Jane Eyre

Relatively Radical: On Gender Roles in Jane Eyre 12th Grade

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre features the eponymous woman reflecting on her childhood and adolescence through the mature view of a young adult. Adding another dimension to her character, however, is the fact that Jane’s own thoughts and feelings about life are not congruent with the gender expectations of her time period. Gender roles in Victorian society are shown as one sees them even in today’s society: by way of lifestyle options and by interpersonal relationships. In a society so rigidly ranked by sex, Jane’s perspective as an independent-thinking young woman serves as Brontë’s protest of this system.

In Brontë’s contemporary society, most women were bound to the household; Jane notes the injustice of this expectation. For example, Blanche Ingram and Jane’s cousin Georgiana Reed, both wealthy women, spend their lives preoccupied with finding a husband just as or more well-endowed. Once they achieve this end, they are doomed to a life of, as Jane complains, “making puddings and knitting stockings, [...] playing on the piano and embroidering bags,” (104) and sitting silently as their husbands discuss far livelier topics, like politics, as seen at Mr Rochester’s dinner parties. Jane contests this double standard; in a loaded...

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