Jane the life which one would lead.
Jane Eyre isa novel created by Charlotte Bronte, used to present the ideologies of the capitalistVictorian era through the eyes of a lower class female protagonist, Jane. Throughouther life, she had encompassed an ambiguous social class, ultimately provingthat class relationships have no absolute boundaries and can be crossed, allowingindividuals to transcend them.
As Jane’s social status oscillates between theopposite ends of the spectrum, this makes the reader begin to question thesignificance of class and conspicuous consumption, and the importance that theVictorians placed upon it.Jane’s earlylife is largely influenced by her social class. The hierarchical class systemvery much depicted the life which one would lead.
It was arduous to transition intohigher classes, making Jane’s situation unique as she was able to do so. Due tothe death of her parents, she was left orphaned and in the care of her aunt;her position was atypical; she was not one of the working-class servants, nor oneof the spoiled Reed children. Instead, she occupied a social space between thetwo. In the first chapter, this isillustrated when Jane says: “I was adiscord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmonywith Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage. If they did not loveme, in fact, as little did I love them.
“, demonstrating that Jane is on the outside looking in; she is entirely marginalised.During herchildhood, Jane’s class determined her treatment, she was cast aside and alienatedfrom her cousins, and was treated as though she was a stranger in the veryplace in which she grew up. It is evident that the whole Reed household andthose that work for them, possessed the idea that since the Reeds are wealthy,they are able to do as they please. Jane actively goes against this flaw insociety, she is opposed to the interpellation that has directly affected theworking class.
“You have no business to take our books;you are a dependent, mamma says; you have no money; your father left you none;you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, andeat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mamma’s expense. Now, I’llteach you to rummage my book-shelves: for they are mine; all the house belongsto me, or will do in a few years.” This quotation expresses John’spower and authority over Jane as he tersely informs her that she is below himin social class and uses this fact as his justification to ostracise her. Janeonce referred to John as a “slave-driver” and “Roman emperor”,further emphasizing her acknowledgement of the corruption that the ruling classesretain over others. Whilst Janestruggles and resists as she’s being taken into the red room, Charlotte Bronteuses this to symbolise the torment that the Reeds have put her through duringher childhood, and the oppression she faced because of her class status. In theeyes of her aunt and cousins, Jane is below them and they control the powerover her due to the classist structure of the Victorian era.
The bourgeoisie usedtheir position in society to victimise and oppress those of lower classes anduse them as mere commodities. Moreover,even servants such as Miss Abbot recognize this divide and told Jane that she “ought not to think of herself on anequality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed because…they will have a greatdeal of money and you will have none.” From an early age, it was ingrainedinto her that she was different, and unequal to her peers; she was not worthyof the same treatment.
Jane had transfixed onto the idea of class structure ofher era due to her surrounding, that when asked by Mr. Lloyd if she would liketo live with her poor relations Jane responded, “I should not like to belong to poor people.” Itconsequently became enforced onto Jane that it is preferred to be unhappy witha wealthy family, than to be with a poor one. However, it is important to takeinto account that Jane is an impressionable child at the time, so it isunderstandable that it is her train of thought. From this it is obvious to seethat poverty is synonymous with degradation and Jane’s low class/ vagueposition in society is not good enough for the Reeds, and even Jane herself isaware of this. She was never acknowledged as a true part of the family, and wasonly thought of when necessary.As a resultof her damaged relationship with her Aunt and her cousins, Jane’s mistreatment triggeredher to view people differently, as opposed to the traditional Victorian critiqueof their wealth and resources. In her early life, Jane evaluated people asinadequate or adequate beings based on their behaviour, and used her findingsto form a sincere friendship or hostility based on it.
This can be viewed as apositive outcome of her childhood, as she would form more meaningfulrelationships that are not based on materialism and status. During herchildhood at Gateshead, Jane is more emotionally attached to the servant Bessiethan to any of her wealthy family members. As Bessie is a servant, heradmiration for her is based on personal characteristics rather than on hereconomic status. Janehas always longed for a motherly, gentle relationship, which clarifies why shefound solace with her teacher while studying at Lowood. Jane appreciates theaffection offered by Miss Temple, something which was scarcely offered to herduring her early life at Gateshead.
She primarily was short of love which wasnecessary when growing up, resulting in a solitary existence.Thearistocracy is personified in the form of Mr Brocklehurst, who she has taken astrong disliking to. Bronte uses the character of Mr Brocklehurst to attack thereligious dogmas of the Victorian society that were prevalent only to benefitthose that belonged to higher spheres. Mr Brocklehurst preaches that theorphans of the Lowood institute should live in simplicity and has alwaysadopted an extremely strict regime for their routine and demoralises the youngwomen and removes all forms of vanity, yet he himself and his family does notlive as he preaches.
The hypocrisy of Mr Brocklehurst is used to mock thereligious doctrines of the time and the inequality that they bring; he is anexample that men who hold power are able to abuse the impressionable and thosewho are weaker than him.