Advanced English: Critical Study Module – Jane Eyre
Bronte in 19th century England wrote Jane Eyre when the prevailing ethos was Christian and conservative. The novel was successful as it was seen to be about a wild child who eventually controls her passion and conforms to society but critics were shocked as Jane Eyre was seen as challenging social conventions regarding a woman’s role in society. However, in a modern context, morals and attitudes towards issues such as religion, class and gender have become more liberal, affecting the interpretation of ideas within texts. Since an interpretation of a text is dependent on one’s context, ideology and values, the way of interpreting texts has dramatically changed.
Liberal humanism values the development of a person in society as they see this as the most important aspect of life, an aspect of life everyone deals with. There is also a belief in universal values such as justice and love. Liberal Humanists see Jane Eyre as a heroine who endures injustice in a society that does not share the same values as her. *Eagleton states Jane “sought a balance between the social and moral conventions of her day and self fulfilment” in order to survive and maintain her own identity.
Nevertheless, liberal humanists see Jane as initially lacking control of her passionate feelings. This can be seen when John Reed, Jane’s cousin, taunts and bullies her; she rashly retaliates with, “Wicked and cruel boy! You are like a murder…” This lack of self control aggravates the situation provokes John to attack Jane. Jane’s passion ignites again to defend her but Aunt Reed stops the scuffle and is horrified at Jane’s “picture of passion”. Passion was considered dangerous and anti-social/not customary in Victorian England, especially if exerted by females, who were expected to conform and submit to male supremacy. As a result Jane is denied natural justice and is sentenced to the red room without a chance to explain herself. Her passion,...