Jane as feminist
Posted by Helen on September 25, 1997 at 09:41:19:
In response to Jane's journey, written by Susie on September 24, 1997 at 20:26:07
] ] this book is very special to me, because i(like many others) can identify with jane's painful childhood. and i don't think a thoughtful, objective reader of the book can ignore the issue of the abuse of women and children in the piece. the romance is, of course, awesome, so i don't blame people if they'd rather talk about that. but i'm struck by the journey bronte presents us with, of jane's spirit being "caged" as a child and young woman, eventually expressing itself powerfully in the end. the scenes of mr. lloyd intervening on her behalf in ch. 3 are very touching. she knows she is unhappy, but can't find words to express it. finally she says something very telling: "...but i can never get away from gateshead until i am a woman" [my emphasis]. lloyd suggests going to school - something bessie has described as "a place where young ladies sat in the stocks [and] wore backboards", and yet jane replies "i should indeed like to go to school". she jumps at the chance to struggle, because she somehow senses the infinite rewards at the end. it's this journey from inhuman bondage to full, complete, unashamed womanhood that intrigues me! and she expresses this very clearly in that great confrontation with rochester in ch. 23. i contend that the definitive film adaptation will give due treatment of this aspect - i'm looking forward to seeing how this a&e version treats it - something that i think the recent zefirelli version(with the skilled help of charlotte gainsbourg) did a little better than others, however imperfectly.
] I wonder whether Jane's "journey" and her stirring example of independent female thinking were probably one of the main reasons for the book being obligatory reading (alongside Virginia Woolf "A Room with a View")for teenage girls at my all girls school. Greg, when did you first read it? I would be intrigued to know if it is widely known and appreciated among men.
I remember reading Jane Eyre for the first time and being viscerally gripped - really powerful sensations - on discovering someone who was articulating how I saw myself and my position in society - not that I was at Lowood, you understand, but that the heroine is a character who has none of the things fairytales, movies etc. say give one the right to happiness - beauty, power etc. What gives her the right to fulfilment is merely that she has the desire to be fulfilled, and regardless of how she is valued by society (whether by Brocklehurst or Temple, Rochester or Rivers) she insists on her own evaluation of herself. What makes this book so powerful, in my opinion, is that it prizes not merely independent thinking, but independent feeling - in this respect, Bronte offers something very powerful which does not appear in Austen, whose characters are never so independent from those around them.
Did reading it in school - especially in conjunction with "A room of one's own" - denigrate at all from your appreciation of both books' feminist message?
By the way, did you know that Emma Thompson of S&S fame carries a copy of "A room..." around with her at all times, because she thinks it's such an important and powerful assertion of women's rights to personal space (which I imagine is pretty important in the male-dominated movie world)
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