Charlotte Bronte wrote the victorian novel Jane Eyre with the intention to tell the story of how a seemingly mere governess, Jane Eyre, managed to challenge the notion of what a conventional woman during the victorian era was capable of accomplishing with sheer courage.
Jane tells her story through a strong narrative voice which is one of the many factors, along with her strength and perseverance, that allow for Jane to be a unconventional female heroine. Throughout her life, it is amazing how Jane refuses to live down to what a conventional woman was expected to achieve. Instead of conforming to what women were expected to be, she was able to triumph through adversity, and lived her life as a strong independent woman who could rely on herself.
One of the early adversities Jane dealt with on an ongoing basis was her home life. Jane was brought up by a neglectful aunt who would unjustly punish her. Jane was also raised alongside her spoiled cousins, they would attack her and get her in trouble because they knew they could. When Jane says, “ “I am not deceitful: If I were, should I say I love you, but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed” (Bronte 32) The reader is able to paint a clear picture as to the constant conflict that took place between Jane and Mrs. Reed. She lived in a neglectful home where she was treated with constant indignity.
In spite of everyone ganging up on her, and woman being seen as virtually second class citizens during that time, Jane still has the courage to stand up for herself and express her hate and anger.One example of when Jane is mistreated early on is shown when the author states, “She never saw him strike or heard him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her presence” (Bronte 6). Jane?s cousin constantly abuses her both physically and mentally without consequence because her evil aunt always seems to look the other way.
The one time Jane does stand up for herself, Mrs Reed immediately takes John?s side, and unjustly punishes Jane, “Take her away to the Red room, and lock her up there.” (Bronte) This example shows a test of strength for Jane, despite knowing that John will go unpunished, and she will get in trouble, she knowingly defies the “just take it” attitude of a conventional female woman and fights back against her spoiled cousin John. She at least sends John a message that she isn’t going to be pushed around.
Jane has the courage to pursue the idea of being sent away to a school called Lowood, which was already defying society’s moral codes because women weren’t supposed to receive such a formal education, “It was assumed that a girl would marry and that therefore she had no need of a formal education, as long as she could look beautiful, entertain her husband’s guests, and produce a reasonable number of children.” (Picard) Jane starts off at Lowood on a bad note after her evil Aunt tells Mr Brocklehurst, the headmaster at Lowood, that she was not to be trusted, and she was a liar who wouldn’t tell the truth. Mr Brocklehurst believes Mrs. Reed, while disregarding whatever defense Jane tried to rebuttal and publicly shames Jane by making her stand all alone in front of the class, while telling everyone that she was a lier.
Fortunately, Jane receives some comfort when Miss Temple explains that Mr. Brocklehurst is just a miserable man. “Mr Brocklehurst is not a God: nor is he even a great and admired man: he is little liked here.” (Bronte). Jane takes her unjust punishment without resistance. Mr Brocklehurst labeled her under false pretenses as a liar, But finds comfort in the fact that it is better to be his enemy than friend.
Jane always has an opinion of her own that won?t be suppressed for the well-being of a man. For example Rochester, head of Thornfield, asks Jane ?You examine me, Miss Eyre,? said he; ?Do you think me handsome?? (Bronte 157) Jane blurts out an honest answer ?No, sir.? Jane apologizes for not being more politically correct but Rochester doesnt seem to mind. Now if Rochester asked Blanche Ingram the same question she would have replied with a compliment about how handsome he is. She is a perfect example of how a victorian woman would act around a man of such high status. Jane refuses to conform to the ideals of how she should act around a man with the stature of Rochester to sacrifice her moral beliefs. Jane and Rochester fall in love because of love not for other reasons that were common during the time like money or status.
Jane Eyre tells her story of becoming a fierce independent woman through a strong narrative voice. One passage expressing how Jane feels her and Rochester measure up states “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. 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!” This passage emphasises that Jane thinks of Rochester and her as equals. The sole idea that Jane a “mere governess” sees her lover as her equal is unheard of during the victorian era and is a very big deal. Jane’s strong willed nature is one of the main qualities about her that Rochester falls in love with. Jane’s strong willed nature also allows her to get it through Rochesters thich skull that they are on a level playing field regardless of their difference in social status.
After Jane’s wedding with Rochester is ended when she finds out Rochester has a preexisting wife who lives in secret with them, Jane realizes that she doesn’t need Rochester, and that she is a strong independent woman. She states, “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man . . . Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation.” (Bronte) Jane is able to say no to a marriage that would go against her moral values because of her strength and dignity. Jane Places herself over Rochester, this shows how she is able to refuse the expectations of society, and be independent at a time where most women would have stuck with Rochester because of his wealth and because they can’t rely on themselves. This independence alone proves just how much of an unconventional female heroin Jane was. In addition, despite Rochester being the love of her life Jane still does not compromise her integrity to run away with Rochester and live the rest of her life as a mistress.
Another example of Jane’s ability to have strength when pressured by men is shown when Jane says, “Shall I?” I said briefly; and I looked at his features, beautiful in their harmony . . . but as his wife—at his side always, and always restrained, and always checked . . . this would be unendurable.” (Bronte) This passage of Jane coming to a realization that she is her own person and not a weak dependent person who would succumb to the pressure of not having to rely on themselves. Jane shows great mental strength to put her wants above those of the controlling missionary St. John, who would take away Jane’s freedom.
All in All the novel, “Jane Eyre”, by Charlotte Bronte is told with a strong narrative voice by a strong independent woman. Jane?s mental strength and perseverance along with other character traits are responsible for how Jane refuses to live down to what a conventional woman was expected to achieve. Despite the adversity that Jane faced as a child during her home life, her schooling, and her experiences with men, she was able to surpass the expectations placed upon her by society.