An Examination Of Class In Jane Eyre

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An Examination Of Class In Jane Eyre And Great Expectations. Essay, Research Paper An Examination of Class in Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. The idea of class and keeping up appearances are very important in many novels of the Victorian Era. Two such novels include Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Associated with class, the idea of gender is also important in both of these novels. Often in the Victorian novel these restrictions upon the female characters have a lot to do with the class that they are forced into. It also has much to do with the way they keep up the appearances of the class they are a part of. In Jane Eyre, we see the world through the eyes of Jane; a strong character who wishes to overcome her birthright as an orphan.

We are also able to see how Jane progresses in her struggle for individuality, as well for love. One example of this struggle can be seen when Jane still lives with her aunt at Gateshead. Jane stands up to her aunt saying ?You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness, but I cannot live so: and you have no pity? (Bronte 29) Jane makes her first declaration of independence, contending that she will no longer be a secondary member of the Reed household. Jane makes this statement after the first meeting with Mr. Brocklehurst when her aunt spends the whole meeting telling him what a horrible deceitful child she is, but in a passage previous to this Jane comments to the Doctor that she doesn?t want to join any relations she may have. ?Aunt Reed

says if I have any, they must be a beggarly set: I should not like to go a-begging.? (Bronte 19) From these comments it is easy to see that Jane is not willing to lower her class just to escape from her cruel aunt and cousins. At Gateshead, Jane?s physical needs were more than adequately met, but her emotional needs were ignored, at Lowood things are different. Food is scarce and usually tastes poorly, and moderation and humbleness are the key points to be stressed. Jane finds people who will love her and treat her with respect. By learning, Jane earns greater respect and privilege. Eventually she becomes a teacher there, a position of relative power and she is able to advance slightly in her social class. When Jane leaves Lowood she takes on a position as a governess. One of the

few positions for a young working woman for those times. She hopes that this new position will fill a void in her life. At first Jane wants something more from her position and is bored with her job. When Jane meets Mr. Rochester, his presence totally transforms her life. For once a man sincerely pays attention to her and is interested in her opinions and feelings. Jane falls in love with him but she can not bring herself to tell him. She feels that due to physical and social shortcomings, Jane does not see herself as Rochester?s equal. Rochester eventually proposes and it takes Jane by surprise, and what is even more astonishing is that it is Rochester who points out their equality when he says, ?It is my spirit that addresses your spirit just as if both has passed through the

grave, and we stood at God?s feet, equal ?as we are!? (Bronte 231) The fact that Mr. Rochester is so in love with her makes it even harder when she finds out that he is already married. She does not want to become a mistress. It is better in her opinion to be a governess and work for her living and her standing in society then to have a dishonorable title of ?Mistress.? Jane feels that the only option that she has is to leave Thornfield Manor and start a new life far from everyone she knows. After Mr. Eyre of Madeira?s death, when Jane is wealthy for the first time in her own right, she is able to make the choices for her own life. Jane is the central female character in this novel, along with the other female characters such as Mrs. Fairfax the housekeeper, or Adele, the