Feminism in Jane Eyre


A compare and Contrast essay on female characters(s)’ portrayals in the chosen novel with your own opinion of what it means to be female in the 21st century. You will need to be specific in character traits for both the novel and your own opinion.

Must use two additional references of support for your opinion. Must not be Wikipedia nor a social media site. Use legitimate, valid support.

Use Feminist Lens: 1. How the reader views females’ roles in society. 2. How readers view the whole text through a feminist framework, such as, “our society is essentially patriarchal” or the literary canon is composed of literary works by “dead, white men,” or gender is a cultural “construct” or false pattern, but most people feel it is real. (I agree that gender is real).


Feminism in Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte’s novel ‘Jane Eyre’ is one of the most influential pieces of classical literature that provides a glimpse into feminism during the Victorian age, although not in the ordinary portrayal of feminism that one would expect. During the Victorian period, the society categorized women as the weaker sex, dependent, and their social role defined by gender norms. However, Bronte introduces a character in the novel that contradicts the societal norms and is not defined by gender expectations. Her character is clearly contradictory to that of other women who have accepted a second place in the society that led by men.

Bronte uses the female character named Jane to highlight issues on gender and feminism. Jane is portrayed as a strong, independent, and passionate woman. She could fight for what she believed to be right and believed in expressing her thoughts. This does not reflect the character of women during this period when women were marginalized. When she is young, Jane cuts the image of a strong woman capable defending her rights and expressing her own opinion. As the story unfolds in the beginning, Jane engages in a fight and the maid scolds her that she will be punished. The maid informs her that the young gentleman she struck is her benefactress’s son, and thus a young master to her. Surprisingly, Jane is agitated on hearing this to which she says, “Master! How is he my master? Am I a servant?” (Bronte, 1982, p. 32). This shows that she is straightforward and willing to fight for her rights. In the modern times, women should learn to fight for their rights, and not accept things as they are defined by traditions.

Jane comes to fall in love with a man called Rochester. Although she doubts that the feeling is mutual, she finally realizes that they are both in love with each other. During this period, women acted as men’s companion without necessarily being mutual love between them (Wang, 2011). Women would be used to advance a man’s status in society. Marriage was extremely important for them. After some time, Jane realized that Rochester was married and would thus be his mistress. She is loathsome of the fact and opts to quit the relationship. Later, she meets St. John, a man who saved her life and who later falls in love with her. Jane realizes that she does not love this man and rejects his proposal. This shows that she is an independent woman and can make her own decisions. She is the one to decide who to marry, something uncommon during the Victorian period. Likewise, women in the 21st century should be free to make their own decisions when it comes to marriage.

Jane character also cuts the image of a self-assured woman who knows what she wants (Wang, 2011). In the end of the novel, she says that she married Rochester. It is worth noting that marriage during this period elevated the status of a woman (Calder, 1977). However, marriage placed invisible chains upon women who were forever expected to serve their husbands not matter what. Married women were taken as the ‘property’ of their husband. Jane marries Rochester as an equal partner in the union, rather than as inferior to the man. In the 21st century, women are supposed to be equal partners in marriage as opposed to being subordinates.


Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Signet Classic, Penguin Books USA Inc. New York: 1982

Calder, J. (1977). The Victorian Home. London: Batsford Ltd.

Wang, Y. (2011). Women, Marriage and Economy in Jane Eyre. Journal of Literature,     Language and Linguistics, 3(1): 1-34.

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