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AnAnalysisofFeminisminJaneEyre

2016-07-20李丹

校园英语·下旬 2016年6期
关键词:李丹女权主义英语

李丹

【Abstract】Jane Eyre, the book of English writer Charlotte Bronte, has received great attention and welcome among its readers and critics since its publication on 16 October 1847. The book is an autobiography in which Charlotte Bronte describes her own psychological journey in her life. It tells the story of a young, orphaned girl who lives with her aunt and cousins, the Reeds, at Gateshead Hall. When she grows up, she becomes a governess and falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester. They marry, but only after Rochesters insane first wife dies in a dramatic house fire. Jane Eyre, the heroine under Charlottes pen is distinctive for her rebellious characters. She dares to love and hate, she is not afraid to fight against social injustice and pursue equality, self-respect, self-improvement. She becomes an embodiment of rebel among traditional women. The book also denounced females wretched social condition and demonstrated their strong desire to be equal to male. Jane Eyre is a masterpiece of Western feminism.

【Key words】Jane Eyre Feminism Oppression Struggle Equity

Jane Eyre is a world classic masterpiece. From a unique female perspective, the author Charlotte Bronte creates an independent, brave female character who dares to fight and pursue equity and freedom. The protagonist Jane Eyre becomes an idol for a lot of women, and also a legend. Since publication, Jane Eyre is widely praised, and adapted for many times into world popular movies and TV series. Why we are so obsessed with Jane Eyre? The answer is simple. The protagonist Jane Eyre embodies the independent and rebellious spirit of women. Thats why women from generation to generation imitate her and thats why this book has eternal charm.

This thesis first discusses the rise and development of Feminism. Then present descriptively the feminist ideas in Jane Eyre from Four perspectives: firstly, Charlotte Bronte breaks the old stereotype of beautiful women protagonist written in conventional novels. Secondly, Jane Eyres independent, rational, rebellious characters. Thirdly, Jane Eyres new type of concept of love; finally, the limitation of feminism of Jane Eyre.

◆ The rise and development of Feminism

Gender differences exist through the history. The development of feminism is closely related to the history of the women. In the Paleolithic period, people advocate “mother of God”. At that period of time, womens social status is relatively high. However, along with the frequent wars, application and improvement of metal and transportation, when the plough used by men gradually replace the hoe, the economic basis of the matriarchal society is systematically destroyed. The ideology of matriarchal society is gradually disintegrated.

Since then, society is full of sexual discrimination. The female “automatically” becomes a race discriminated. On the whole, the social role of women is defined and controlled by male, in the fields such as education, property, civil rights, public life and other circumstances. Women even could be treated as commodities, traded in the market. Women, as mother also are shackled by children and housework, they had no extra time and effort to “compete” with men.

In the later patriarchal society, womens liberation movement aroused against the patriarchal ideas. Many literary works appeared, creating a variety of female images with the spirit of struggling.19th century famous British female writer Charlotte Brontes classic Jane Eyre is a novel to look at women and humans destiny from female perspective. The book is known as a feminist manifesto. The author revealed the womens inner world through their personal experience and artistic creation. The heroin Jane Eyre who seeks equality and freedom, has the characteristics that surpassed the traditional character of women. There is a spontaneous protest in the spiritual world of Jane Eyre against social suppression. She would not give up the protesting and independent spirit for any price. And this spirit makes her image a vivid and unique charm.

◆ Charlotte Bronte breaks the old stereotype of beautiful heroine written in conventional novels.

Charlotte Bronte made great breakthrough in describing the protagonist—Jane Eyres appearance. In conventional novels, the female protagonists are mostly beautiful, sweet-natured and tender. Take Othello of William Shakespeare as an example. In Othello, Tess Desdemona was very beautiful and soft-hearted. She was killed by her husband Othello because her husband was suspicious of her. Because she was too fragile and weak that she couldnt resist. Another example is the fairy tales written by many writers. The fairytale often create beautiful women. When the woman meets with difficulties, she doesnt resolve the difficulties by herself. Instead, she relies on finding a princess to save her. And finally she marries the prince and they live happily ever after. Under these writers pen, women are beautiful, kind-hearted, tender, most importantly, they are not independent! They are not tenacious and strong. Only by others help and save, they can live a happy life. They rely especially on their husband. If their husband treat them well, and their husband are capable, they can live a happy and satisfactory life; however, if their husband dont treat them well, they might probably die. These are the women under most writers hands.

Charlotte Bronte broke the stereotype of conventional writers, in her book Jane Eyre, she describe a female that has a humble background and plain appearance but also an incarnation of rationalism, virtue and wisdom. Jane Eyre is tenacious, strong, rational, and independent and pursues the equity of dignity.

Jane Eyre is a representative of feminist movement in Europe and America in the 20th century. Jane Eyre represent the wish of women, especially women come from a humble background to be equal with men, to defend their independence and dignity, and to freely express their love and hatred. Charlotte Bronte wrote this book to protect womens right. The book Jane Eyre is a great progress of women fighting for equity in Victorian time.

◆ Jane Eyres independent, rational, rebellious characters.

The novel starts when Jane Eyre is ten years old and several years after her parents died by typhus. Following her uncles dying wishes, Jane lives with her uncles family, the Reeds. Janes aunt, Sarah Reed, does not like her, treat her as a burden and discourages her children from associating with Jane. Mrs. Reed and her children treat Jane every badly and even abuse her both physically and emotionally and spiritually. One day, after her cousin John knocks her down and she attempts to defend herself, Jane is locked in the red room where her uncle died; there, she faints from panic after she thinks she has seen his ghost.

Jane Eyre was not obedient to these maltreatments. She fight back and she cried loudly in her heart ”Unjust! Unjust! ”. Before Jane leave to the Lowood Institution, she confronts Mrs. Reed and declares she will never call her aunt again as long as she live. She also declares she will tell everyone at Lowood how cruel Mrs. Reed treat her.

At Lowood Institution, a school for poor and orphaned girls, Jane Eyres rebellious character never changes. When she sees her friend Helen Burns is maltreated and always obedient. Jane says “If I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose.”

◆ New Concept of Equal Love

When Jane became a governess in Mr. Rochesters home, facing with the eccentric master Mr. Rochester, she made communication with him in a dignified and natural way without any flattering. She held the opinion that women were not affiliated to men and women should be independent. Jane is kind, wise and special, Mr. Rochester gradually fall in love with here. At the same time Jane loves Mr. Rochester. Although Jane is short with ordinary appearance and low social status, Mr. Rochester does not look down upon her, but treat her equally in spirit. Thats why he won Jans love. In chaper24, Mr. Rochester said: “to the soul made of fire, and the character that bends but does not break-at once supple and stable, tractable and consistent I am ever tender and true.” These sentences revealed Mr. Rochesters attitude towards love. Because of this spiritual communication, Jane and Mr. Rochester fall in love with each other. Their love has the basis of mutual understanding. In terms of Janes attitude to marriage, she accepted Mr. Rochesters propose out of their strong love. Compared with Mrs. Blanche who wanted to marry Mr. Rochester for his wealthy, Jane is noble. She is willing to marry Mr. Rochester in spite of the divide between them about social class, property or appearance but purely out of love and equity. When Jane misunderstood Mr. Rochester that he was going to marry Mrs. Blanche, she uttered that “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!” This is the most impressive part of the novel. And this statement is the condensation of the novel as well as the portrait of Jane Eyre. Jane believes that though human beings are different in status、in property and also in appearance, they are equal in personality. Everyone is the same at the Gods feet. Though Jane is “small”, “plain”, not beautiful, she will never let herself to be manipulated and is independent to make her own decision.

Because her lack of money and social status, she deeply understands without the means to be an independent woman, she is bound to either struggle through life trying to make a living or become dependent on a man. So even When Mr. Rochester want to marry Jane Eyre, Jane refuse any jewels and clothing, and she want to continue to teach Adele. This plan is entirely radical and never heard of for the time, and it further illustrates the feminist elements of her personality. She always strives to maintain a position in life devoid of any debts to others. She wants love, but pure and equal. No matter under what circumstances she still tries to be a somewhat independent woman.

When Jane Eyre is about to marry Mr. Rochester, she discover his wifes existence. She falls in to pain and desperation because she is cheated. At that moment, she still keeps her dignity as a woman. Finally, she chooses to leave. She doesnt want to be a mistress without any respect. This shows her pursuit for equality. She says “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” so Jane must leave. She got cheated, her self-esteem was kidded. No woman who could withstand being cheated by the man whom she deeply loved and trusted. She left Mr. Rochester. Refusing the temptation from a beautiful and wealthy life, she still persists in her own dignity.

Later Jane Eyre met Saint John. He is a very handsome missionary. He thinks that Jane Eyre could be his assistant. So he gives up his love and proposes to her. He believed that God and nature intended Jane for a missionary's wife. “You shall be mine: I claim you not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign's service.” But Jane believes that the marriage should be based on equal love. The love must be sincere. One side should not use the other side as a tool to achieve any goal. Although Jane respect his devotion and sacrificing spirit, and moved by his care and tender. At last, Jane refuses his proposal “I scorn your idea of love, I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes, St. John, and I scorn you when you offer it.”

St. John won't give up and keeps persuading Jane to marry him. Just as shes about to give in, she supernaturally hears Mr. Rochesters voice calling her name from somewhere far away. Jane decides to go back to Thornfield to find out whats going on with Mr. Rochester. She finds out that Bertha set the house on fire one night and burned it to the ground. Rochester tried to save Bertha, too, but she committed suicide and he was injured. Now Rochester has lost an eye and a hand and is blind in the remaining eye. Now, Mr. Rochester is a handicapped man and has no money. But Jane reunites him and assures him that she will never leave him again. She is willing to be his neighbor, his nurse, his housekeeper. She wants to be his companion to read to him, to walk with him, to sit with him, to wait on him, to be eyes and hands to him. Even when Mr. Rochester has no money at all, Jane Eyre doesnt think she make a sacrifice to marry him. She marries him willingly. At this circumstance, Jane Eyre gains love and dignity too. This shows Jane Eyres new type of concept of love.

When Jane Eyre told Mrs. Fairfax she loved Mr. Rochester, Mrs. Fairfax was surprised by the age difference between Jane and Mr. Rochester. He was about the age of her father. But Jane said “He is nothing like my father! No one, who saw us together, would suppose it for an instant. Mr. Rochester looks as young, and is as young, as some men at five-and –twenty.” St. John is only 9 years older than Jane, but Jane refused to marry with him. Janes attitude to marriage become more clearly to us through this dialogue. Jane thought the equality in love is most important, age and status arent limits of marriage that are impossible to surmount.

◆ The Limitation of Feminism in Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre, the small girl with relatively low position, uses learning and personality to require equality and independence and finally gains social respect and true love. She is a respectable representative of feminism. But, we cant ignore Janes limitations of feminism. Jane feels happy to play the traditional womens role “angel in the house” after she married Rochester. Before that, Janes independent personality is driven by the desire of the love of Rochester. After they get married, Jane returns to meet the traditional expectation for a woman—“an angel in the house”. Jane thinks“I hold myself supremely blest blessed beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully is he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.” We can see the endorsement of traditional value of Jane, who regards it happiest to be Rochesters wife.

In conclusion, Jane Eyre though plain, poor and lonely, striving for equality with Mr. Rochester in their love, represents the feminism and resistance to the oppression on women at that time. But we can also find out the limitation of Jane in the Victorian time.

References:

[1]Charlotte,Bronte.(1992)Jane Eyre[M].Oxford:Oxford University Press.

[2]王晓霞.从女权主义的视角解读《简爱》[J].海外英语,2010, (05).

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