Jane Eyre' The Story Of A Woman Seeking Her Independence
During most of the novel Jane is dependent on others, first on the Reeds then on Lowood and after that her position somewhat improves when she takes the position of a governess, but she abandons it when she leaves Thornfield. Near the end of the novel, when Jane Eyre receives her inheritance of twenty thousand pounds from her uncle which grants her independence, however, she splits the inheritance with her cousins and leaves Marsh End to reunite with Mr. Rochester.
When the two finally do reunite at Ferndean she finds out he was badly hurt when his house caught fire, house which he subsequently lost along with his arm and sight. Jane, even though she had gained financial and social independence (something she realizes herself and even says to Mr. Rochester), decides to marry Mr. Rochester, which brings the story to its conclusion. But is there some deeper meaning to her decision to split her inheritance? We need to examine Jane’s actions historically: at the time, twenty thousand pounds was a lofty sum of money that could afford one a very easy life and it was not something lightly given away, yet she did it anyway for two different reasons. First, Jane equally splits the inheritance with her cousins, in order to become more familial with them, and second, Jane (or Brontë) uses the twenty thousand pounds as a way to resolve the story by avoiding the traditional Victorian ways of handling property, and in the same stroke puts herself (Jane) in a position that makes her more economically equal to her soon to be husband Mr. Rochester; she uses the acquired capital to gain happiness she had always wanted. As Pell says, “throughout Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte presents marriage in the context of equality between the partners.” This subversion is one of the reasons this novel was criticized at the time of its publishing, most famously by Elizabeth Rigby (later Lady Eastlake) as an “anti-Christian composition,” and it may have been needed in a way, to lessen the potential outrage from the readers who likely would have been in disbelief as much as Jane’s housekeeper, Ms. Fairfax, when she learned of Jane, a plain governess, marrying a gentleman of Mr. Rochester’s station. It is interesting to note that the novel concludes with Jane marrying Mr. Rochester when he is disabled and needs her more than he ever did before, almost like an allegory for the crippled rights women had at the time.
A new age offers a new perspective, and upon closer examination it seems that Jane Eyre was not intended to be a novel written simply to be a typical Victorian Bildungsroman, but instead a work designed to bring forward radical ideas (at the time) of equal rights between genders to discussion. In essence, Jane Eyre is the story of a woman seeking her independence at a time where there were few options to achieve it for women regardless of the fact that it was written in the time of huge economic progress. Jane finds completeness in marriage with Mr. Rochester in a traditional Victorian conclusion with a twist: they get married on equal terms.
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