Jane Eyre; Conservative or Radical?

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(Source: https://pixabay.com/en/living-room-victorian-historic-581073/)

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.

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