How can we apply feminist literary criticism to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Feminist literary criticism is probably the single easiest and most common contemporary approach to reading Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, often at the expense of understanding religious and other thematic aspects of the novel. Feminist critics can look at feminine oppression as manifested especially in the charity school with its rich male supervisors and poor women. Mrs. Reed can be seen as an example of complicity with patriarchy. The character of Bertha Mason can be seen as a way in which patriarchy has been combined with colonialism, to remove all possible support structures and freedoms from a woman. Blanche is a character who shows how traditional upper class English women relied elusively on marriage for economic opportunity. Jane, in her refusal to marry Rochester until she can do so from a position of strength, is often read by feminists as a subversive character.