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Charlotte Bronte Critiques Victorian Culture in Jane Eyre Essay

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“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” Mary Shelley, in addition to the direct interpretation, suggests with this declaration that not only are humans resistant to and resentful of change, but so too are the societies in which they live, especially when the social order is directly challenged. This natural tendency causes change to occur slowly in societies after years of different ‘radicals’ pushing for transformation. Their critiques, especially in the beginning, are received with scorn and contempt. It takes a unique voice to covertly instill some of the contentious messages in the mind of the general public. Charlotte Brontë, through her telling Jane’s life story, conveys controversial concepts about Victorian Society in an acceptable way. She illustrates her scorn for the rigid class structure, her disillusionment with devout religious ideals, and her belief that women deserve more rights than what they are allocated in her society. Brontë also contends that Victorian values of money and superficial beauty over love and mortality are innately incorrect. She is able to disparage her society’s values because of her subtle style of stressing her own ideals.

In the Victorian era, social mobility was rarely possible and those belonging to inferior classes were not valued. Brontë makes Jane an advocate for the acceptance of other classes and of social mobility by giving Jane an ambiguous social standing. She comes from a good family, is well-educated, yet for most of the novel she is a poor orphan. She acts subserviently towards Rochester and St. John, yet will not blindly follow their wishes or fold to their commands – she will only “obey [Rochester] in all that is right”. This, along wit...


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...als reasons for women’s equality and for why she believes love and morality should be valued over superficial Victorian values of beauty, wealth and social status. Brontë truly makes her critiques of Victorian culture effective by covertly integrating them into her novel through her female protagonist, Jane.




Works Cited

Bossche, Chris R. Vanden. "What did Jane Eyre do? Ideology, agency, class and the novel." Narrative 13.1 (2005): 46+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.

Brontë, Charlotte, and Arthur Zeiger. Jane Eyre. New York: New American Library, 1982. Print.

Kaplan, Carla. "Girl Talk: Jane Eyre and the Romance of Women's Narration." Novel: A Forum on Fiction 30.1 (Fall 1996): 5-31. Rpt. in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Ed. Kathy D.

Darrow. Vol. 217. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.



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