In the novel, what are some scenes in which Bronte doesn't take feminism far enough? How is Jane still limited by her gender?

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cmcqueeney's profile pic

cmcqueeney | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Jane Eyre is still limited by her gender because many scenes depict her as the physically weak and frail female who needs to be helped, controlled, or rescued by a man. In her interaction with Rochester, Jane is painted as the fragile bird who flirts and taunts Rochester. Rochester on the other hand is the dark, passionate and strong gothic figure who is in constant pursuit of the frail female.
This same idea is played out again when Miss Eyre is rescued by Mr. St. John. First he saves her physically, and then he 'enslaves' her - using his force of character to get her to learn a new language and almost agree to be his missionary bride.
Although in both of these situations, Jane Eyre is able to resist the men by her strength of character, the imagery and characterization of Jane's emotions still depict her as the weak and helpless female swayed by the control of these men.

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angelacress | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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In approaching the topic of gender, Bronte shows how Jane fits the mold of being an artistic female in the Victorian era. Jane first learns to draw from Miss Temple. It is assumed that "being a lady" in the Victorian era meant to be cultured in various subjects. Thus, Miss Temple is ushering Jane into the position of being well rounded. Therefore, even at a young age, Jane is being molded into the woman society expects her to be. Jane further meets these gender expectations when she is described as using only certain tools and mediums. Women often used watercolors and pencil. Bronte again stresses these gender specifications and only associates Jane with such objects. When Bessie visited Jane at Lowood, "one of [Jane's] paintings over the chimney-piece…was a landscape in watercolors" (Bronte 100; ch. 10). Upon learning to draw from Miss Temple, Jane's first creations were "freely pencilled houses and trees" (Bronte 83; ch. 8). Jane was also "provided with a case of pencils" when visiting her sick Aunt Reed at Gateshead (Bronte 233; ch. 21). Bronte could have used this opportunity to go further with a feminist agenda, by either allowing Jane to use a more masculine medium such as oils, or by allowing Jane to venture outside of domestic subject matter to which women were often restricted. Endowing Jane with such a greatly praised talent did go beyong the normal Victorian expectations for women, restricting the medium in which Jane painted is a lost opportunity.


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