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Essay on Reactions to Patriarchal Oppression by Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason

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Reactions to Patriarchal Oppression by Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason
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Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason are both oppressed by the British patriarchal system were men are the makers, interpreters, and enforcers of social and political rules. However, these two women differ greatly in the ways that they accept and cope with the reality of their place in society, and it is these differences that ultimately determine their fate. Jane Eyre follows the rules. Although she initially revolts against what she believes to be unfair restrictions at Gateshead and Lowood, she soon discovers that rebellion carries a high price and, over time, she learns to modify her behavior to conform to socially accepted norms. Bertha Mason, on the other hand, never accedes to society's restrictions on women's behavior. Bertha blatantly breaks all of the rules at Spanish Town and at Thornfield, but when Rochester punishes her for her unacceptable behavior, she only becomes less restrained. As Wyatt notes, the novel's "doubling of the female self into the good girl Jane and the criminally passionate Bertha reflect [sic] the experiences and corresponding psychic patterns of women living under patriarchy," and true to their individual responses to patriarchal control, "Jane reasons out the causes and effects of women's domestic oppression, [but] Bertha burns down the imprisoning house" (199-200). Jane, therefore, is successful in securing her desired place in society because she ultimately learns the value of conforming to the rules and operating within the context of their established structure. Bertha does not conform and therefore does not survive.

On the surface, two more opposite female characters could not be conceived. As an adult, J...


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...He then promptly replies, "'I will at least choose--her I love best. Jane, will you marry me?'" Jane, of course, eagerly responds, "'Yes, sir'" (426; ch. 37). Once again, Jane's principles remain uncompromised, but this time she is able to get exactly what she wants.

Even though Jane must care for Rochester constantly ("for I was then his vision, as I am still his right hand" [432; ch. 38]), she is happy to do so because she knows she can give her love to him with a clear conscience. Jane successfully uses her conformity to the constructs of patriarchy not only to establish social acceptance and maintain her own self-respect, but her insistence on strict compliance with society's rules for women also makes it possible for her to achieve her most cherished desires and goals: to be the legal, legitimate wife of Edward Rochester and the mother of his children.




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