Homosocial Environments and Disruptive Heterosexuality in Brontë’s Jane Eyre College
Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre (1847) is commonly read as a feminist metanarrative of women’s writing in which a young English woman rises out of class-based oppression and finds her independence. There is a tendency to read Jane Eyre as an antithesis to an Austen novel for all its power of commentary on oppression’s relationship to class and race. However, Brontë’s novel does not dispel heterosexual ideals and has the same end as an Austen novel would, exemplified by the classic line, “Reader, I married him” (Brontë 382). The unhinged relationship between dark, brooding Mr. Rochester and “poor, obscure, plain, and little” (Brontë 216) Jane endures as one advocating for ugly people and gender equality. But for all its powers of heterosexual romance, Jane Eyre is still profoundly concerned with intimate female spaces and loving relationships between female characters. Jane’s relationships with women and the potential sexual or queer subtext that permeates them at first create a safe space from her childhood trauma, but ultimately they are still cogs in a patriarchal machine, only sympathetic female bonds at most for the pious, proper heroine.
Jane’s relationships with other females at Lowood School nourish her and give her a...
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