Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre: An Evolution of Independence College

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre presents a woman’s struggle for freedom in early 19th century England. Male suppression, societal conceptions, religious authority, and even self-inhibition threaten Jane’s independence. But perhaps the greatest impediment to her autonomy is her question of self. Throughout the novel, as Jane grows into adulthood and becomes increasingly self-aware, her idea of independence evolves with her to encompass a worldview that is neither conventional nor unrivaled.

As a child at Gateshead, Jane is fully dependant on the Reeds (Brontë 13). In many ways she is a prisoner. Indeed, Jane’s imprisonment in the red room is the complete physical manifestation of her forced submission (13). Lower than the servants, for she does “nothing for [her] keep,” Jane is beaten by her cousin and begrudged by her aunt (10, 12). Jane scoffs at the term “benefactress” for Mrs. Reed since her aunt’s aid comes with the hefty price of subjugation (31). Jane is told that she “ought not to think [her]self on an equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed . . . it is [her] place to be humble, and to try to make [her]self agreeable to them,” (13). Yet, as much as she tries, Jane cannot manage to make this happen (15):

“All John Reed...

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