Through Jane Eyre and the many other characters within her novel, Bront© is able to give insight to the culture and practices common with Victorian England and provides the reader with er opinions concerning these attributes of that society. One of the aspects of the Victorian time period that Bronte analyzes through her characters is the expectations of men and women, specifically concerning their financial and domestic roles, respectively. Bronte strongly criticizes the idea that men must be responsible for the wealth of a family, while the main objective of the women is to be attractive and please their husbands.
Another element of Victorian England that Bront© takes in account is the huge influence that Christianity has on people. With regard to its teachings of forgiveness and quality, Bronte strongly supports Christianity through the actions of her characters. In their articles about Jane Eyre, Sally Shuttleworth, Nicholas Johnson, and Maggie Berg agree with Bronte on her compliments and damnations of certain elements of the Victorian society. Charlotte Bronte makes many references to her society in Jane Eyre.
The main criticism and praise Bront© offers towards the norms of Victorian England are the expectations Of men and women, and the influence Of Christianity, respectfully. Countless times throughout Jane Eyre, Bront© points out the unequal xpectations of men and women, especially when considering finances and physical appearance. During this time period in England, it was common for only men to receive formal education and be the sole providers for their families. Women, on the other hand, were given rudimentary education and were based primarily on their appearances and ability to perform ‘feminine” activities, such as sew or sing.
By this standard, the potential marriage of Edward Rochester, Jane’s employer, and Blanche Ingram would have been perfect. While Rochester is not an attractive man, he is vastly rich and owner of Thornfield Manor. Blanche is well known for her beauty and lovely singing voice. After having her fortune told by the gypsy (Rochester in disguise), it becomes clear to the reader that Blanche is only interested in Rochester because of his money. When Jane is having her fortune told, Rochester (still in disguise) tells her about Blanche and Rochester’s relationship.
He says, “And probably [Blanche] loves [Rochester]; or, if not his person, at least his purse” (Bronte 203). Also, after the gypsy deceives Blanche into thinking does not have as much money as she believed, she is clearly distraught and unhappy. It is difficult to truly judge Blanche for focuses so much on Rochester’s money. After all, it was the norm in Victorian England for beautiful women to seek out wealthy husbands to sustain and take care of them. However, Bronte clearly disapproves of Blanche seeking rochester for his money.
As shown here by Blanche, another element of the Victorian Era was that marriage was often used as a tool for the elevation of financial or social status. Marriage during this time was rarely out of mutual love for one another. Jane and Rochester go strictly against the societal norms of Victorian England by marrying each other for love. When Rochester proposes to Jane, he says, “What love have for Miss Ingram? None… What love has she for me? None… You-… I love you as my own flesh” (Bronte 258 & 259). Bront© is clearly speaking out against the norms of the current society by having Rochester marry Jane instead of Blanche.
Instead of marrying the beautiful, traditional woman from an upper-class family, as most men in his position would do, he chooses to marry the unattractive, outspoken woman he loves. In her article, “Jane Eyre and the 19th century Woman”, Sally Shuttleworth references Bront©’s criticism of the Victorian Era’s gender specific roles. Shuttleworth writes, “Jane Eyre unsettled views as to how Women should act and behave, suggesting… almost an overthrowing of social order. ” Bronte wants to point out through her characters that women should not have to act or be brought up a certain way in order to gain love, prosperity, and society’s approval.
Another example of how Bront© expresses the gender roles of Victorian England is through Jane’s relatives, John Reed and Aunt Sarah. As his male heir, John inherits all of his father’s wealth and is allowed to do whatever he ishes with it. He turns to a life of drinking and gambling with no regard for the fact that he is not only wasting his money, but his mother’s as well. Eventually, his gambling debts become so severe that he kills himself. Hearing that her son is dead and that she is out of all her money, Aunt Sarah has a stroke and dies shortly after.
Bront© is clearly trying to point out that the irresponsible John Reed should not have been given control of his father’s fortune. The Victorian Era idea of men always gaining power over the family’s money was flawed, according the Bront©. As represented by Rochester hoosing to marry Jane over Blanche and John Reed foolishly being given control over his family’s wealth, Bronte is able to criticize the element of Victorian England concerning the expectations of each gender and marriage, specifically with regards to finances, physical attractiveness, and love.
Unlike gender roles, the influence of Christianity on people is one aspect of Victorian England that Bront© praises in her novel, Jane Eyre. The person who arguably influences Jane the most concerning religion in Helen Burns. Helen is Jane’s best friend at Lowood Academy, where she spends nearly all of her dolescent life. Helen is an extremely devout Christian and takes her faith very seriously. She believes that all Of life is Hell and that people must face the world’s injustices with kindness and dignity.
She believes that loving her enemies and accepting her earthly fates will promise her everlasting life in Heaven. Even as Helen is dying from typhus, she holds true to her beliefs. On her last night, Helen speaks to Jane. She says, “l am very happy , Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about” (Bronte 82). Jane clearly remembers and acts upon Helen’s teachings later in the novel. When her aunt Sarah is on her deathbed, Jane forgives her for all the the cruelties that she committed towards Jane as a child.
Even after Jane learns that Aunt Sarah lied to Jane’s uncle John about Jane being dead, she still wanted to make amends with her aunt. In his article, “The Tension between Reason and Passion in Jane Eyre”, Nicholas Johnson clearly agrees with this point. Johnson writes, ” We see this [Christian] philosophy in action when Jane visits her dying aunt and is able to forgive her. She receives a just reward for this kindly act, the knowledge of an uncle living n the East Indies. ” Jane’s actions clearly coincide with the traditional Christian belief that if one loves and forgives one’s enemies, one will be rewarded.
Bront© making sure a clear and positive reference to Christianity must mean that she is recognizing its value and praising the religion’s influence on people during the Victorian Era. Another major belief within Christianity is the idea Of equality. Most Christians believe that anyone, regardless of background, race or gender, can achieve salvation by following and obeying God. Bront© makes a clear reference to this idea within her novel through Jane and Rochester. In her article, “Jane Eyre: Portrait of Life”, Maggie Berg highlight and explains this reference.
Berg writes, ‘When Jane Eyre makes what was considered an unfeminine declaration of equality with Rochester it is on the basis of their Christian souls”. As stated previously, Bront© makes an effort to express how Jane and Rochester belong together by going against traditional Victorian beliefs and pursuing their love for one another. By having a Christian belief allow Jane to profess her love for Rochester, Bronte is clearly tying to say that Christian influence was a positive and fortunate aspect of her society.
By aving Christian beliefs allow Jane to try to make amends with her aunt and help Jane declare her love for Rochester, Bront© is clearly trying to praise the element of the Victorian Era, which is people being influenced by Christianity. Two major elements of Victorian England that Charlotte Bronte discusses in her novel Jane Eyre are gender roles and the influence of Christianity. Bronte clearly disapproves of the gender roles of this time period, specifically those referencing what is to be expected of a husband and wife. The characters convey this belief in several ways.
One example is how instead of marrying he beautiful and seemingly (by Victorian standards) perfect Blanche, he instead chooses love over socioeconomic status and marries Jane. Another example is how John Reed being given control of his family’s fortune leads to his and his mother’s downfall and death. Lastly, Blanche is looked down upon for wanted to marry Rochester solely for his money, and is punished by not being able to marry him in the end. Unlike gender roles, Christian influence, another aspect of Victorian society, is supported and praised by Bront© in her novel.
One instance of this is when Jane does the right thing by forgiving her unt Sarah. She does this going off of the Christian belief of loving one’s enemy that Helen taught Jane. Another example is when Jane professes her love for Rochester on the basis of their equal Christian souls. It is very fascinating to witness Charlotte Bront© express her beliefs concerning the aspects of Victorian England through the characters of her novel. She does an amazing job of expressing her feelings towards the injustices of expectations for each gender, while also praising the benefits that Christianity, a vital part of Victorian society, can have on people.