From the opening of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, we can tell that Jane is not a “normal” Victorian girl. From the first chapter of the story we are presented with two themes. The first theme being that there is great tension and conflict between the classes. The second theme we are presented with is that of the oppression of women during the Victorian age.
In chapter one we are told that Jane is a poor orphan living with her Aunt. She has no immediate family and the people who are supposed to be her “family” are cruel towards her. John Reed, Jane’s cousin, says to her, “You are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you out to beg, and not live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense.”(10) John obviously feels as though Jane is not worthy of his family. He implies that she is of a lower class because she is not of “gentlemen’s children”. While Jane is technically not of the poor class, she is not of the wealthy class either. She is almost in a limbo between servant and master. This is also a recurrent theme throughout the story as she becomes a Governess, a woman who is held in higher regard than a
Bronte, through Jane, is trying to make people realize that women are not only to be locked inside and only allowed to do things within the home. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh" To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company" All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character perfect concord is the result. " (459)Jane"tms declaration of the equality between her and Rochester is testimony that she has not "given up" anything. Chapter two is also contains a great example of Jane"tms apparent limbo between the classes. She also feels this way about the wealthy class in some respects as well. In a world where women were to be considered as pictures of beauty in order to make a difference, Jane stands alone. She has gotten an education and secured her own fortune. Jane in many ways can be considered a proto-feminist model of how women should act. Women were expected to be chaste, submissive, passive, obedient, and reserved. In chapter twelve of the novel Bronte seems to really have a call to arms of women reading the novel. The nineteenth century in England was a complex era controlled by a male dominated social structure. She sees the poor class as an unacceptable place for her to remain. " (111)This is a direct social critique of how Victorian women were supposed to act. Bronte writes, "I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. At the end of the novel Jane has accomplished all she has set out to do.