The Role of Women, Inside Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre"

Essay by mikie2001aUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, April 2004

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In Charllotte Bronte's novel, "Jane Eyre," a minor character comes to the forefront pertaining to the role of women during the 19th century. Upon initial encounters, Helen displays many qualities exhibited by women during that time. Helen Burns though a seemingly insignificant character in the novel metaphorically exemplifies the role of women. Helen is a symbol for tolerance, and dormant wisdom as it relates to the metaphor of women's roles during the 19th century. Helen shows patience throughout her brief time in the novel which is a major characteristic of anyone being oppressed. Through religion Helen does not allow unjust punishments to affect her. Helen takes negative activity and humbly succumbs to unfair treatment. Helen's qualities as a young child mirror that of the traditional women during the time of the 1847 publication.

Lowood is a place full of strife, where Helen is constantly the object of unjust scrutiny.

She responds to negative activity with a heightened sense of maturity which creates this powerful metaphor. Knowing there is no way she can get out of the situation, she forces herself to be tolerant of all that is around her. Helen's demonstration of tolerance is the metaphor for women in marriages during the 19th century. During this time an unhappy and mistreated married woman, almost without exception, has nothing she can do about it. Except in extremely rare cases, a woman cannot obtain a divorce and, until 1891, if she ran away from an intolerable marriage the police could capture and return her, and her husband could imprison her. This is true with Helen because there is no way she can escape Lowood.

In maintaining this parallel between the plights of women of the 19th century and Helen, the latter demonstrates toleration as a major character trait. A good...