In Jane Eyre, Bronte presents to us a character ultimately relatable across time. Jane is an underdog. Though is she well educated within her means, and has a perfectly suitable job as a governess, she is unsatisfied with the limits society has imposed on her life. She has dreams, desires, and wanderlust unique to those who dread living within the bonds of what is appropriate for their role. Mr. Rochester, Jane’s employer, also attempts to live outside of the restrictions placed around him. Through Mr. Rochester and Jane’s interaction and relationship, we can clearly witness the argument for equality among the sexes.
Both Mr. Rochester and Jane refer to the other as supernatural and otherworldly creatures upon their first meeting. The encounter sets up the scene that pair is not falling within the “natural” order of their society. By being referred to as supernatural creatures, which exist in our world but are not from it, Bronte is illustrating the fact that both characters function in Victorian society but do not fully agree to follow the terms set by it. The characters are not seen as beautiful or handsome, but possess personalities that are pleasant (or at least acceptable on Mr. Rochester’s part), another highlight to the conclusion that they are matched and each other’s equal. Furthermore, in their following interactions, Jane and Mr. Rochester converse as equals, despite their differences in class and wealth, and the fact that Jane is an employee.
Jane is wholly honest and truthful, and Mr. Rochester conveys his vulnerability to Jane, telling her things he hasn’t told anyone else, things society says should never be repeated to anyone, much less a governess. He is as honest with her as he is capable of being under the guise of mystery. Mr. Rochester is also conscious of Jane’s opinions and thoughts, as Jane is conscious of his, and their conversations often revolve around their beliefs. Jane herself presents a clear and passionate argument against the limitations of her sex, and Mr. Rochester is receptive to it; this receptiveness coming from a man underlines the point that feminism is not an attack on men and masculinity but a leveling of the playing field, a relief from limitations imposed on both sides.
With these conversations, and by having two characters that are similar and complementary, characters that grow fond of each other, Bronte is showing that is it is fact possible for men and women to be equal, that they should be considered equal. Despite their differences in society, Jane is found to be an equal match to Mr. Rochester, at least in temperament and behavior. This in itself is the tenet of feminism: equality and matching of the sexes.
Posted on Saturday, 7 April 2012