Masculinity in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

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Masculinity in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre


Throughout the novel 'Jane Eyre' we meet 5 male characters.
Immediately we can notice that the number of female characters
outweighs the number of male characters. It feels as though Brontë is
trying to tell us that overall women will come out more influential
and powerful than men. Indeed power is what our male characters have
in common. Their power however alters from character to character.
This is the common version of masculinity portrayed by Bront
throughout 'Jane Eyre'. Many men at the time of the novel were very
powerful, this power varied from wealth, influential positions and
even whom you knew. Women were not entitled to their own opinions and
their husbands or fathers made all the decisions. Jane however defies
the conventions of the time. She has her own opinions and is not
prepared to take orders from the powerful men in the novel.

With power comes other traits, and this is where we can differentiate
between the characters. Brocklehurst and St John both have power
through the position they hold (Brocklehurst being in charge of the
girls' school and St John being a parson), whereas John Reed and
Rochester have power through wealth. Mr Lloyd (the apothecary) is
perhaps the only man in the novel without any real power and he is the
only person who listens to Jane.

Rochester's masculinity is the most important, as he represents the
best and worst of a man. His masculinity is typical of this period and
he is shown ordering Jane around, 'bring me my horse', most women were
obliging to men as they were the authority in society, although Jane
resents this authority and wants to do things her own way. So from
this we can see that the masculinity he shows typical of the time and
incredibly dominant and powerful over women in the novel, especially
Jane. As the novel progresses however Rochester becomes less masculine
during the fire at Thornfield he loses everything, here we can compare
him to Jane because; at the beginning she too doesn't have anything.
In loosing everything he loses his masculinity and power. He no longer
has his house, 'I saw blackened ruins'. His house is part of his power
and this is no longer there. He also looses his sight and his hand,
Jane becomes his, 'eyes and hands', and Rochester is reliant on her,
'I led him out of the wet wild wood'. The role of the dominant one is
reversed. Here Rochester shows very little masculinity as he is now
not in charge. Jane saves Rochester but equally he saves her, from St

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John persuading her to be his wife and a missionary.

St John is the worst of men alongside John Reed. They are both
bullies. St John bullies Jane into marrying him and uses God against
her, 'I had thought I recognized in you one of the chosen. But God
sees not as man sees', but does this make him more masculine? In my
opinion it makes him seem cowardly and even less masculine than if he
were Honest and didn't hide behind his religion. St John's
description's are always cold 'what terror those cold people can put
into the ice of their questions?' and this gives off the impression to
us as the reader that he is bitter and twisted. He is being driven by
what he believes in (his religion) but at the same time this belief is
making him suffer, 'his glorious sun hastens to its setting', which
means he is nearing his death. He doesn't love Jane he just thinks
that she would make a good missionary's wife and this is rather
disrespectful towards Jane, because she is entitled to do what she
pleases and be with someone who loves her (Rochester) with St John
being like this we can see how weak, St John is and quite how
determined and strong Jane is, 'No St John I will not marry you'.

In contrast to St John we have Mr Brocklehurst. He too is cold,
unfeeling, uncompassionate and mean. He represents all Jane Hates. His
masculinity also seems quite weak. This is because he has double
standards; he has one rule for the children and another rule for his
family. ' "All these top-knots must be cut off. From under the brim of
the headdress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately curled.'
Brocklehurst picks on Jane also, 'who would think that the evil one
had already found a servant and agent in her?' which shows the link of
cowardliness with St John. The difference between Mr Brocklehurst and
St John is that Brocklehurst is very wealthy and powerful and St John
is just powerful.

Mr Lloyd the apothecary is the only man in the novel who listens the
Jane, 'you have been crying Miss Jane Eyre; can you tell me what
about?' and even though it is in the early stages of the novel,
without him Jane would never have left the reed's in the first place.
Although what would seem like a fairly unimportant character, Mr
Lloyd, is the key. He is Jane's escape route the Reed's, '"the child
ought to have a change of air"' he is the only man to believe her, (St
John and Mr Brocklehurst, question what she is saying), and he id the
first man to actually talk to her and understand her. Bront is trying
to show the reader that there are men about with these qualities, but
they are extremely hard to come by. Mr Lloyd has no influential power
and is not wealthy; so is Bront trying to tell us that all poor men
are nice people? I don't think she is, as St John is poor and he is
mean, selfish, cold and a bully, whereas Mr Lloyd is a complete
opposite. There are many similarities between Mr Lloyd and Rochester.
Mr Rochester shows Jane kindness but of a different type, he is more
rugged than all good. There is also a tie between these two men, as
they both save Jane; Mr Lloyd from the clutches of the Reeds and Mr
Rochester from St John, 'Jane! Jane! Jane!' He saves her from the
pressure St John is using against her.

When you first begin to read 'Jane Eyre' you meet Mr Lloyd, and think
he is a hero because he has rescued Jane, later you realise that
compared to the likes of Mr Brocklehurst, Mr Lloyd really is too nice
to be true and that Mr Brocklehurst too evil. Mr Rochester is the
contrast of both, he has qualities from both characters and I think
Bront is trying to tell us that no man is perfect.


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