Jane Eyre is a novel by Charlotte Bronte, set in the Victorian Era. It was during this time that the industrial revolution, in Great Britain, began. The Victorian period was the beginning of a severe system of labour. During this time power and money overran society. It was a phase of family unity, and principles. The Victorian age was dirty and unhygienic. The poor were disadvantaged and the rich had power. This was obvious and common in every aspect of life in the Victorian cities. The conditions were unsanitary and the life expectancy was very low compared to today’s standards.
Disease was everywhere and everyone was vulnerable to it especially the poor. The writers in those days, like Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens, were interested in showing people the injustices of the nation during this time, especially towards children. Children were neglected and uncared for. Most were treated this way; those who weren’t were rich. Some children got no education at all and had to work in a factory to stay alive. Ironically this factory work would most likely be the cause of their death. Others went to workhouses were they got accommodation or food, but they to had to work.
Those who were orphans were most unlucky. They had no place in society, they were poor but they had no class, they were more like animals, who could be “farmed” and used for others prosperity and benefit. Jane Eyre is an orphan she lives at her uncle’s estate, Gateshead. Her uncle however is dead and she lives with his wife, Mrs Reed. Even the name Gateshead suggests that she is trapped, it is uninviting. Jane is not considered a member of the family; her position is less than a maid. The reason for this is because she is poor and an orphan. She is a charity case.
John Reed, heir to the estate and Gateshead, calls her a “dependant”. Jane lives in a male dominated environment, another social injustice in the Victorian society. Jane is courageous, through all of her abuse she always manages to stick up for herself. Jane longs for peace and freedom to be her own person. Jane is bright and imaginative. She knows that she is being mistreated, she refuses to accept this however and it lands her in trouble on many occasions, like when she is put in the Red Room. The Red Room is the room in which Mr Reed, Jane’s uncle, died.
It is symbolic of terror, and her imagination suffers because of this history. Jane feels frightened in the room and wants to escape, she wants to get out of the room, and out of the house. Bronte makes us aware of Jane’s circumstances too. We feel sorry for Jane and her situation. Jane is misfortunate; her ill treatment is not really her own fault. After she faints she wakes up in the nursery, Mr Lloyd is there. He is the apothecary. He shows sympathy and affection. Jane feels “relief… protection and security. ” It is ironic that she should feel protected and safe with a total stranger.
Kindness only came from a stranger someone who is not a part of Gateshead. Jane is very honest; this is evident when she speaks of poverty. She associates poverty with the workhouses and the dispossessed. Her views are those of a child. Jane likes the idea of a school and sees it as a chance to escape Gateshead. Soon after we learn that Bessie pities Jane, Abbot disagrees and says she is not so be pitied because she has no physical attractiveness. Jane is considered troublesome, wicked and iniquitous. As Christmas approaches, Jane is further abandoned.
She is left alone in the nursery with her doll whilst all the festivities go on in the floors below her. This image produces compassion on our behalf. Christmas is a time of family unity and togetherness. Yet, Jane is left alone, without family, without love. When Jane is first introduced to Mr. Brocklehurst, Bronte uses phallic symbolism to describe him. She calls him a ” black pillar,” “standing erect. ” This is to create a sense of male supremacy. Mr Brocklehurst is head of Lowood Institution. The very name of the school ‘Institution’ is daunting. It is not Lowood Academy or Lowood School for Girls it is an institution.
This make me think of a prison or hospital, when in fact it is a place of learning and also youth. It is a harsh school, the girls’ femininity is kept to a minimum, because it is seen as shameful to be a feminine. Jane is to be sent there. Mr Brocklehurst has a “grim face” and is illustrated as a grotesque figure. He is like a figure from a nightmare or a villain from a fairytale. He has “bushy brows, a great nose and prominent teeth. This makes me think of Little Red Riding Hood, with Mr Brocklehurst as the wolf. He is emotionless; his face is like a “mask”.
Mr. Brocklehurst is later uncovered as a hypocrite; he dresses the pupils plainly, and cuts off their hair so as to conceal there womanhood. But when his children visit the school they have an abundance of curls, jewellery and wear luxurious clothing. Mrs Reed Calls Jane an “artful, noxious child. She wants Jane to be kept humble, “that she will always remember to keep her poor station in life, that she will always feel inferior. ” Jane already feels inferior, but she overcomes this and demonstrates courage when Mr Brocklehurst confronts her. He tries to use Christianity and its teaching methods for his own benefit.
Really it is he who needs revision of the good will in the Christian Bible. He uses Christianity to humiliate the girls at his school. Jane defends herself, she feels misrepresented by Mrs Reed, and misinterpreted by Mr. Brocklehurst. She becomes very passionate “you think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness: but I cannot live so. ” We sympathise with Jane, when her feelings are unleashed. Before Jane leaves for Lowood, Bessie confronts her telling her that she has been unjustly treated in the company of the Reeds. She also tells Jane that she is fonder of her than any of the others.
Because of this honesty Jane is “lapsed with peace and harmony. ” Mr Brocklehurst visit is not unlike the visit of Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist. Mr Brocklehurst is like Mr Bumble. He is the parish beadle, and a man of authority, however he considers himself to be a higher influence than he really is. He is a fat man and is ill tempered. He has no patience; he bangs his cane off the ground. In the rare event that he does respond to Mrs. Mann it is often with bitterness. When Mr. Bumble visits the home of Oliver Twist it is not a social call. He wishes to take Oliver to the workhouse.
Like Jane Oliver’s youth has been lived for him, neither of them had a joyful youth, and they never got the chance to make their own decisions. This is an example of injustice in Victorian society, orphan children had no say in their own lives, and they had little or no opportunities to make a better life for themselves. Like Mrs. Reed Mrs. Mann appears to be a welcoming woman, kind and “humane”. But we know that she is not loving or considerate, and that she neglects the children to the point of death. Both Mrs. Reed and Mrs Mann blame their inhabitants for all wrong doings.
Mrs Reed criticises Jane incessantly, Jane is a scapegoat. Oliver is neglected; Mrs Mann uses the money received to take care of the boys in the orphanage to her own advantage. Dickens uses caricature, and also irony, to exaggerate his characters by emphasizing certain personal qualities to produce a ridiculous effect. Dickens uses caricature not just to overstate what is on the surface, but also to resemble what was in the very inside of British civilization during this time. This effect is a way to remind us of how exceptional each person is.
For example Mrs. Mann is a highly ironic character. Mr. Bumble commends her on how “humane” she is truthfully she is wicked. Mr. Bumble is also ironic, she acts like he is of extravagant importance, but he is just a minor, a messenger. Mr. Bumble’s size suggests his ego. To bumble is to move awkwardly. Bumble suggests to me a lack of skill, this creates an image of a blundering fool. He gets frustrated when he can’t open the gate, and then proceeds to place the blame on Mrs. Mann. The very name Mrs. Mann is paradoxical; she is hardly womanly at all. She is not maternal, nor motherly towards the children.
She locks them in the basement and doesn’t feed or clothe them properly. She is only interested in one thing and one thing only, herself. There aren’t any truthfully kind words of tenderness from this “benevolent protectress”. She is a figure of disgust, a despicable woman, resembling the low, degrading decadents of the social order at this time. By using caricature, irony, and humour in his stories we are entertained, but underneath this is the demoralizing truth of social inequality at this time. Lowood and the Workhouse are also alike. They are strict and enforce firm rules.
They punish and humiliate the boys and girls for simple unnecessary reasons, and order them around like and army. The schools are run down pupils receive very little food or medical attention. They are unhygienic and disease spreads rapidly around the vulnerable children. Administers in both places have enough money to ensure that the places are not dilapidated and unhygienic but instead they immorally use the money for their own prosperity. One of Emily Bronte’s most dominant image patterns is the use of the traditional elements earth, fire, water, and air. Atmosphere plays a significant role in the novel.
The pun of the name “Eyre” is suggestive of passion. Jane like the air is a wanderer, she is spiritual. Use of pathetic fallacy reflects Jane’s mood. During Jane’s journey to the Institution the weather is wet, windy, and has a hostile element. This emphasises Jane’s isolation. The symbolic landscape and foreboding weather, during her journey, sets the mood. On the day she leaves Gateshead it is a “raw and chill” morning. The weather does not predict a bright future for Jane. As the carriage nears the School they “descended a valley, dark with wood. ” Lowood is concealed, by darkness.
As Jane enters she calls it a “cold, dimly lit school. ” When things are pessimistic for Jane, the weather and landscape is usually in the same style, dull and gloomy, like Jane’s journey to Lowood. When things appear hopeful the weather does to. For example the coming of spring in Lowood, her adjustment to the school and the promise of hope and renewal is reflected in the season. It is described as a metaphor for the awakening of the young girl’s life and maturity, “And now vegetation matured with vigor; Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green and flowery. ”
Bronte highlights the appalling conditions the girls have to endure. Even the food is insufficient and bland, “a nauseous mess. ” The school sounds like misery, even the garden is depressing, and instead of being bright and beautiful it is dismal and uninviting. The uniform is unappealing; it encloses their bodies, so as not to reveal their femininity. The place is cold, empty, and lifeless, as though no one is even there. The girls are lifeless too. They are just bodies, there is no life inside them; none that we can see anyhow. The life is drained out of them, like in Hard Times the life and imagination is grinded out of the pupils.
It seems like there is nothing to look forward at the school what so ever. When we are introduced to Mr Brocklehurst again, we realise that Jane is not the only one to despise him; everyone else in the school does too. Mr Brocklehurst wants “to mortify” in them “the lust of the flesh, and to teach them to clothe themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety. ” Here he demonstrates hypocrisy, because the money he starves the student of is used to make his own girls more beautiful. They enter, “splendidly attired in velvet, silk and furs. ” They can look as feminine as they want.
The students are still and quiet, as Jane observes, “the 80 girls sat motionless and erect. ” They are oppressed by the system. Their “plain locks” highlights the solemn nature of the girls, and furthermore that beauty is considered shameful. Mr Brocklehurst wants the girls to be without an identity, as in Hard Times the students are called by number, like an army. The students at both schools are plain and purposeful. They are not pretty or fancy. They are not to be accustomed “to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render hardy patient, self denying. ” In Lowood, the teacher Mrs Temple reminds me of Mr Lloyd.
Mrs Temple represents all the good that is lost in the school. She is described as “tall, fair and shapely: with a benignant light. ” She is a contrast to the murky and disheartening school. She shows kindness and caring to the pupils when she provides them with extra food when she sees the inadequate lunch served to them. It is in the garden that Jane meets Helen Burns. Helen is studious and a strong character. She victimised by the teachers. Unlike Jane, Helen doesn’t stand up for herself; Helen takes the insults thrown at her by the teachers. She is never praised, nor shown pity.
Helen is a victim of the system at Lowood. She accepts her punishments and humiliation with dignity, “composed though grave she stood. ” Jane does not understand Helens stoic acceptance. Jane is passionate, and determined. Helen believes that she should not worry about the unkind attitude the teachers possess, she says, “I live in calm looking to the end. ” Helens words have hidden implications; she is trying to tell Jane her life is drawing to and end. Jane and Helen are similar in many ways. Both are honest, and speak their minds. Yet they are also a contrast to each other as well.
Where Jane is emotional and fervent, Helen can hold her feelings, she is rational. Where Jane longs to be adored and admired, Helen tells her “you think too much of the love off human beings. ” Helen is wilful, she thinks logically. I believe Helen is an inspirational character, though she is very young she is incredibly mature. Helen is not a victim her quiet and dignified courage rises above the hardship of Lowood. She cannot be degraded. She is so much more than any of them. She is an example to Jane. Jane is fearful of Mr Brocklehurst. She awaits the day the day the “Coming Man” arrives.
Bronte creates anticipation during this episode. As he enters Lowood the pupils and staff “rose unmass, highlighting his dominant superiority. He is like the daunting figure we met before. He is the sole male figure in a female environment. He abuses his power and position. Jane dreads his presence. She is nervous at the very thought of him. She tries to hide her face, so he doesn’t see her, but her plan fails and she drops her slate. She says, “I was paralysed. ” Mr Brocklehurst intentionally humiliates Jane; she is mortified “I knew it was all over now. ”
Mr Brocklehurst calls her “a careless girl. He calls her forward and orders her to stand on a tall stool. He directs harsh insults at her, servant to ” the Evil One” and “a little castaway” “and interloper and an alien. ” He demands that no one talks to Jane, to “avoid her company, to exclude her. ” He calls her a sinner and lair. He tells those in the hall that he received the information off her benefactress, a “pious and charitable lady. ” The information is false Mrs Reed is anything but a pious and charitable lady. When Helen smiles at her it gives her comfort, reassurance, and hope. Helen has the “aspect of an angel”.
It is because of this gesture that Jane gains maturity. She becomes so much more understanding, following this. Mr Brocklehurst and Mr Gradgrind are alike. Both are idealistic, both believe in hard discipline. Mr Bumble is also very like Mr Brocklehust. He believes in Christian values and teachings. They are both hypocrites. Mr Brocklehurst tells the student that he believes in denying ones self, he says he does not want them to be accustomed to luxuries, and comforts, so they can become disciplined, and hard. However his daughters enter the scene in “velvet, silk and furs.
Mr Bumble does not care about the children or how Mrs Mann treats them. He is an egotistical man. He only cares about himself and his money, as does Mrs Mann. The authors I have studied, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens document the unrighteousness of the Victorian period. In my opinion, people only cared about money. I believe this is the basis for cruelty in those days. People wanted money and would abuse every system to get money. It was an unjust time to live in, and especially to grow up in. Charles Dickens wants to inform the readers of the future all about the hard times that people endured.
He wants to let them know all about the children like Oliver Twist, and their lives. Though it is fiction, it is a representation of reality. Dickens uses humour in his books to make them interesting and easily readable. He wants to shock the reader, and this would inform them all about the world he lived in. Hard Times is a moral Fable, it entertains but at the same time it educates us of the dangers and brutality in this society. Charlotte Bronte uses first person narrative, to get us closer with the character. She uses it to make us sympathise with Jane. Though not as informative as Dickens, it is very interesting.
She draws us closer to the character of Jane, whereas Dickens wants to inform us about the society. Bronte wants to create a story, while Dickens also wishes to illustrate the ruthless reality of the time. The Victorian Era was a cruel time. The wool was pulled over people’s eyes. People gave false representations of themselves and others, like Mrs Reed and Mrs Mann. Children were the unluckiest of everyone children were victimised, neglected, and abused. Not necessarily the case for the rich but, mainly the poor, and especially orphans. As Jane says “poverty looks grim to grown people: still more so to children. “