One of the problems in Jane Eyre seems to be how to serve other people in the Even Jane seems more interested in St. John's work than her own marriage. The divine mission of St John Rivers II The conflict between passion and duty. II Jane Eyre´s search for identity. II Jane´s difficulties with Rochester. Issue title: Unequal Exchange: Gender and Economies of Power Within the text of Jane Eyre, "mistress" most often denotes a "kept woman. .. of romantic love in marriage through Jane's reaction to St. John Rivers's insistence that she marry.
The solution to the conflicts and the basis of a harmonious male-female relationship which are offered in the novel will be examined and subsequently evaluated.
But before I can embark on the study of concepts of love and marriage in Jane Eyre, it is useful to have some background information about the author and her time, which will make it easier to understand the problems discussed in the novel.
The female role in the Victorian era Victorian times are mainly associated with a male-dominated, prudish society in which women had no rights. A woman on her own was nothing and was only defined by her father or husband: In spite of being a dependent and passive creature, a woman was also regarded as pure, innocent and good — and therefore as the model of morality for men. With these angelic attributes it was her duty to be an obedient and caring wife.
The husband, who worked hard in a rough world, needed peace and comfort at home. Female occupation in the fields of art, literature, teaching and entertainment was at least tolerated. Through the voice of Jane Eyre, she criticises some aspects of this role. Women are supposed to be very calm generally, but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties [ She herself feared such a restriction before her own wedding with Arthur Bell Nichols: She strongly disapproved of the unequal distribution of rights in marriage.
In her eyes independence and autonomy were preconditions to finding fulfilment in a relationship. Fairfax shocks the reader, and Jane, into realizing that the romantic marriage Rochester and Jane plan is an exception rather than the rule, and that it is particularly fraught with danger when the woman is an employee of the man.
Fairfax, and shows that if Jane were to marry Rochester, she would be suspected of trying to marry him for his money. Jane exhibits a great deal of anxiety about her impending change of status before the first, failed wedding of the novel. Although the outcome of that wedding—the revelation that Rochester is already married to Bertha Mason—justifies her fears, it is important to remember that Jane has not had premonitions of Rochester's planned bigamy per se.
Rather, Jane's fears stem from her anxiety about her potential economic and social dependency on Rochester, which Mrs. While Jane considers her work as a governess legitimate labor in exchange for Rochester's money, there are exchanges in which she will not participate. Jane implies that there are two potential ways for a woman to gain independence: The conviction that financial independence is an important marker of women's personal and subjective autonomy is evident when Rochester takes Jane shopping.
Jane is disturbed by both Rochester's selection of gaudy clothing and his proprietary attitude toward her: With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: I told him in a new series of whispers, that he might as well buy me a gold gown and a silver bonnet at once: I should certainly never venture to wear his choice. As Mariana Valverde observes, "medical and political discourses.
What constituted finery was class-specific, in that finery meant clothing that was inappropriate to a woman's class or station in life: Jane's fear of being brightly dressed, then, stems from the contrast between the significance of these new clothes and that of the accustomed and expected plainness of her dress as a governess. On Jane, the bright silks and satins would be inappropriate because of her class position though not, as Valverde's argument makes clear, to her new station after her marriage and would therefore indicate a lack of economic and sexual integrity.
If she were to wear the clothes that he purchased for her, Jane realizes, she would look more like Rochester's mistress than his ward's governess. It is the association between Rochester's purchase of these elaborate clothes, which are tokens of mistresshood, and Jane's body that she finds upsetting: This feeling of degradation, linked as it is to the increase in buying, stems from both her economic position and from Rochester's glee in keeping her increasingly in his debt.
Jane immediately reads his pleasure as the smug satisfaction of "buying" her.
Concepts of love and marriage in 'Jane Eyre'
I crushed his hand, which was ever hunting mine, vigorously, and thrust it back to him red with the passionate pressure" Not only does his look appear to take possession of her, like a "sultan" with his "slave," but he also constantly attempts to take physical possession of her, with his hand "ever hunting" Jane's.
We might read the seeking hand as a synecdoche for Rochester's whole body, seeking Jane sexually both before and after the wedding. It is clear, however, that Jane sees a large part of her "degradation" as the combination between Rochester's sexual and material ownership of her. She seizes on the metaphor he uses and seems purposefully to misconstrue it, responding as if he had asked her to behave like the "whole seraglio": This non sequitur makes clear the extent to which Jane is obsessed with asserting her own independence as she anticipates her dependence on Rochester.
In another effort to assert her independence, Jane insists on retaining her salary and work schedule even after her marriage. She declares that she will earn her keep even within marriage, thus refusing to become one of Rochester's mistresses: I'll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money'" Here, Jane tries to negotiate two separate relationships to Rochester: In other words, she is trying to do what was legally impossible for early Victorian women: Jane is very clear that what she is rejecting is not Rochester's love, but the exchange of his money for her loss of autonomy.
Jane's suggestion is deeply ironic, for she could not be paid by Rochester if she were his wife because he would, by law of coverture, be paying himself.
Chapter XXXIV [St. John Rivers proposes marriage] from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
Still, she seems to think that the symbolic act of working for her keep would protect her from dependency and mistresshood in marriage.
At the end of the discussion, she returns to the question of her wardrobe: Rochester will not dress her, not even for her wedding. Jane not only declares her independence to Rochester, but also seeks to establish financial autonomy by writing to her wealthy uncle, in the hope that he may leave her an inheritance. Rochester an accession of fortune, I could better endure to be kept by him now'" ; my italics.
Again, Jane ignores the fact that any property she were to bring to the marriage would become Rochester's. But this desire for independence, read within the larger plot-structure of the novel, helps her to avoid total dependence on Rochester.
Joyce Zonana points out that it is in fact this desire that saves Jane from the bigamous marriage, for "Jane's letter to John Eyre alerts Rochester's brother-in-law, Richard Mason, to Rochester's plans. Because of her love for Rochester, Jane faces a dangerous paradox when he asks her to come away with him after their wedding is pre-empted. Jane is caught between her love for Rochester and her equally strong desire to maintain her independence.
When she refuses to join him, Rochester accuses Jane of having tried to marry him for his wealth and social position: It was only my station, and the rank of my wife, that you valued? Now that you think me disqualified to become your husband, you recoil from my touch" Rochester thus speaks Jane's own worst fears—that the attempted marriage to Rochester could be construed as her surrender to dependency and mistresshood.
Jane hardly needs the reminder; as Maurianne Adams notes, "the sudden emergence of Bertha Mason Rochester from her attic hideaway confirms and verifies what Jane had already feared, that as Rochester's wife she would be but his mistress, a kept woman, without any independent social status" Why do you shake your head?
But Jane understands differently: Jane contends that if she were to accompany Rochester, their relationship would be marked by economic dependency and sexual exchange. Her self-definition as a governess or as an economic agent would then be subsumed under a definition that is purely relative to Rochester: Jane has learned her lesson from Rochester's disdain about his former mistresses.
As Rochester remarks, "'Hiring a mistress is the next worst thing to buying a slave: This comparison of a mistress to a slave recurs in the text, generally through the references to seraglios or harems. Rochester is quite right in asserting that this relationship is degrading, though it is surprising that he does not recognize the extent to which it dehumanizes the hired party.
I felt the truth of these words; and I drew from them the certain inference, that if I were so far to forget myself and all the teaching that had ever been instilled into me, as—under any pretext—with any justification—through any temptation —to become the successor of these poor girls, he would one day regard me with the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory.
I did not give utterance to this conviction: I impressed it on my heart, that it might remain there to serve me as aid in the time of trial.
While Jane is determined to maintain her independence, she expresses a certain ambivalence about her decision to leave Thornfield. She ultimately congratulates herself for choosing not to be Rochester's mistress: Whether is it better, I ask, to be a slave in a fool's paradise at Marseilles—fevered with delusive bliss one hour—suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next—or to be a village-schoolmistress, free and honest. After all, what could be more self-delusive than the appearance of respectability that marriage confers?
Jane feels that her own marriage with Rochester—which she assumed would be legitimate—would be on the same level as the "seraglio" if she were to accept Rochester's unearned financial support. Jane's choice, then, is not just between marriage and whoredom, but between love and monetary exchange, autonomy and abject dependency. Jane's flight from Thornfield illuminates the choice that she faces between independence and mistresshood. The difficulty of her position is demonstrated when she, a lone woman on the public roads, encounters several people who judge her harshly.
Since "woman on the streets" was a common euphemism for a prostitute, this episode in Jane's life reminds us of how tenuous Jane's avoidance of sexual and economic exchange really is. When a woman whom Jane asks for employment rebuffs her, Jane realizes, "in her eyes, how doubtful must have appeared my character, position, tale" Jane is denied access to respectable labor because she appears to have participated in illicit sexual exchange.
Her comment shows how deeply the whole of Victorian society was imbued with suspicion about the corrupt market of sexuality that permeated Victorian England.
John Rivers, demands that she marry him and accompany him to India. John does not say he wants a mistress, he seeks a wife who will be superior to those around her but subject to him. The novel's critique of this sort of marriage of spiritual convenience is just as harsh as its denunciation of the exchange-economy of illicit mistresshood.
John fares much worse when he suggests marriage without love than Rochester does when he advocates love without marriage. As Jane asks herself, "Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe and know that the spirit was quite absent?
Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made on principle? John Rivers's insistence that she marry him without it: John] has told me I am formed for labour—not for love: But, in my opinion, if I am not formed for love, it follows that I am not formed for marriage'" Jane escapes a marriage that either mixes economic and sexual exchange or entails sex without love by holding fiercely to her own conception of equality and independence.
In the end, she marries Rochester not only because she loves him, but also because she has received a large inheritance from her uncle in Madeira, which enables her to live wherever and however she desires.
Love, Marriage and Equality in Jane Eyre by Madeleine Quinn on Prezi
As Maurianne Adams maintains, "Jane reaches the threshold of marriage three times in the novel. She cannot cross it until she can meet her 'master' as his partner and equal, his equal by virtue of her inheritance and family solidarity, his partner by virtue of their interdependence" In a time in which women were accustomed to a lifetime of dependency, the financial autonomy that she insists on before the marriage is both unusual and extremely important.
Jane's conception of independence, however, does not transcend Victorian paradigms about the role of women. Jane is still caught up in making sure her motives appear pure to herself and to the broader society, and she wants to be certain that she has not been bought. She can never step wholly outside of the idea that marriage is necessarily about financial status and appearance, which is why she must make her declaration to Rochester so firmly: I am my own mistress'" Her choice of words signals to Rochester after his long search for a good mistress, in either sense of the word that she is not his inferior.
Jane thus redefines the word "mistress" at the novel's end. If she is her "own mistress," then she must be economically dependent on herself alone. The word, then, ceases to mean the surrender of economic and sexual power over oneself, and comes to signify—within Jane Eyre if not within Victorian culture—the independence and power of the novel's heroine. Jane's legacy from her uncle assures her and the reader that her marriage to Rochester is a wholly romantic union, with no hint of prostitution and dependency.
If Jane is her own mistress, she will not be Rochester's. Despite the relatively conservative implications of the inheritance plot that catapults Jane to economic and social power, the novel retains a progressive stance toward sexual economics, given the context in which it was written. Because it is so explicitly concerned with the problem of women's financial dependency and ends by proposing a solution through love-based marriage and female independence, Jane Eyre marks an important moment in the development of Victorian ideologies of marriage and the economic position of women.
Arlyn Diamond and Lee R. U of Massachusetts P, Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of Fallenness in Victorian Culture. Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Smith. Women and the Law. Marie Mulvey Roberts and Tamae Mizuta. Bullough, Vern and Barrett Elcano. A Bibliography of Prostitution.
A Study of Victorian Prostitutes in York. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Victorian Frame of Mind, Jane Eyre and the Production of the Text.