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Sample Essay on Jane Eyre – Gender Issues

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Sample Essay on Jane Eyre – Gender Issues

In the 19th century, women were constantly finding themselves in situations where they had to put up with certain condescending attitudes from the society, especially from men, regarding their social status in the society. Gender roles in the book are brought in at various points. These are especially in relation to Jane, her experiences and the way she views life. Jane on her own faced a life that was full of challenges regarding her dignity and she constantly had to fight for her place in the society and independence. Throughout her life in the book, she constantly came across men who did not respect her position and did not think much of her because of her gender. Mr. Brocklehurst is portrayed in the novel as a hypocritical male chauvinist. He is in charge of Lowood, where he feeds school girls with food that is anything but desirable, yet his family manages to continue living a very luxurious life. Brocklehurst and Mr. Reed on many occasions showed their disregard for women in the way that they treated and spoke to Jane. When Jane stated that she did not like psalms, Mr. Brocklehurst compares her to his son, according to him, being the better of the two, because he understands and appreciates psalms. He also states that he thinks that Jane has a wicked heart. When she had first arrived at the school, the first degradation shown to her by Mr. Brocklehurst was when he made a bad example of her in front of her class, causing her shame in the process.

The oppression that she faces at the school makes her eager to leave the school and go to Thornfield, where she intends to start life a fresh and make it better for herself that what she ahd faced her whole life.

Mr. Rochester also looks down on Jane the very first time that they meet, when she goes to work for him. When he is speaking to her about Mr. Brocklehurst, he says that he thinks all the girls at the school must have worshipped him. He says, “…and you girls probably worshiped him, as a covenant full of religieuses would worship their director.”(pg 125). However, as time passes by, Jane continues to stand her ground and defend her right and that of other women. This eventually leads to the man developing some respect for her. He in fact finds himself loving her, which sparks a series of events, eventually leading to the two of them ending up together by the story’s end.  This especially happens because as she learns more about him, she realizes that the way he speaks to her is just the way that he is, and it does not always means that he is looking down on her, or whether he is sad or happy.

Jane constantly found that she was dealing with a society that does not have much respect for women. When she says, “…women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts just as their brothers do…”( pg 111), she expresses her feelings about  the daily struggles of women in a society that is dominated by men. The world does not realize that women are human beings and have feelings that should be considered. Women are often only expected to worry about making pudding and knitting. She believes therefore that the society should be able to accord women the right to express themselves and their emotions equal to the way men are allowed to.
            When Jane was living with her aunt at Gateshead, she was locked away in a room where she became malnourished. She says that for several days while she was there, that at some point she though they were playing mind games on her and that the rooms were not actually locked. However, when she tried to open them, she found that they were indeed locked. She relates them as being. “…I got up, and went to see. Alas! yes, no jail was ever more secure.” (pg 13).

Gender is not only portrayed through the experiences of Jane, but through other women portrayed in the story. For instance, Mrs. Rochester has to live with the fact that the whole time they have been married; her husband has been having several affairs due to his chauvinism. In fact she is so angered by this that at some point in the book she attempts to kill him by starting a fire in the house, and making it look like an accident. Mr. Rochester even starts to plan a wedding with Jane behind his wife’s back. The wedding however falls through when Jane realizes that she is about to marry a man who already has a wife. They end up together at the end of the book nevertheless, thus showing how much easier life seems to be towards the men, granting them a lot of the things that they want in life.

The issue of age difference in the novel can also be closely connected to the gender identity issues. The men in the novel seem to be people who are well established and of a considerably greater age. The women on the other hand are much younger, yet throughout the novel the men do not seem to mind the age difference that exists between them and their women. For instance, Rochester falls in love with Jane even though she is much younger than him.

It can be argued that the whole novel is feminist. This is because of the serious concentration that the author has placed towards the liberation of the main character. The author takes the reader through all the suffering that the main character Jane has to put up with. However, she is also careful throughout the novel to show that despite the fact that the main character was going through all these issues, she was still able to maintain her dignity and her stand on issues, especially those that were pertaining to upholding her dignity and that of other women. For instance she turns down several marriage proposals because she believes they would drag down her attempts at liberating herself. This she does even though she knows the men who want to marry her are of a high social status in the society and they would help a lot in alleviating her suffering. When she first comes across Rochester, she realizes that he is a nasty man who shows no respect for her. She however continues to challenge him and in the end her wit makes him love her, eventually leading to their marriage at the end.

 

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