Resistance to the Normalities of the Victorian Era in Jane Eyre


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Victorian Rebel Brönte

Charlotte Brönte, was a female Victorian Author who is best known for her book Jane Eyre. Her writings perceived her to be a feminist during the Victorian Era. She did not believe in the traditional roles of women and children in the household which is best represented in her book, Jane Eyre. Throughout this novel their is much resemblance between Brönte and Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brönte’s novel tells her own story alongside with women during the Victorian era including her own in Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brönte’s novel Jane Eyre contradicted the social beliefs of a women’s role during the Victorian Era.

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Charlotte Brönte was born in West Yorkshire, England. She was one of six children and in 1821 she lost her mother to cancer. Her father then sent her and her sisters to a school in Cowan Bridge, where her older sisters passed due to the conditions making Brönte became the mother figure to her remaining sisters. She never quit learning after she was pulled out of school, she continued her education at Roe Head. In 1839 she became governess to many families all over Yorkshire. During this era women were not held to a high regard nor were the children. Everyone in the household had a specific role to play. The father being strict, taught his children to be obedient and in most of the time he was the only one who held a job. The mother was supposed to be loving and caring and always tending to the children’s needs and helping out around the house when needed. In books like ,Helen Fleetwood, some of the women in the book had working roles but during the era it shows how they were treated differently by society (Kara L. Barrett 3). Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Brönte is similar in many ways, it tells of the struggles of a young girl in a Victorian Society. Brönte wrote Jane Eyre as a way to show the mistreatment of women in the Victorian Era and how she very much disagrees with it. She contradicts the social beliefs of the time by showing the struggles of her character Jane but also showing how she is prosperous in the end.

Jane Eyre is centered around the character Jane, she is a child that does meet the standards of a child’s place. Many times in the book Jane is made out to be the bad guy because she is different and is not the perfect child. When Jane first met Mr. Brocklehurst her aunt warned him that Jane is a liar, “I should be glad if… above all, to guard her worst fault, a tendency to deceit”(Charlotte Brönte 30). Jane has never truly done anything to deserve punishment but because of her actions and how she stands up for herself she is looked at as an outcast or a disgrace to society. Not only does Brönte tell the struggle of Jane but she also tells the story of the people around her such as the girls in Lowood. Many of the other girls there suffered as well, they were sent to that school so that they would conform and be as society says they should be “Julia’s hair curls naturally… I wish these girls to be the children on Grace” ( Charlotte Brönte 64). Julia’s hair alone caused a dispute because her hair does not fit society standards. Even though it is her natural hair and she was born with curly hair, society says one should have straight hair. The Victorian Era had an ideal image for all young ladies, that they should be proper and only speak when spoken too. They should grow into grown woman that know their place in the household. Jane even chooses to not get married she follows her own wants rather than following the society norms.

Brönte contradicts the Victorian Era norms with a lot of her works including Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brönte contributes to the women’s right struggles with her work. She is one of the reasons that the movement for women’s right is even possible. She describes the life of mistreated and woman in the Victorian Era. Brönte herself goes against the normalities of the Era. She was a successful and popular author, who only became even more popular after her death.

When reading Jane Eyre and knowing some background on Charlotte Brönte, similarities can be noticed between Jane’s life and that of Brönte’s life. Such as the similarity of the schools, Charlotte Brönte went to a school with poor conditions that did not do much to look after the girls resulting in the death of her sisters and the same as well for Jane. Although it was not a sister she lost rather a friend die to the conditions of her school that she as well as Brönte soon after the incident. Both lost a parent, Jane lost both parents whereas Charlotte Brönte lost only her mother. They both took on the job of a governess. Brönte is not just merely telling the story of a character she made up but the story of her life. She speaks out against social norms of the Victorian Era by telling her life and telling the story of Jane Eyre by doing this and Jane Eyre so closely related to her own life she builds on how bad it was for women in the Victorian Era through her own eyes. Sometimes it can even seem as if Brönte made Jane out to be the way she should have been as a young girl. A young girl that is fierce and can stand up for herself against a whole society.

What We Can Learn from Jane Eyre discusses what sets Charlotte Brönte apart from many writers of the time and how in many ways her work is better. Brönte does not write like many Victorian writers during her time. Many modernist writers would agree that Victorian writers usually started off with a boring introduction and backstory of the character but Brönte did different. Brönte begins by starting her book of in medias res (in the middle) which cuts out much of the boring dialogue. She introduces Jane in a fierce way, which was unusual for a Victorian author (K.M. Weiland 54). She could have easily come out and say what kind of person Jane is but instead she chooses to present it more forcefully to show how passionate and smart Jane truly is. Brönte also does not just dump a whole bunch of exposition or background information into the book. She gives bits and pieces at a time as the story goes on and as she tells more and more of Jane’s story. Brönte even weaves just a little bit of backstory into Jane Eyre, where as many Victorians writers felt it was important to start with tons of backstory and information on the main character. She even introduces the type of character Jane is without directly writing it (K.M. Weiland 57).

Charlotte Brönte can be known as a female activist during the Victorian Era. Her story of Jane Eyre and much of her work contradicts the social beliefs of the time. She is not afraid to speak out against the unfair treatment of women in Victorian Britain. Through her character Jane she tells her own life story and many of the struggles she and other girls had to go through. Brönte writing Jane Eyre was her own resistance to the normalities of the Victorian Era, it is her way of saying that she does not agree with how poorly women are treated and she believes how things should change.

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