"Jane Eyre" (Charlotte Bronte), The Feminist Tract

Essay by lbsahlgrUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 1997

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In 1837 critic Robert Southey wrote to Charlotte Bronte,

'Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it

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 a recreation,' (Gaskell 102). This opinion was not held by

only one person, but by many. Indeed, it is this attitude, one

that debases women and their abilities, to which Charlotte Bronte

responds with Jane Eyre. The purpose of Jane Eyre, not only the

novel, but also the character herself as a cultural heroine, is

to transform a primeval society, one which devalues women and

their contributions, into a nobler order of civilization (Craig

57). The effectiveness of Bronte's argument is due to both her

motivation and approach. Bronte found her motivation from the

experiences she had undergone while living in the Victorian era.

Her approach in advocating social reform is to establish Jane as

a model for readers. Readers are meant to examine Jane's life,

especially the manner in which she handles problems or

confrontations in her relationships, and to follow her example in

their own lives. Just as we see Jane as a model of a woman

successful in asserting her self-worth, we are also given a

warning about the possible outcome of failure to realize self-

worth in Bertha Rochester. This facet will also be discussed

briefly. Bronte uses the motivation of personal experiences to

create the life of Jane Eyre in which we see the quest for social

betterment through her relationships.

Bronte herself experienced the social limitations of the

nineteenth century. At this time 'respectable women had few

options in life beyond marriage, education of children, and

domestic service,' (Magill 747). She ventured to explore her own

literary abilities...