A Feminist Approach on Jane Eyre

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As a young boy, I couldnt wait to explore the aisles at Toys R Us. I would wait patiently at home for my parents, daydreaming about the latest releases. In the aisle designated for boys, all the toys were action-oriented: Superman flaunted his strength, Hulk flexed his abnormally enormous biceps, and Nerf guns were filled with plastic bullets.

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This was only true for one half of the store. On the other side of Toys R Us, the area was designated for girls. Girls had beauty-oriented and homemaking items, like an Easy-Bake Oven or an unnaturally slim Barbie doll. Both these areas were noticeably distinct with their segregated boys toys from girls toys and each seemed to have a not-so-subtle gender message: boys were expected to become strong courageous men while girls must be prepared to take on housekeeping duties. For centuries, these messages of the societal expectations based on gender have been established by numerous texts and films. Under the male pseudonym Currer Bell, Charlotte Bronts novel, Jane Eyre revolves around the strong female protagonist, Jane Eyre. As a female writer living in Victorian England, where women writers were unspoken of, Bront challenges her eras norm by creating a masterpiece with one of the most iconic female characters of all time. Throughout the novel, Jane develops relationships with prominent male figures, Edward Rochester and St. John Rivers, highlighting the stark contrasts between the roles females and males had. Despite her attempts to preserve her identity and freedom by refusing to submit to patriarchal powers, both Rochester and St. John constantly attempt to sway Jane away from her pro-feminist desires with their ideas of androcentrism.

Although Bront attempts to give readers a glimpse of gender equality between Jane and her male counterparts, there are still many sexist undertones throughout the novel highlighting the demoralizing power dynamics men believed to be entitled to over women. After departing Thornfield, Jane is taken in by St. John Rivers, the patriarchal head of the Moor House. Due to his calm and ordinary life, St. John yearns to pursue adventure through missionary work in India. Fearing the judgemental eyes of society, he desires a wife with good character to accompany him on his voyage, prompting him to ask Jane for her hand in marriage. She refuses his proposal, to which he responds with endless attempts to persuade her otherwise. While trying to convince her, St. John uses condescending language to objectify her as a tool for his personal gain. God and nature intended you for a missionarys wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not love. A missionarys wife you must-shall be. You shall be mine. I claim you not for my pleasure, but for my sovereign service (Bront 437).

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