Social Issues In Jane Eyre Characters


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The beginning of the novel itself does well to demonize the upper class. Jane Eyre is bullied by her cousin John for her orphan status which leads to a violent confrontation. Mrs. Reed holds Jane Eyre responsible for this fight and she is thus punished by confinement to the red room, despite John being the instigator. The red room is engulfed with imagery as an overbearing room that haunts Jane Eyre with a ghost. This can signify a dungeon-like chamber for a child. It becomes the prison for Jane Eyre and what she represents: the lower class. It is a place where countless souls may have met their doom, represented by the ghost; even though the ghost is thought to be that of Reed lineage, it also represents the death that the estate brings. Jane Eyre is a character who will not allow this dungeon to destroy her, despite the constant forms of torture she may receive. Jane Eyre is also often referred to as an animal, a rat, or less than a servant, having no purpose. She is an orphan. A charity case. Any family relations she may have are of poor wealth, thus she represents the epitome of the lower class, the lowest of the low.

The school, Lowood, comes to represent the actual society of a lower class setting. The children dress very plainly, are discouraged from any form of independence in their style, like natural hair curls, and are drilled repeatedly over the Bible and piety. It is a prison for unwanted children where many have died in large groups by consumption and the sponsors of the school have little care. The mass of deaths exposes the deception and truth behind established religious hierarchies who claim to work for charity. It is not necessarily charity that the children receive, but death. The only charity that they are allowed is the illusion of an afterlife. Jane Eyre, however, is cynical to this afterlife.

Later, Jane Eyre must confront another oppressive force of a class society: the institution of marriage. Rochester appears to be a very blunt character that is fueled with aggressive businessman tenacity to own his world. As such, he must own the people in his world. Rochester has kept Bertha as his secret bride, refusing to commit her to an insane asylum, which further illustrates his need to possess people. Of course, Rochester is not the only character that desires to dominate people as slaves.

Perhaps the epitome of religious authority is encompassed in St. John’s character. This is a religious man who upholds the principles of ambition and austerity.

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