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Golden 1Lora GoldenProfessor Todd HoffmanENGL 2250 – AApril 24, 2014Jane Eyre: Progressive or Regressive?Charlotte Brontё’s Jane Eyre is a woman who shows rebellion, a strong stance on equality between men and women, and firm morality despite temptation. For these reasons, “modern literary criticism has long recognized Charlotte Brontё's Jane Eyre (1847) as a pivotal text for feminists” (Emily Griesinger 29). However, while Charlotte Brontё’s novel Jane Eyreis majorly considered to be a novel promoting feminism and equality, some critics argue that Jane Eyre is not as progressive as she first appears. Various critics have argued that she merely passively gains economic power through an inheritance, which reduces the value of her rise to independent livelihood. Religiously, she holds conservative religious beliefs that can hardly be considered revolutionary, and that her established equality to Rochester is ultimately underminedthrough a narrative seeks to romanticize her spiritual relationships. Socially, she gains her power through marrying a man from an upper-class family, and the fact that is a rise to power through a relationship to a man supports the typical patriarchal narrative of social class for women. However, these criticisms of Jane Eyreare either due to Charlotte Brontё mirroring her own life, or undermined by the overarching feminist message that pervades over these criticisms.Before discussing whether Jane Eyre has earned its place as a feminist novel with innovative female characterization, it is important to examine the societal forces impacting Jane. These societal forces, which are patriarchal in nature and are still present in modern day, are
Golden 2particularly present in the Victorian era. The Victorian era is both the time period that Jane Eyre is set in, as well as the time period during which Charlotte Brontё was writing. Both of these factors impact Jane heavily and affect the course of Jane’s life in meaningful ways. In her early life, Jane is either fated to conform to the demands of the patriarchal society she was raised in, or reject society through adhering to her own inner rebellion. At Gateshead, despite the matriarchal figure of Mrs. Reed and the influence of Bessie, the figures of authority in Gateshead were patriarchal forces that attempt to subdue Jane. John Reed, the cruel tyrant of Jane’s childhood, exhibits a “personal sense of entitlement which is… an inherent result of his masculine access to opportunity” (Lauren Owsley 58). When Jane refuses to stand for John’s abuse and defends herself, she is immediately sent to the confinement of the red room, which Sandra M. Gilbert refers to as a “patriarchal death chamber” (476). It is in this room that the deadMr. Reed seems to still hold authority over, as “a sense of dreary consecration [guards] it from frequent intrusion,” as if the ghost of the former patriarch still ‘guards’ it as his own territory (Brontё 26). Gilbert argues that even Jane is aware of the lingering figure of authority at this