Read this article to know about the concept of feminism in the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Also read: Jane Eyre Summary Charlotte Bronte
Also read: Feminism in Middlemarch by George Eliot
Romantic Age that succeeded Neoclassical Era is commonly known as the Age of Poetry whereas Victorian Age that succeeded Romantic age is known as the age of novel. Novel emerged as the key genre of this age (read about Rise of Novel in this Age).
During Victorian time, industrial revolution took place in Europe that led to a number of problems for the commoners. Due to the industrialization there was mass urbanization. Mass urbanization led to unemployment.
Unemployment led to corruption and other vice. Hence the proletariat class suffered a lot. On the other hand middle class emerged that was newly rich and faced problems in categorizing itself.
Another development that took place in this era was the emergence of reason. Darwin’s Origin of Species challenged the words of Bible that shook the man’s faith in God. It led to a lot of susceptibility. The age was marked by doubt and fear.
Robert Browning said, “God’s up in the heaven, All’s well with the world.” It gave birth to Victorian Optimism. Victorian Age was very conservative about the women. They still believed in Tennyson’s words, “men for the field, women for the home.”
Emergence of Feminism
Feminism also emerged as an important aspect of this age. A number of women including Tennyson’s wife started writing for the rights of women in the male-dominated society.
However their battle was not successful as society preferred male-written works and women and their works were disregarded by the society. As a result many female writers published their works with male pseudonym in order to achieve fame.
Also read: Summary of Candida by G. B. Shaw
As a Revolutionary Novelist
Charlotte Bronte was one of the founders of feminism in Victorian Age. She was the revolutionary iconic of the age. She broke a number of conventions that prevailed before and during her time. She wrote eponymous novels (title of which is on the name of protagonist) like Jane Eyre.
Being well aware of the status of woman in the society she published her first novel (Jane Eyre) assuming male pseudonym “Currer Bell”.
She had serious outlook towards writing and her approach is modern. All novels written by her were conscious rising. She believed in exploring inner reality of human mind. She tried to break away from stereotypes of women laws. She combined the lyricism of Romantic Age and pathos of Shakespearean tragedy in her works
Charlotte Bronte herself was not beautiful and attractive and even in the novel the protagonist i.e. Jane Eyre is not beautiful and attractive. Hence the novel is essentially an autobiographical novel of Charlotte Bronte. In the novel she stresses upon the inner beauty rather than the external appearance. This concept of beauty was quite new as prior to her the beauty of woman was seen by her external appearance.
Charlotte Bronte gave new concept of marriage in the novel. Jane Eyre is quite independent in deciding her future with Rochester. She rejects him after knowing about his first wife and later accepts him without any compulsion. She is also economically independent. Unlike the other women she does not depend upon anyone and earns her livelihood.
Throughout the novel Charlotte Bronte stresses on three things:
- Rights of Children
- Right to occupation for women.
- Right of governesses.
Criticism of Charlotte Bronte
Though the novel was appreciated by D.H. Lawrence yet it met a number of criticisms as well.
- Henry James called the novel’s plot as loose baggy monsters.
- Charlotte Bronte fails to give humour to her novels.
- She has portrayed immortal characters.
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