challenged by literary

    texts. Literature will often reflect the cultural assumptions and attitudes of its period,

    and that of course includes attitudes towards women: their status, their roles, their

    expectations. In general, the target of feminist criticism is to awaken women‟s

individual consciousness, so as to expose the fraudulent values of patriarchy, break

    the shackles it has long since imposed on the female and call for their resistance

    against the unjust treatment to them.

    III.

    Charlotte Bronte was actually the third of the five daughters born to the Irish

    curate of Haworth. The girls‟ mother died in 1821, leaving the children in the care of

    their aunt. Living in the rectory, Charlotte had little to do other than read or write. For

    such, it is perhaps less surprising that as a child in her early teens, she wrote at least

    23 complete “novels”. The loneliness she experienced was clearly quite acute. She

    was first educated at the Clergy Daughters‟ School at Cowan Bridge, perhaps an unsurprising choice of institution for a father who, it is understood, preferred to take

    meals alone in his study. She later went on to attend Roe Head School between 1831

    and 1832, and returned to teach at the school later in the decade. From 1839 to 1842,

    she acted as a governess before

    traveling to Brussel with Emily, her younger sister, for language training (French and

    German) and music lessons .In 1836, Charlotte Bronte wrote to Robert Southey to ask

    him for advice on her writing. In his reply, it said that: “Literature cannot be the

    business of a

    woman‟s life, and ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the

    less leisure will she have for it even as an accomplishment and recreation” (Tang,

    1998:188). Then, in her answer, she wrote that: Following my father‟s advice---who

    from my childhood has counseled me, just in the wise and friendly tone of your

    letter--- I have endeavored not only attentively to observe all the duties a woman

    ought to fulfill, but to feel deeply interested in them. I don‟t always succeed, for

    sometimes when I‟m teaching or sewing I would rather be reading or writing; but I try

    to deny myself; and my father‟s approbation amply rewarded me for the privation. (Tang, 1998:283)

    Charlotte Bronte‟s novel Jane Eyre embraces many feminist views in opposition

    to the Victorian feminine ideal. Charlotte Bronte herself was among the first feminist

    writers of her time, and wrote this book in order to send the message of feminism to a

    Victorian-Age Society in which women were looked upon as inferior and repressed

    by the society in which they lived. This novel embodies the ideology of equality

    between a man and woman in marriage, as well as in society at large. As a feminist

    writer, Charlotte Bronte created this novel to support and spread the idea of an

    independent woman who works for herself, thinks for herself, and acts of her own

    accord. Women of the Victorian era were repressed, and had little if any social stature.

    They had a very few rights and

    fewer options open to them for self-support. For most women the only way to live

    decently was to get married, and in many cases it was not up to the women to choose

    whom she married. It was almost unheard of for a woman to marry out of her social

    class. If a woman

    did not marry, the only ways she could make a living other than becoming a servant

    was either to become a prostitute or a governess. For the most part, a woman was not

    given the opportunity to go to school and earn a degree unless she was born into a

high social class.

    The average Victorian woman was treated not as a person, but as an object or piece of

    property. She had very few rights either in society, or marriage. In Charlotte Bronte's

    Jane Eyre the main character, Jane Eyre, explores the depth at which women may act

    in society and finds her own boundaries in Victorian England. There is an ample

    amount of evidence to suggest that the tone of Jane Eyre is in fact a very feminist one

    and may well be thought as relevant to the women of today who feel they have been

    discriminated against because of their gender. At the beginning of the 19th century,

    little opportunity existed for women, and thus many of them felt uncomfortable when

    attempting to enter many parts of society. The absence of advanced educational

    opportunities for women and their alienation from almost all fields of work gave them

    little option in life: either becomes a housewife or a governess. Although today a tutor

    may be considered a fairly high class and intellectual job, in the Victorian era a

    governess was little more than a servant who was paid to share her scarce amount of

    knowledge in limited fields to a child. With little respect, security, or class one may

    have no choice but become a governess, like Jane Eyre.

    3.1 Jane Eyre’s Rebelliousness as a Woman

    Jane Eyre is a novel about one woman‟s journey through life, so Charlotte

    Bronte described Jane‟s experience in detail to show the inferior position of the

    woman and the poverty of society. In the opening chapters of Jane Eyre --- indeed on

    its very first page ---

    there is writing with that special female ink trampled from the grapes of wrath and a

    female who has her say “no”. “No-saying, for a woman writer, is not quite the same unimportant thing it is for a man. „ The first and most important qualification in a

    woman is good nature or sweetness of temper.‟” At the very beginning of Jane Eyre,

    there is a conversation between her and her aunt, Mrs. Reed, which can show her

    rebellion to some extent.

    “What does Bessie say I have done?” I asked.

    “Jane, I don‟t like cavilers or questioners; besides, there is something truly

    forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Be seated somewhere;

    and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent.” (1; ch. 1)

    Jane‟s time at Gateshead Hall is a typical experience of the misery and anguish. She

    was subjected to domestic tyranny and continually abused by her cousin John Reed,

    the first oppressor Jane met in her life. John, at the age of 14, has become particularly

    obnoxious, a

    fat, greedy, unwholesome bully. He regards himself as the future owner of the house.

    He beats and insults Jane at will. Goaded by John Reed‟s bullying, she hits back on

    two occasions, fighting like a mad cat until she is overpowered. Then she is locked up

    alone in

    the red room. Terror as well as anger is always with her when she is in the red room

    where her own vivid imagination frightens her into a frantic fit. Jane experiences the

    first crisis in life and nearly dies. Jane, from her very first recollections of existence,

    had been told that

    she had better not think herself as man‟s equal, and that it was her place to be humble.

Even the servants treated her as their inferior, because of her dependent status, which

    in Victorian society was viewed as the lowest part of the society, living only on the

    wealth of

    others. However, Jane Eyre is still eager to be equal to others. Once after striking

    against John Reed, who was naughty, violent and even cruel, she was sent to be

    locked in the red-room, where her uncle died and was deserted thereafter. She thought

    that:

    I resisted all the way: a new thing for me and a circumstance which

    greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot were disposed to

    entertain of me. The fact is, I was a trifle myself; or rather out of myself; as the

    French would say. I was conscious that a moment‟s mutiny had already rendered me

    liable to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I felt, resolved, in my

    desperation, to go all lengths. (5-6; ch. 2)

    She thought that the treatment she received was not just and she should rebel to get

    the justice, otherwise, she would rather let herself die. Though being plain and at a

    marginal position all the time, Jane, by contrast, identified herself with an

    independent realm of psychological energy and innate capacity. Jane‟s smallness

    makes her vulnerable, easily hurt and frightened. Yet the paradox of a strong, resolute,

    often rebellious spirit beneath the shy, fragile exterior is quite clear. Overwhelmed by

    a surge of blood, she defies her aunt by saying: “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…” (29; ch. 4).

    After the red-room incident, Mrs. Reed decided to send Jane away to a charity

    school, Lowood Institution, where she stayed for eight years, six as pupil and two as

    teacher. Lowood is a symbolic prison which will restrict the free development of

    female identity. At Lowood all the girls are systematically starved and deprived of all

    sensory satisfaction. Mr. Brochlehurt, the treasurer and manager of the Institution and

    the second oppressor in Jane‟s life, reclaimed the principles of Lowood when he inspected the school, Madam, allow me an instant. You are aware that my plan in

    bringing up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence,

    but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying. … Oh, madam, when you put bread

    and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these children‟s mouths, you may indeed

    feed their vile bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls! (55-56;

    ch. 7)

    So we can say the purpose of Mr. Brocklehurst in starving the vile bodies is to create

    the intensely spiritualized creature the Victorian idealized as the angel in the house.

    Here, Brocklehurst is portrayed as a very severe and hard-hearted person who not

    only keeps the

    children half-starved but prevents them from having normal mental growth. He is

    meddling, loveless and hypocritical. Brocklehurst thinks it is his duty to punish the

    eighty girls‟ bodies in order to save their immortal souls. He does not let them have

    enough rest. He forces them to cut their naturally curly hair and make them wears the

    worst quality, the ugliest clothes. He attempts to kill these poor girls nature of

    pursuing beauty. He is hostile to women. He calls these girls‟ bodies “vile bodies” and

    their natural curled hair “excrescence”. He strangles these girls‟ vigor and vitality. These girls almost become machines which can only work and read Bible.

    Brocklehurst‟s devastation to these girls is far beyond people‟s toleration. Brocklhurst

    makes the life condition much worse, which

    causes a lot of deaths including that of Jane‟s best friend, Helen Burn. Life in Lowood

    Orphanage may be the most agonizing memory to Jane, but the miserable life gives

    Jane much more courage and determination to struggle for her right. The angel of

    Lowood is Helen Burns, the perfect victim and the representation of feminine spirit in

    its most disembodied form. Unlike Helen Burns, Jane Eyre has a desire to rebel and

    won‟t be the victim. Talking about the punishment Helen receives, Jane said:

    And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist her; if she stuck

    me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose.

    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 as natural

    as that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I

    feel it is deserved. (48-50; ch. 6)

    Just as the sentence said, “the restless was in my nature” (101; ch. 12). Jane Eyre

    left Lowood and went to Thornfield to become a governess there. Then she spent

    some time peacefully and pleasantly with her pupil and the housekeeper. However,

    she was not satisfied with that, because she thought that:

    It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they

    must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are

    condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against

    their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions

    ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be

    very calm generally, but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for

    heir faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they

    suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men

    would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures

    to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting

    stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to

    condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than

    custom has pronounced necessary for their sex. (101; ch. 12)

    This is actually the declaration of feminism from within the heart of Jane Eyre. She

    does not only care for herself but also care about women as a whole. Though Jane is

    thought to be a “slave”, she wants moral and social reform. In Thornfield, she met the

    third oppressor, Mr. Rochester. Most writers agree that the theme of Jane Eyre is the

    search for love. Lawrence has said: “The novel is revolutionary in its treatment of

    love” (Blackburn, 2002:101). Rochester‟s oppression does not come from the fact that Rochester wants to marry Jane without telling her his mad wife‟s story. Here the point is that Rochester‟s love oppresses Jane and jeopardizes her independence. When they prepare things for marriage, Rochester says, “I will myself put the diamond chain around your neck, and the circlet on your forehead…and I will clasp the bracelets on

    these fine wrists, and load these fairy-like fingers with rings” (246; ch. 24). He uses

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