Would Jane Eyre hold up to the feminist culture of today?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is of the first "feminist" novels- way before its time. How would Jane Eyre stand up to the much more evolved feminist culture of the 21st century?

Jane Eyre: a mid-nineteenth century novel that has been hailed in modern times as “the first feminist novel.” Written by a woman, Charlotte Bronte, under male pen name, Bronte encouraged strong female lead characters throughout her innovative piece of literature that is still being praised today. However, how would Bronte’s ever-so feminist novel stand up to the tempestuous feminist culture and ideals of this era? Although Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre has been glorified as an ideal piece of feminist culture for a hundred years, ultimately, with important feminist standards ever changing, Jane Eyre would never hold up against the new-age feminist novels because of its continous suppression of women under men in power and the lack of opportunities presented to its women protagonists.

Constantly through the novel, Jane and many of the other female characters are belittled in their relationships with men. Namely, Jane’s platonic, and then romantic, relationship with Mr. Edward Rochester. Although Jane seems to be an equal and contributing part of their relationship, Jane is specifically downgraded by Rochester when it is revealed that he already has a wife, a mad woman named Bertha Mason that is locked upstairs of his estate. Not only was Jane being lied to for their entire relationship, she is also unable to marry Mr. Rochester because of this lie. This is 

one of the most significant examples of the lack of feminist ideals throughout the entire novel. 

After the first segment of the novel, Jane turns eighteen and takes a job as a governess for a young pupil in a large estate, Thornfield. As she enters, she sees the staff, including many women, in stereotypical “lady” jobs, including Grace Poole, a seamstress, and Mrs. Fairfax, a housekeeper. The misogynist culture these women live in constantly in this estate gives them no opportunity to flourish in jobs that are unlike the so called “normal women jobs.” The feminism of today, which has evolved much since this novel was written, strongly encourages women to crush these stereotypes and to take on any job, stereotyped for any gender. 

Although Jane Eyre and her book would never equate to the strong and grown ideals of modern feminists, the novel made huge leaps and bounds for feminist ideals a the time of its publication. Currer Bell, the male pen name for the female author, Charlotte Bronte, taught the population, through his/her book, the importance of featuring and encouraging an empowered, strong, educated, free, and professional woman that made her own decision based on her own morals. While she was not always necessary respected as an equal to men, she was defiant to male-made stereotypes for women during the late 19th century and was never quiet or poised about her opinions whether they were positive or negative, making her a strong feminist among the conservative and constantly belittling men of her time.

Jane Eyre was a monumental novel for its era, one filled with male domination in the professional and social scene. While the 19th century hugely benefited from the “progressive” ideology brought forth in the novel, the raging feminist culture of the 21st century would tear it apart. Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre may still be read in classrooms across the world today but, it's so called feminist ideas could never stand up to the ever-growing and beneficial feminism culture that is so present in the world today. 


Submitted: April 11, 2020

© Copyright 2023 Theresa Carpinelli. All rights reserved.

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