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Greenfelder 1Kayte GreenfelderDr. Shandi WagnerEnglish 353 Women Writers26 November 2020Jane Eyre and Social ClassIn Victorian England life was dominated by social class. Class determined your lot in life,and it was difficult to move up the social ladder during this era. Yet, in Charlotte Bronte’sJaneEyre, the main protagonist Jane is brought face to face with class issues and is shown howwomen are forced to conform to social norms based on their class. Jane is poor orphan with littleprospects to move up in life, that is until she meets Mr. Rochester and goes against the norms andclassism of the time to marry the man she loves. But it is battle for Jane and we are shown herstruggles of fighting against social norms and her longing to be her truest self.Charlotte Bronte’s England during the rule of Queen Victoria was a time of rigidsocial hierarchy, most notably the social status of women. Upper- and middle-class women of thetime spent their days socializing and left the rearing of their children to a governess. QueenVictoria was the icon of the time for the kind of femininity all women should be striving for,positioned around family, motherhood, and propriety. She was the archetype of marriage stabilityand domestic virtue, although she was a mother to her own flesh and blood children, she wasconsidered the mother of the nation as well.“Domesticity was trumpeted as a female domain”(Abrams) Home life and motherhood were mostly considered adequate in keeping a woman“emotionally fulfilled”. “She was pious, respectable and busy - no life of leisure for her. Herdiligence and evident constant devotion to her husband, as well as to her God, as an example to
Greenfelder 2other women. She accepted her place in the sexual hierarchy. Her role was that of helpmeet anddomestic manager” (Abrams). Bronte’s Jane was not willing to give in to this kind of life, whileshe was pious and good, she still longed for a life with some semblance of meaning, “"God didnot give me my life to throw away; and to do as you wish me, would, I begin to think, be almostequivalent to committing suicide” (Bronte, 422 ). Bronte’s novel is a critique of the social andeconomic authority of the time, Jane’s rebellious nature is almost a slap in the face of Victorianmorality. Elizabeth Rigby reviewed the novel the year after it was originally published and saidof Charlotte Bronte’s Jane cursing her for the “highest moral offence a novel writer can commit,that of making an unworthy character interesting in the eyes of the reader” (Pell, 398) Evenoutside of the novel Jane’s questioning of social institutions offended those holding true to theauthority and structure of the social hierarchy of the era. Bronte’s response echoed Jane’srebellious nature, “I believe single women should have more to do- better chances of interestingand profitable occupation than they possess now. And when I speak thus, I have no impressionthat I displease God by my words; that I am either impious or impatient, irreligious, or

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