Essay on Jane Eyre
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Trident Press International (2001).
Jung, Sandro. "Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, The Female Detective And The 'Crime' Of Female Selfhood." Bronte Studies 32.1 (2007): 21-30. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 May 2012.
Miller, Kathleen A. "'Well That Is Beautiful, Miss Jane!': Jane Eyre And The Creation Of The Female Artist." Bronte Studies 35.3 (2010): 248-266.Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 May 2012.
Talairach-Vielmas, Laurence. "'Portrait Of A Governess, Disconnected, Poor, And Plain': Staging The Spectral Self In Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre." Bronte Studies 34.2 (2009): 127-137. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 May 2012
The Woman with Blind Beauty
America is an evolving nation when it comes to women and femininity; Charlotte Bronte’s novel and character Jane Eyre can be an example of how strength can be defined in a woman. Charlotte Bronte brings to life a character who allows for people to see how vulnerability and strength can be encompassed in one woman. Jane Eyre is a British novel published in the nineteenth century, a time far removed from today, and yet many issues about women and femininity have remained the same.
Jane Eyre’s character was written with complexity. Bronte writes an intriguing book in the voice of Jane Eyre; her point of view does not invoke sympathy, though, her stories are heart wrenching. Jane Eyre’s emotions during difficult times allow the reader to see how strong she is, even as a woman with little support and a childhood of injustice. As a young woman Jane Eyre appears conflicted, “…to the eyes of others, usually even to my own appeared a disciplined and subdued character” (Bronte 77). “Usually” Jane Eyre is a girl that stays within the lines or within the mold that people hold her. Depth, though, is a part of Jane Eyre; she is a woman that is conflicted and rebellious from such a mold. She comes to this conclusion:
My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.(77)
Courage is an attribute Eyre struggles with throughout her life, throughout the most important times of her life. Love takes courage, being a strong person takes courage and Eyre finds courage through accepting her femininity. Her strong feelings for Mr. Rochester do not cause her to compromise her own beliefs, but rather causes her to confront her beliefs and stay true to them.
Just as Eyre struggles with staying true to herself and accepting herself, women in America struggle with conforming to the ideals put in place by a society in transition. Eyre’s struggle within herself can be compared with women in America and how difficult it is to feel beautiful. We see beauty all around us and cannot measure up to perfection, “… the vanishing of the heroine’s body as she compares herself to more attractive models of femininity and increasingly loses corporeality, ultimately becoming a voice which the blind hero can only hear” (Talairach-Vielmas 128) Mr. Rochester falls in love with the homely Jane Eyre, but Jane Eyre manages to become invisible, her looks not mattering in the end because her love became blind. Mr. Rochester’s blindness might be a symbol for how beauty ultimately vanishes, but love can endure.
Eyre was not a woman confident in her body just as women in America struggle with acceptance of their own appearance. Eating disorders consume many women, and Eyre was consumed with such thoughts and tempted to conform to the ideal women of the 19th century, “In Jane Eyre, the heroine’s constant fasting and the repression of her appetite contribute to her education into womanhood and femininity, hinting at the cultural ideal of thinness which was to prevail throughout the second half of the nineteenth century” ( Talairach-Vielmas 134). Eyre knew she was far from the ideal women. Styles and definitions of beauty have changed throughout time, yet the standards are just as impossible to meet now as they were in the 19th century.
Charlotte Bronte’s famous character is not typical beauty; rather Eyre’s beauty comes from her talents. She is an artist, a woman that not only draws for enjoyment, but because it is her passion:
Throughout Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, Jane, Rochester, and a host of female characters suggest that women’s art may hold a variety of meanings — self-expression, psychic development, rebellion, solace, identification — beyond the cultivation of ‘true womanhood’ and female accomplishment. (Miller 251)
In a time when only men were allowed to be successful writers and artists, women were hiding their identity so they may be taken serious as artists themselves. Eyre was considered unusual for her artistic talent and as a women was considered unconventional, “For nineteenth-century audiences an ‘accomplished’ woman signified one whose visual art would be seen as primarily a social, rather than an artistic achievement” (250). Writing books, painting and doing jobs that were only accepted for men have become common professions for women today, yet the pressure to conform to a certain standard for women still exists. A woman’s talent is often hidden by insecurity, quite possibility stemming from the long history of female inequality.
Jane Eyre, though, is not only about a woman overcoming female inequality; it is also about a woman that finds the strength to stay true to herself even in the most difficult of circumstances. Eyre’s femininity becomes most visible and is most transformed when she forms a relationship with Mr. Rochester. Mr. Rochester is a continuous source of intrigue and excitement. Bronte brings to life a character that not only sees Eyre but insists on forming a deep bond with her; his own governess. Jane shows vulnerability to Mr. Rochester. Jane says these words, “The vehemence of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was claiming mastery, and struggling for full sway, and asserting a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last: yes—and to speak” (Bronte 242). Jane’s silence and repression of her feelings does not make sense in the countenance of Mr. Rochester. Her femininity becomes uncompromised when she finally opens herself up to the idea of love.
Neither does she compromise herself as a woman, when she discovers the truth about her love, “Confronting the uncertainties of truth and mystery changes Jane and (eventually) elevates her to a status of equality with her employer, an equality that, at the end of the novel, culminates in their marriage” (Jung 22). From feeling unimportant and dull to suddenly being considered interesting and even attractive, Bronte allows her audience to see how Jane’s uncompromising femininity also results in making a decision that is wholeheartedly staying true to her beliefs despite sacrificing love. Women in America do not have to be perfect, pleasing and ultimately compromising themselves, rather they can learn how to accept themselves and ultimately follow Jane on her journey for true femininity.
America has become a nation full of conversation, not excluding women and femininity. Bronte has managed to write a novel that encompasses the insecurities, the talents, and the depth in every woman. Despite the fact that Bronte wrote the book in the eighteen hundreds. Jane Eyre’s story is one that can relate with women today and tomorrow.