Jane has consistently refused to speak her personal story to St. John. Rivers or his sisters, . ciety that "is essentially a series of market relations between free . MADEIRA AND JANE EYRE'S COLONIAL INHERITANCE . will claim that Jane's complicated relationship to the inheritance distances her from Jane must also reject St. John's imperial aspirations, aspirations that correlate who goes to market only to risk becoming an object of exchange herself” (2). Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre () is often interpreted as a story of a . Through her relationship with St John, Jane gradually discovers the.
And so I suffer. I love this book. I have read much of the classic literature of the world in the course of teaching and consuming it for the last twenty-five years, and nothing has ever come close to this novel in my estimation of great books. I would estimate it to be somewhere in the nature of times. My first reading was while I was working in the mall as a teenager, at the maternity store.
I know this book so well, that when my students would write me papers on it I would have to issue this caution: I understand the Victorians. The level of dirt would probably cause my OCD little brain to explode the moment I stepped out of the time machine. Tempting as it may be to simply write those words and move on, I think some explanation is warranted. There is a romance in this novel, true. But the point of the novel is not so Jane can get laid, or learn about her sexuality, or gain a rich husband.
Take a good long look at all the chick lit out there: His beautiful mansion is destroyed. He lives in what I can only call a sort of grander hovel. I rest my point. Some Rochesters past dogs, all of them… ehem: We have to see her rebel against the cruelty of her Aunt and her cousin John, and we have to understand that she is ignored for being plain while her snotty cousin Georgiana is spoiled simply for looking like the Victorians wanted little girls to look.
We need to know that her other cousin, Eliza, is a miserly little snit. Jane has to be preferable in our eyes to all the Reed children, so that we can feel the keen injustice of how everyone ignores her good qualities to focus only on her outward appearance both in looks, and in personality.
Rochester's Mistresses: Marriage, Sex, and Economic Exchange in Jane Eyre
And we have to see her spirited rejection of their religiously-tinted hypocrisy to understand how she can, nearly ten years later, reject the broader religious hypocrisy of her cousin St. John and society itself in order to please herself.
Let me make it clear: More on that in a moment. The tortuous scene where Jane is forced to stand on a stool in front of everyone is important, yes. Without understanding Helen Burns, Mr. The other characters matter. Yes, Jane is interesting: Aspiring to be in the role of teacher — not merely as a governess, but as a life-teacher to one similar to ten-year-old Jane — in her friendship with Rochester, Jane finds that she is unable to fulfill that role because of her inner child and her notions of self-preservation.
Though she has made progressive steps in becoming like Helen, especially by finally giving Mrs. This symbolic death must occur in order for Rochester to learn the same lesson Jane learned from Helen — humility. Though, again, there is no direct mention of Helen Burns apart from various parallels, it seems that it is not until Jane forms a relationship with St John Rivers that she truly begins to understand the lessons imparted on her by Helen.
Alone, these qualities become empty and carry sadness. Through her relationship with St John, Jane gradually discovers the differences between him and Helen, though at first glance they both appear to be saint-like role-models. Helen never seeks the approval of anyone at Lowood School, whether it is from the stern Miss Scatcherd or the sweet Miss Temple, though she often displays actions of compassion, love, and friendship to Jane, particularly in moments when she feels most isolated, alone, and wretched.
Though she believed she had completed her journey to become like Helen, she realizes that she had forgotten the most important elements of compassion and friendship. After all, what could be more self-delusive than the appearance of respectability that marriage confers?
Jane feels that her own marriage with Rochester—which she assumed would be legitimate—would be on the same level as the "seraglio" if she were to accept Rochester's unearned financial support. Jane's choice, then, is not just between marriage and whoredom, but between love and monetary exchange, autonomy and abject dependency.
Jane's flight from Thornfield illuminates the choice that she faces between independence and mistresshood. The difficulty of her position is demonstrated when she, a lone woman on the public roads, encounters several people who judge her harshly. Since "woman on the streets" was a common euphemism for a prostitute, this episode in Jane's life reminds us of how tenuous Jane's avoidance of sexual and economic exchange really is.
When a woman whom Jane asks for employment rebuffs her, Jane realizes, "in her eyes, how doubtful must have appeared my character, position, tale" Jane is denied access to respectable labor because she appears to have participated in illicit sexual exchange. Her comment shows how deeply the whole of Victorian society was imbued with suspicion about the corrupt market of sexuality that permeated Victorian England.
John Rivers, demands that she marry him and accompany him to India. John does not say he wants a mistress, he seeks a wife who will be superior to those around her but subject to him. The novel's critique of this sort of marriage of spiritual convenience is just as harsh as its denunciation of the exchange-economy of illicit mistresshood. John fares much worse when he suggests marriage without love than Rochester does when he advocates love without marriage.
As Jane asks herself, "Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe and know that the spirit was quite absent? Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made on principle?
John Rivers's insistence that she marry him without it: John] has told me I am formed for labour—not for love: But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love, it follows that I am not formed for marriage'" Jane escapes a marriage that either mixes economic and sexual exchange or entails sex without love by holding fiercely to her own conception of equality and independence.
In the end, she marries Rochester not only because she loves him, but also because she has received a large inheritance from her uncle in Madeira, which enables her to live wherever and however she desires.
As Maurianne Adams maintains, "Jane reaches the threshold of marriage three times in the novel. She cannot cross it until she can meet her 'master' as his partner and equal, his equal by virtue of her inheritance and family solidarity, his partner by virtue of their interdependence" In a time in which women were accustomed to a lifetime of dependency, the financial autonomy that she insists on before the marriage is both unusual and extremely important.
Jane's conception of independence, however, does not transcend Victorian paradigms about the role of women.
Essay: What Hollywood Doesn’t Get About Jane Eyre | jessicaminiermabe
Jane is still caught up in making sure her motives appear pure to herself and to the broader society, and she wants to be certain that she has not been bought. She can never step wholly outside of the idea that marriage is necessarily about financial status and appearance, which is why she must make her declaration to Rochester so firmly: I am my own mistress'" Her choice of words signals to Rochester after his long search for a good mistress, in either sense of the word that she is not his inferior.
Jane thus redefines the word "mistress" at the novel's end. If she is her "own mistress," then she must be economically dependent on herself alone. The word, then, ceases to mean the surrender of economic and sexual power over oneself, and comes to signify—within Jane Eyre if not within Victorian culture—the independence and power of the novel's heroine.
Jane's legacy from her uncle assures her and the reader that her marriage to Rochester is a wholly romantic union, with no hint of prostitution and dependency. If Jane is her own mistress, she will not be Rochester's.
Despite the relatively conservative implications of the inheritance plot that catapults Jane to economic and social power, the novel retains a progressive stance toward sexual economics, given the context in which it was written. Because it is so explicitly concerned with the problem of women's financial dependency and ends by proposing a solution through love-based marriage and female independence, Jane Eyre marks an important moment in the development of Victorian ideologies of marriage and the economic position of women.
Arlyn Diamond and Lee R. U of Massachusetts P, Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of Fallenness in Victorian Culture. Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Smith. Women and the Law. Marie Mulvey Roberts and Tamae Mizuta. Bullough, Vern and Barrett Elcano. A Bibliography of Prostitution.
Becoming Helen: The Journey to Compassion in 'Jane Eyre'
A Study of Victorian Prostitutes in York. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Victorian Frame of Mind, Jane Eyre and the Production of the Text.
Prostitution in the Nineteenth Century. Prostitution in Great Britain, Questions on Some Current Views. Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England. U of Chicago P, Studies in English Literature, Victorians Institute Journal 13 Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England, The Making of the Modern Family. The Family, Sex and Marriage in England The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: City of Dreadful Delight: Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State.
Feminist Orientalism and the Structures of Jane Eyre. Kate Wash-ington is a Ph. Her dissertation, "Common Prostitution: Marriage, Sex, and Economic Exchange in British Culture, ," discusses the economic parallel between marriage and prostitution in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
I am also grateful to Professor Barbara C. Gelpi, who was especially helpful at the early stages of this project.
The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, "mistress" denoted "a woman who illicitly occupies the place of wife.
Drawing from social contract theory, Pateman argues that the sexual contract, which includes both marriage and prostitution, underwrites and makes possible the social contract by providing the necessary precondition of patriarchal order: Men's freedom and women's subjection are created through the original contract—and the character of civil freedom cannot be understood without the missing half of the story that reveals how men's patriarchal right over women is established through contract" 2.
See especially chapters one and six for further discussion of marriage as a sexual contract. The Contagious Diseases Actswhich attempted to establish state control over prostitution, mandated that all "common prostitutes" in military garrison towns be examined for venereal disease and, if found to be infected, confined to "lock hospitals" to prevent the infection of British troops.