Women in Jane Eyre

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“Though restrained by social convention, the passions of the female characters in Jane Eyre emerge with great force.” Discuss Brontës presentation of female characters in Jane Eyre. “Restrained by social convention”, orphaned Jane begins in exile at Gateshead hall. Brontë describes her as a ‘rock standing alone in a sea of billow and spray’, suggesting the extent of her isolation due to the cruel treatment (the billow and spray) from her Aunt Reed and cousins. In the Victorian era, orphaned children were regarded as classless; the “abandoned child” was society’s scapegoat, as a person without a past, without connections, without status. Furthermore, orphans were also often treated with disdain and distrust, due to their reputation as “criminally prone” individuals, and were frequent targets of classic “Victorian contradictions”, that characterized the social conventions of Victorian society. Bessie repeatedly refers to Jane as ‘poor orphan child’ in her hymn early on at Gateshead. The development of Jane’s character is central to the novel. She learns to control her passions, as her integrity is put to the test when she faces so much injustice: ‘why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, forever condemned?’. The bildungs roman of the protagonist, contrasts the attitudes of the mature Jane to her younger self initially shouting: ‘unjust, unjust’, nonetheless coming of age made her reactions and opinions more subtle, ‘what consternation of a soul was mine that dreary afternoon’. Brontë presents Jane with a strong sense of self worth, and principles. Her ‘blood was still warm’ after being locked in the red room with the anger of her wrong punishment and the negative reinforcement it presented her with, ‘fell damp on the embers of her decaying fire’. Fire is a metaphor often used by Brontë throughout the novel to represent passions and
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