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Can Jane Eyre Be Called A “Feminist Icon” Essay, Research Paper

Michael Bolshaw Can Jane Eyre be called a “Feminist Icon”: Explore the feminist ideas that run throughout Jane Eyre When analysing the feminist readings of Jane Eyre, it is obviously of key import that one looks at Jane herself. Is she portrayed as a feminist icon, or does she become a form of anti-heroine ? Throughout the novel we need to look at whether she express true independence of will, and therefore display a feminine power, or does she allow herself to be overpowered by her desire to love and be loved and therefore become conformist and submissive? I propose that Jane’s character develops over the course of the novel, due mainly to outside influences and events that in some respects force her into developing ideals that would not appear out of place in modern society. The harsh realities of her deprived, and cruel upbringing, combined with the affect characters such as the youthful, and independent Helen Burns have on the young Jane, initiate these independent attitudes within Jane. We gather suggestions as to what is to come through Jane defiant display towards her aunt early in her life, but it is not until her engagement that the deeper self-reliance begins to be revealed. The first step taken by Jane to truly enforce her own independence and therefore her ability to enforce her power, is her decision to leave Rochester after the farce-like events of her engagement and “marriage” to Rochester. It is at this point that the young woman realises that it is equally if not more important for her to ensure her own happiness than that of those who she loves. She has made a conscious decision to maintain her own dignity, and in some respects allows herself to have some pride in herself as a woman, and not as a partner or lover. It seems apt however that even this key decision had to be made with some form of assistance from an outside force, even though this force was more than likely a subconscious one of her own creation. After Jane’s confrontation with Rochester, she has a dream like experience during which she sees and hears her dead mother. While Jane struggles to decide upon what action to take concerning Rochester, this image provides her with the final trigger, leading her to make the life changing decision to leave; “My daughter, flee temptation !” “Mother, I will”. It appears that Jane has been subconsciously searching for some superior, more knowledgeable and experienced figure to lead her to the correct decision. It becomes highly relevant to the feminist readings of the text that this figure should take the form of a woman, particularly that of her mother. The advice given seems to be exactly right both in the respect of what Jane wishes to hear, and what the reader believes is now the correct decision. Bronte crafts the previous scenes such as the over-possessive behaviour of Rochester, and the weakening affect the engagement has on Jane so that when this advice is received from the non-living world, the reader knows that it is the…

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