Jane over Jane as he tersely informs her

Jane Eyre is
a novel created by Charlotte Bronte, used to present the ideologies of the capitalist
Victorian era through the eyes of a lower class female protagonist, Jane. Throughout
her life, she had encompassed an ambiguous social class, ultimately proving
that class relationships have no absolute boundaries and can be crossed, allowing
individuals to transcend them. As Jane’s social status oscillates between the
opposite ends of the spectrum, this makes the reader begin to question the
significance of class and conspicuous consumption, and the importance that the
Victorians placed upon it.

Jane’s early
life is largely influenced by her social class. The hierarchical class system
very much depicted the life which one would lead. It was arduous to transition into
higher classes, making Jane’s situation unique as she was able to do so. Due to
the death of her parents, she was left orphaned and in the care of her aunt;
her position was atypical; she was not one of the working-class servants, nor one
of the spoiled Reed children. Instead, she occupied a social space between the
two.  In the first chapter, this is
illustrated when Jane says: “I was a
discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony
with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage. If they did not love
me, in fact, as little did I love them.”, demonstrating that Jane is on the outside looking in; she is entirely marginalised.

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During her
childhood, Jane’s class determined her treatment, she was cast aside and alienated
from her cousins, and was treated as though she was a stranger in the very
place in which she grew up. It is evident that the whole Reed household and
those that work for them, possessed the idea that since the Reeds are wealthy,
they are able to do as they please. Jane actively goes against this flaw in
society, she is opposed to the interpellation that has directly affected the
working class.  “You have no business to take our books;
you are a dependent, mamma says; you have no money; your father left you none;
you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and
eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mamma’s expense. Now, I’ll
teach you to rummage my book-shelves: for they are mine; all the house belongs
to me, or will do in a few years.” This quotation expresses John’s
power and authority over Jane as he tersely informs her that she is below him
in social class and uses this fact as his justification to ostracise her. Jane
once referred to John as a “slave-driver” and “Roman emperor”,
further emphasizing her acknowledgement of the corruption that the ruling classes
retain over others.  Whilst Jane
struggles and resists as she’s being taken into the red room, Charlotte Bronte
uses this to symbolise the torment that the Reeds have put her through during
her childhood, and the oppression she faced because of her class status. In the
eyes of her aunt and cousins, Jane is below them and they control the power
over her due to the classist structure of the Victorian era. The bourgeoisie used
their position in society to victimise and oppress those of lower classes and
use them as mere commodities.  

Moreover,
even servants such as Miss Abbot recognize this divide and told Jane that she “ought not to think of herself on an
equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed because…they will have a great
deal of money and you will have none.” From an early age, it was ingrained
into her that she was different, and unequal to her peers; she was not worthy
of the same treatment. Jane had transfixed onto the idea of class structure of
her era due to her surrounding, that when asked by Mr. Lloyd if she would like
to live with her poor relations Jane responded, “I should not like to belong to poor people.” It
consequently became enforced onto Jane that it is preferred to be unhappy with
a wealthy family, than to be with a poor one. However, it is important to take
into account that Jane is an impressionable child at the time, so it is
understandable that it is her train of thought. From this it is obvious to see
that poverty is synonymous with degradation and Jane’s low class/ vague
position in society is not good enough for the Reeds, and even Jane herself is
aware of this. She was never acknowledged as a true part of the family, and was
only thought of when necessary.

As a result
of her damaged relationship with her Aunt and her cousins, Jane’s mistreatment triggered
her to view people differently, as opposed to the traditional Victorian critique
of their wealth and resources. In her early life, Jane evaluated people as
inadequate or adequate beings based on their behaviour, and used her findings
to form a sincere friendship or hostility based on it. This can be viewed as a
positive outcome of her childhood, as she would form more meaningful
relationships that are not based on materialism and status. During her
childhood at Gateshead, Jane is more emotionally attached to the servant Bessie
than to any of her wealthy family members. As Bessie is a servant, her
admiration for her is based on personal characteristics rather than on her
economic status. Jane
has always longed for a motherly, gentle relationship, which clarifies why she
found solace with her teacher while studying at Lowood. Jane appreciates the
affection offered by Miss Temple, something which was scarcely offered to her
during her early life at Gateshead. She primarily was short of love which was
necessary when growing up, resulting in a solitary existence.

The
aristocracy is personified in the form of Mr Brocklehurst, who she has taken a
strong disliking to. Bronte uses the character of Mr Brocklehurst to attack the
religious dogmas of the Victorian society that were prevalent only to benefit
those that belonged to higher spheres. Mr Brocklehurst preaches that the
orphans of the Lowood institute should live in simplicity and has always
adopted an extremely strict regime for their routine and demoralises the young
women and removes all forms of vanity, yet he himself and his family does not
live as he preaches. The hypocrisy of Mr Brocklehurst is used to mock the
religious doctrines of the time and the inequality that they bring; he is an
example that men who hold power are able to abuse the impressionable and those
who are weaker than him. 

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