The Burden of Feminism in Jane Eyre
Two popular feminist theorists, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, have said in their essay “The Madwoman in the Attic” that there is a trend in literary history that places women characters into one of two stereotypes: either the “passive angel” or the “active monster”. The “angel in the house” image is one of a domesticated woman whose ultimate goal is to please and tend to her husband (Gilbert 55-57). Jane Eyre, while often described as a strong female character, obviously sets herself well into this stereotype. Early in the novel, she is sent to be educated at the Lowood Institute and earns an education in feminine submission, no doubt, as later she seeks employment as the ultimate example of domestic subservience—a governess. It is obvious that Charlotte Brontë intends to convey Jane in the role of the “angel” as Jane willfully engages in her governess role and tends to Rochester’s wishes to gain his acceptance. The more Jane falls in love with Rochester, the further he plays with her emotions, and any feminist ideals she may have demonstrated as a rebellious child begin to give way to inferiority and compliance. Jane fully takes on the role of the angel as she essentially believes herself to be weaker and unworthy of his...
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