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During the Victorian times, women were restraint to few roles in society. Thus, the upper class women ought to be the angels in the house, the perfect wives and mothers, submissive to the patriarch law and confined to the household tasks. On the other hand, destitute women would rather be the upper classes’ maidservants, to secure their minimal existence. Furthermore, the governess had an important place in the Victorian social hierarchy, and it was a way for middle class women to be economic independent.
Although Jane Eyre challenges gender constructions, the division between male and female is well distinguished in the novel. However, Charlotte Bronte has succeeded to subvert some of the male/female dichotomist values. Thus, the male characters in Jane Eyre pertain little to the concept we have of a gentleman- honourable, loyal, and upright. Hence, John Reed is a bully, Mr. Brocklehurst is a hypocrite. Rochester is a hedonist, and St John is domineering. In this way, the lack of gentlemanlike attributes in the male characters allows Jane to surpass the ideal male hero, and become herself the feminine hero.
Likewise, some of the female characters reflect the typical Victorian female behaviour. Accordingly, Blanche Ingram flirts with Rochester because she needs to marry a wealthy man no matter whom. Mrs. Fairfax’s role as a housekeeper suits the idea of the angel in the house. Helene Burns’ conformism demonstrates how women should be submissive. On the other hand, Mrs. Reed’s despotic and tyrannous attitude contrasts with the angelic Victorian image. Moreover, Jane Eyre also defeats a feminine attitude since she earns to live on. Unlike Blanche, she marries Rochester for love.
The character of Bertha Manson deserves our attention to the fact that at the time women who rebelled against male domination risked insanity. Consequently the idea of imprisonment is important-Bertha is confined to an attic and Jane to the Red room.. Like Bertha, the child Jane is punished for revolting against the patriarchal order-Mrs. Reed and John Reed.
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