Where is there evidence of oppression in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre?
The better question might be where is oppression not found in Jane Eyre? It is amazing to think that children and women were treated with such unjust treatment in Bronte's day. The lack of rights, social status, money or education certainly played against both women and men in 19th century England. In Jane's case, however, she is the symbol of how middle-class women of that time were treated. It's sad that Jane's torturous life starts right off in chapter one when she is ten years old:
"'Unjust!-- unjust!' said my reason, forced by the agonizing stimulus into precocious though transitory power; and resolve, equally wrought up, instigated some strange expedient to achieve escape from insupportable oppression--as running away, or, if that could not be effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting myself die" (12).
Jane has these thoughts right after her cousin John has bullied her for another ruthless time. Her Aunt Reed disrespects and talks down to her; her female cousins give her no friendship; she is almost without any comfort if it were not for the servant Bessie who tries to comfort her by telling her to accept her fate.
Throughout the novel Jane is oppressed by Mr. Brocklehurst at the school she is sent to by publicly humiliating her. Then she is manipulated by Mr. Rochester who doesn't tell her the truth about his marital status. Finally, St. John Rivers disrespects her by using his influence to manipulate her to satisfy his South African missionary fancies. Luckily, Jane finds her voice and stands her ground to prevent others from continuing to oppress her strong will and desires to lead her own life.