For a college module we had to read the Victorian novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The question was raised whether this work is a conservative piece or a radical one. From my reading of the book I believe that Bronte’s text is leaning on the more radical side.
The protagonist Jane is seen in the very beginning as a poor orphan. However, the reader sees Jane:
- Climbing the social ladder, moving from lower to the upper class, something that would be very rare during this time period.
- Breaking the rules of gender roles and not allowing Mr Rochester’s masculinity to overpower her
- Edging her way up in the educational system, something that was perhaps hard to do in Victorian society
I believe that this rise in social class, breaking of gender roles and success in the education system can be seen as a radical thing in such a conservative period. To the readers during this period, this social advancement was like a fantasy. In my opinion, Jane Eyre’s character development in social standing, gender roles and the education system, was the keys the success of the novel. The audience received a radical portrayal of a female character which I believe broke boundaries and shifted opinions.