The personal is political
Posted by Helen on September 24, 1997 at 09:27:11:
In response to Can't but think of Oliver in the workhouse, written by Amy on September 24, 1997 at 01:19:52
] It's almost impossible to read about little Jane at Lowood without thinking of Dickens.
] I haven't read a life of Charlotte, so I don't know if she was political (but my guess would be she was not). Her depiction of the institution's conditions don't feel as much like a a crusade as Dickens'. She seems to be playing our heartstrings for sheer pathos; his sentimentality and treatment of poverty and injustice feel more like they have the agenda behind them that they did.
With Bronte, I think that one is moved to a much stronger response, because she writes the childhood section as a child would write it, in a way - not about sentiment, just "this is what happened" - Dickens in Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby seems to be trying to cram in every single abuse of the system he can think of, and writing from the perspective of an adult saying "look at these terrible things they're doing to the children".
But I have seen critics argue that Jane Eyre is elitist in its picture - Jane's sufferings, and Helen Burns', are in some way worse because they are of a social class/intellectual ability to deserve better, and what Charlotte Bronte criticizes is not that a child could be treated like this but that Jane Eyre was. (I disagree with this, by the way, but it's an interesting point)
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