Relationship between Jane and Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre

Topics: Social class, Working class, Middle class Pages: 5 (2064 words) Published: March 4, 2014
The relationship between Jane and Rochester, in Jane Eyre is an intriguing, captivating and unconventional one, right from their first meeting. Throughout the novel, Bronte conveys the struggles in which Jane is faced with, in order to have a genuine loving and equal relationship with Rochester, without betraying her own personal beliefs and principles. Also the issues of social class standing, social rules, gender roles and religion in the nineteenth century Victorian culture present as obstacles to Jane in her quest. Jane finds a companion in Rochester who can offer her the love, acceptance and sense of belonging she so yearns for. However Jane must find a way around the issues I have presented, which are a result of Victorian attitudes in society during the nineteenth century, In order to further explore the issues I have outlined above, we must first consider historical context behind this novel, and gain a deeper insight into the time in which it was set and published. It is important to realise the unspoken rules of society in the nineteenth century, and the societal view around social class, gender roles and religion during this era. During this period of time different social classes were set in place, based on a variety of factors including power, wealth, education, and living conditions. These were the working class; the least superior of society, and the middle and upper classes. The upper class were usually titled and made up of the wealthiest ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ of society. The working class generally served the upper and middle classes in roles such as servants, maids and valets. Relationships other than professional ones, between classes, would not be highly regarded by society or a common occurrence at all. This is why class difference was a major obstacle in the romantic relationship that blossomed between Jane and Rochester. As the governess at Thornfield Hall, the position of Jane’s social class could be seen as rather ambiguous in the way that her manners, good education and level of etiquette were superior to those of a typical working class servant, however she was in fact a paid employee; powerless and equally poor. The difference in class between Jane and Rochester; him being her employer and master, meant that a romantic relationship between the two of them, would certainly be frowned upon and rejected by society. Jane aware that she is not considered as Rochester’s equal, due to Victorian class prejudices and attitudes, is reluctant to marry him at first because of this. It is only when Jane acquires a fortune, inherited from her uncle that is she able to marry Rochester as his equal. It is strikingly obvious that women were seen as the inferior gender of society during the nineteenth century, and were expected to fill the roles set in place for them such as housewives, maids and governesses. Women were also expected to remain passive and submissive at all times, withholding emotions such as anger and rage. Diane Roberts discusses the ‘feminine ideal’ of the Victorian culture, in her interpretation of the novel. She describes how the idea of the perfect lady ‘did not have a secret self-boiling with rage and passion’ (Roberts, 1992, page 5). It would be considered highly unladylike and displeasing to society for women to outwardly display such emotions. In Chapter 12 of the novel Jane describes how women were expected to remain passive, and her struggle with this view that society held, whilst also highlighting her longing for equality. It can be argued that this is Bronte’s way of criticising society’s gender prejudices at this time, and incorporating her own feminist views into the novel, through Jane’s character. ‘Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer;...
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