Jane Eyre Presentation on Feminism

Jane Eyre Through the Ages: Postcolonial and Other Rewritings of a Victorian Novel Jane Eyre: a feminist tract 1. Feminism- a definition : – Oxford English Dictionary Online: 1. The qualities of females 2. Advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes – Dictionary of Feminist Theory: 1. belief that women suffer injustice because of the sex 2. social movement that seeks equal rights for women existing inequality between the sexes in Jane Eyre 2. Women in the Victorian era – depended upon men physically, financially, spiritually carried the burden of „staying in her place“ they accepted their standards – love, honour and obey her husband – poem presenting the role of a wife: “An angel in the House” by Coventry Patmore (1854) “Man must be pleased; but him to please Is woman’s pleasure” 3. Reception in the Victorian Readership – Victorian readers had problems with: – sexuality – coarseness (Grobheit) – „anti-Christian“ values: refusal to accept forms, costums, standards of society rebellious feminism „ She has inherited in fullest measure the worst sin of our fallen nature- the sin of pride” (Elizabeth Rigby) 4.Charlotte Bronte or Currer Bell? – synonym, women writers were not taken seriously in Victorian England and weren’t supposed to write * “ …assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise. ( Orel, Harold: The Brontes: Interviews and Recollections. University of Iowa Press, 1997; p. 135) 5. Jane‘s story is enclosed and escapes – struggles from imprisonment – overcomes and deals with: 1. oppression (at Gateshead) 2. starvation (Lowood) 3. madness (at Thornfield) 4. coldness (at marsh End) 5. confrontation (Bertha ) 6. Jane Eyre- a feminist tract? 6. 1. 1. oppression by men: John Reed – hits her as a young girl: orphan + out of league: “you are a dependant, […], you have no money, […], and not live here with gentlemen‘s children like us“ ; social differences determination to fight against him and unfair world : Fight leads to Lowood 6. 1. 2. oppression by men: Mr.Brocklehurst – women= inferior, girls should lead simple life: to learn subordination and dependence 6. 1. 3. oppression by men: Mr. Rochester – questionable relations towards women in Thornfield – he tricks people: source of power -has special sexual knowledge: superior to Jane – as soon as conquered Jane‘s love: treats her as an inferior way, a plaything, a virginal possession ; calls her now: „little sunny-faced girl bride“ – married Bertha for everything but love and equality ( sex, money, status ‘Oh, I have no respect for myself when I think of that act! ” he confesses. “An agony of inward contempt masters me” (p. 64). And his statement reminds us of Jane’s earlier assertion of her own superiority: ” ‘I would scorn such a union as the loveless one he hints he will enter into with Blanche: therefore I am better than you'” (p. 222). – wants to control her look: necklace, ring, beautiful wedding dress change her appearance she refuses – dismisses his wish to be a mistress – In the end: old, disabled and blind: dependent on Jane 6. 1. 4. oppression by men: St. John – holds faith in social conventions a woman‘s value was only realized when she devoted her life to a man – priviledge for Jane to follow her husband“ and to go to India 6. 2. confrontation with Bertha – Bertha: arouses reader‘s suspicion + speeds up development – becomes a main point for Jane‘s rationality and irrationality – rational: Jane longs for freedom: “Life, fire, feeling that I had not in my actual existence“ (chapter 12) – irrational: her restlessness and her murmurs (Murmeln) – Confrontation with Jane own‘s imprisoned hunger, rebellion and rage – secret wife : can be seen in a sense her on secret self – Locked-up situation: behind a dark door, waiting for a chance to get free (like the Red Room) 6. 3. Jane in contrast to the Ideal Victorian WomenMacpherson, Pat. Reflecting on Jane Eyre. London : New York: Routledge, 1989. Orel, Harold: The Brontes: Interviews and Recollections. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1997. Putnam Tong, Rosemarie. Feminist Thought : A more Comprehensive Introduction. Westview Press, 1998. 7. important quote 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, – full as much heart! As 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 for me to leave you.I am not talking to you now trough 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. (Chapter 23)


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