Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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Ms. Eyre’s piercing scream filled the air throughout the house, causing its residents come to her aid out of fear of great danger. Although Jane Eyre’s cousins and aunt seem to wave off her “ploy to get out of her punishment,” little did she know that for the rest of the novel, she would be imprisoned and held back, though not by such a physical barrier like the red-room. For the rest of her life, Jane Eyre constantly attempts to create a new life for herself in the hope of establishing herself into a proper social class, for she has never fully belonged to or fit into any particular level of the rigid social structure of the early nineteenth century.

While Jane Eyre is living at Gateshead, she is constantly surrounded by her upper-class family and their servants, neither of which she is socially equal to. While she is related to her aunt and cousins, Mrs. Reed makes sure that the term “relative” is used loosely in this case, for if she had her way, Jane would have been out of their life and living on the streets. Mrs. Reed seems to even makes it her personal responsibility, to go out of her way to make Jane’s life as difficult and miserable as possible. Because of this, Jane feels completely ostracized for the from her own family and, with her aunt’s attempts to continually downgrade her, she thinks of herself, and others think of her, as a member of a lower social class. This causes her to feel as though the Reeds are no more family to her than the servants who work for them, thus creating an environment that she cannot comfortably consider home, leading to her desire to find more in life and reinvent herself as a member of a functioning social class.

When finally she gets her chance to be free of her captivity, she encounters similar problems at Lowood. As she gets to make the friends she’s always wanted, Mr. Brocklehurt replaces Mrs. Reed by publicly humiliating Jane in front of her friends as a compulsive liar. Then to add insult to injury, Helen, her one true friend who had helped Jane after Mr. Brockehurt’s declaration, died, leaving her once again alone and in need of a new home.

While Jane initially seems to enjoy her work at Thornfield, she realizes, upon arrival of Rochester’s guests, that she has returned to the hostile situation of a working class woman in an environment filled with upper-class individuals. Throughout the night, she sits at the window, watching the wealthy interact a they treat her with malice and heartlessness to the point where she storms out of the room in tears. However, many months later she sees yet another possibility to finally become established in a social class through her marriage to Mr. Rochester, although this hope does not last too long. As she prepares for the wedding, Rochester endeavors to make Jane appear to be an upper-class woman, but despite all her lifelong dreams, she begins to feel overwhelmed and no longer feels that this upper-class lifestyle is right for her. Whether for better or for worse, the wedding fails to take place and the next time Rochester proposes she thinks more about the future before answering. She realizes that if she agrees people will only ever view her as a second wife, making her a downgraded spouse of a wealthy man. Also, even if people could overlook this fact, they will still see her as an unworthy spouse for such an man of such nobility.

Oddly, it is in the very social group that her problems first started in, where Jane finds her final social class with family in an environment she can call home. With the help and encouragement of her new found family, she is able to overcome the boundaries set by society and returns to Rochester, now realizing that love is more important than social hierarchy. After leaving Marsh End she has not changed class significantly since the beginning so much as she has created her own social class with new friends, family, money, love, and a bright hope for the future.





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