Women in Jane EyreThere are many female characters in ‘Jane Eyre’ but what role of importance do they play in the novel?
Women in Victorian Era Women in the Victorian Era were treated as second-class citizens in society and they had very few rights and little control over their own lives Women were expected to marry, have children and look after the home For a long time women were dependent on men, the novel acts as a reminder of this It wasn‟t until women won the rights to vote that things started to change Bronte herself was a governess, like Jane, but she eventually married Reverend Arthur Nichols
Jane: Our Heroine Jane is not conventionally beautiful as is described as being „plain looking‟ Jane from a young age, has a passion for knowledge and life Jane wants to be loved and find love; which she does when she goes to work as a governess at Thornfield She always clings to her moral compass as she is a self-righteous character Even though Jane can be a passionate rebellion, at the end of the novel Mr Rochester and Jane finally marry and Jane gets that fairytale happy ever after.
The importance of a female protagonist The protagonist of the novel, Jane, is a strong independent woman. Bronte could have chosen a male character to be the main character, so why did she choose to cast a female character? If the protagonist was male, for example if Rochester was the main character, the novel would not have been as effective and it would have been a completely different novel. Bronte makes Jane this strong, passionate and rebellious character that isn‟t conventionally pretty to challenge Victorian society‟s view on women. Jane may be the “portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor and plain” however Jane is certainly not a dull character.
Bertha A character who is passionate but in rival to Jane, Bertha is important to the love story of the novel. Bertha is described as wild with “black eyebrows widely raised over bloodshot eyes” (pg250) and beast-like with “a demonic laugh” (pg129). Bertha is violent and deranged; it is as if her role in the novel is to be a plot device and role is to bring Rochester and Jane closer together. Bertha is only shown to be a foreign, mad and aggressive character that we are not to lay our sympathies with; but if she was portrayed differently Jane and Rochester‟s relationship and the ending of the novel would have been completely different.
Bertha and Jane: the differences and similarities It is interesting that both Bertha and Jane are very similar, they both have dark hair, they both love Rochester, they‟re rebellious, passionate, and they both as associated with the gothic and with supernatural creatures. But what are their differences? Bertha is described as being wild, almost man-like and creature-like; where as Jane is petite and delicate. Jane suppresses her passions (as most Victorians) where as Bertha is wild and overly passionate.
Bertha: the Hyde to Jane’s Jekyll? Reading over the Red Room scene and chapter 26 when Bertha is revealed, there are some interesting parallels... In the Red Room passage Jane refuses to give into Mrs Reed‟s demands and doesn‟t say sorry to John Reed, when Jane is sitting on the chair with her hands underneath her legs she promises herself that she “will not stir” (pg 7) restraining some of her anger. However Mrs Reed sends her to the Red room, Jane kicks and tries to resist going into the room. When she is sent into the room Jane hallucinates and eventually faints from all the drama. When we see Bertha in chapter 26 she is bound to a chair restrained. Bertha also has “bloodshot eyes” (pg 250) probably with anger. From a psychoanalytical point of view, Bertha could be seen as Jane‟s alter ego, her ID if you like, as Bertha‟s rebellions are just like Jane‟s but on a much larger scale. Bertha gives in to her feelings of passion, anger, lust and jealousy (all emotions of the unconscious and ID) whereas Jane represses that side of her psyche.
Blanche Ingrim: The Lady Blanche: upper-class and beautiful yet she is cruel and spiteful – very interesting how Bronte has chosen to represent Blanche, an upper-class character and beautiful, to be cold and bitter In Blanche‟s first appearance there are nine lines about her physical appearance, followed by one and a half lines of Blanche‟s accomplishments This suggests that Blanche is show and self-absorbed in her own appearance Amber, a stone which is golden and rich, is a reoccurring image associated with Blanche‟s character in the novel Blanche may be physical perfection but she is manufactured, spiteful and not very accomplished.
The River Sisters The River sisters also represent kindness and an appetite for knowledge, which they and Jane have in common. The River sisters are not rich or conventionally beautiful but they show kindness and warmth to Jane when they take her in from the harsh outside world when she leaves Thornfield. Even though the Rivers are not pretty they are surrounded by natural beauty such as flowers, sunsets and moonlight it‟s as if they are a positive force as positive beauty surrounds them. The Rivers are important as they not only are long lost relatives; but they also show Jane that there are still kind people out there restoring her hope.
The Reed Sisters Eliza chose to devote her life to religion Eliza, like Helen Burns, generally shows either little or no passion at all. She is also cold, stern and quite spiteful Georgina is quite rebellious and caused scandal when she tried to elope; but her plans were revealed by her sister Eliza and Georgina was stopped. Georgina seems restless and self-centered as we see when Jane goes back to Gateshead, however her mean streak hasn‟t gone as she calls Jane‟s portrait of Rochester „ugly.‟ Eventually Georgina marries
Mrs Reed Cold and oppressive Mrs Reed is spiteful towards Jane and makes Jane feel unwelcomed, and example of this is when she is younger as she doesn‟t include her in any activities, she even makes Jane feel excluded when she and her children are sat at the fire. Mrs Reed finds it difficult to cope with the young, rebellious Jane and sends her to Lowood school Mrs Reed and Jane have a poor yet complex relationship which is seen when Jane goes back to Gateshead when Mrs Reed has a stroke, Jane feels the need to serve and care for Mrs Reed; yet she despises her for how she was treated as a child.
Miss Temple At her time in Lowood, Jane looks up to Miss Temple as a mother-figure Miss Temple is younger than the rest of the teachers and is much kinder and warm-hearted. Jane is distraught when Miss Temple leaves Lowood to marry a clergyman, devoting her life to religion
Helen Burns Helen is a very religious character, she is often presented as being messianic as she takes punishment and advices Jane “then learn from me” However both Helen seems to lack passion and almost has a death wish as in chapter 9 it is almost as she is accepting that she is going to die; and of course before that Helen always talks of Heaven being her real life
Rosamond Oliver Even though most upper class female characters are represented in a negative light, there is the exception of Rosamund Oliver. Rosamund is rich, beautiful and charitable as she donates money to St John‟s charity school. The name „Rosamond‟ itself, when broken down to rosa and mond (the French word for „the world‟) means „The Rose of the World‟ which describes her as a fair beauty Rosamund represents the rebellion within the stereotype of the upper classes and conventionally pretty women in Jane Eyre.