Jane Eyre and Class System
It is said that only total and complete trust in the government will provide equality and prosperity for their people. No man ever not able to feed his family, no man homeless, no economic and political freedom, constant economic growth, and abolishment of class systems as a whole. Communism is seemingly flawless in its battle for solidarity as well as the fundamental ideals it’s based upon. In 1847, Karl Marx published The Communist Manifesto, which grew to be widely popular in the following years among the middle and lower classes. Charlotte Bronte witnesses the unfairness of the class system as she grew up in a poor Victorian family and was neglected the necessities that only wealth could provide. She viewed the Victorian Age as a whole, hierarchical within its morality and social rules. Bronte comments on the hypocrisy of this Age within her writing. Her characters desperately seek for answers to their unhappiness with the social systems in place and eventually fail to conform to Victorian ideals and rather come to Marxist principles about society and equality. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane questions class systems and finding her place in society and she discovers she is predominately Marxist within her beliefs through her interactions and relationships with John, Mrs. Reed, and Mr. Rochester.
Jane’s childhood with her cousin John at Gateshead establishes that Jane from childhood was taught that she was less because of her class. Jane, still a destitute orphan feels aloof from the rest of the family. John blatantly points out that Jane, “[has] no business to take [their] books; [for Jane] is dependent… [Rather, Jane] ought to beg and and not live here with gentleman’s children like [them]” (29). John blatantly tells Jane that because she is poor, she cannot associate with John and the rest of the Reeds upon even ground. With the distinction John is a gentleman and Jane is not, John asserts not only his dominance but the fact that Jane must rely on his family for her survival. Jane is not a servant, nor a part of the family and thus she does not have a definition of her class and put into a class system she is degraded and miserable. Jane rebuttals his authority with calling John a, “Wicked and cruel boy… like a slave driver… like the Roman emperors!” (30). By saying this Jane tells John she recognizes his corruption and furthermore the corruption of the upper class as a whole. As Jane is punished for her fight with John, Miss Abbott calls John Jane’s “young master” (34) Jane is quick to question Miss Abbott arguing whether she is, in fact, a servant. With no decisive answer on where Jane belongs in society, Jane questions societal regimes as a whole. Jane understands that upper society lacked morality as demonstrated by her cousin, as well as the middle class being Jane seemed to be superior.
With Jane’s new questioning of what she understood as superior, she begins to test her communist ideals with Mrs. Reed. As Mrs. Reed tells Mr. Brocklehurst of Jane’s subordination, Jane tells Mrs. Reed, “…the thought of you makes me sick, and [she] treated [her] miserably cruel” (57). Mrs. Reed being of the upper class oppresses Jane even into Jane’s new life as she enters school; for only the benefit of Mrs. Reed to rid herself of Jane, seeing her as a burden. Jane attempts to break the system of abuse as well as her master by telling Mrs. Reed of her atrocities and cruelties towards Jane. Instead of challenging Jane’s newfound authority, Mrs. Reed ignores the issue and furthermore pushes the lower class down. When Jane comes back to Gateshead as an adult, Jane quickly realizes that Mrs. Reed is dependent on her to find peace. Although Mrs. Reed is in a fragile condition, Jane still, “…[feels] a determination to subdue her” (747). Jane wants to assert them as equals, even after so many years have passed. This idea of equality and balancing Mrs. Reed’s cruelty with Jane’s inner desires, coincides with communism’s similar ideals. Jane wants to degrade the upper class to make their status’ equal. After questioning the social and political structure, Jane grows to appreciate the equality between people and not playing a man above another.
Although Jane tries to fight her status difference between Rochester and herself, she is unable to do so and is subsequently unhappy and searches for a way to rectify her relationship. As Rochester is about to propose to Jane he calls her a, “dependent [that] does her duty” (812). Thus, Rochester emphasizes a class difference between him and Jane, marking her as a subordinate. Jane does not rebuke this and even goes on to revere Rochester as a God in return, furthermore turning an earthly social status difference to a divine one. By doing so, Jane discredits Rochester’s social superiority by making him a heavenly creature on earth, to which there could be no valid comparison. Thus associating earthly goods such as wealth to have no meaning. As Jane begins to see the flaws in her nonchalance on the matter, she must choose to either be a, “slave in a fool’s paradise… as Mr. Rochester’s mistress… or to be free and honest” (1166). Jane is caught up between her feelings for Rochester and his feelings for her, finally acknowledging them as having different perceptions of their relationship. Rochester sees her as a vulnerable inferior and degrades her to a mistress. Jane must decide between Rochester as the upper class taking the resources, or her, and coveting them for his gain while the middle class works tirelessly to no avail. Jane is not content with this and wants to be recognized as equals, but ultimately decides she would rather be alone than to be separated from her love by status.
After Jane inherits her wealth, she seeks out Rochester to make their love equal. As Jane travels back to Thornfield, she finds it in ruin. She reflects upon the, “silence of death about it: the solitude of a lonesome wind… [She sees] it as blackened ruin” (664). Rochester’s stately manor has been destroyed and with it the place where Rochester and Jane were not husband and wife but rather, a master and a servant. Jane travels to find Rochester in a humbler state; emotionally he regrets the emotional torment he put Jane through. Physically, he has lost his eyesight as well as his hand. He tells Jane to leave and, “not suffer to devote [herself] to a blind lamenter” (681). Rochester asserts Jane’s new class as above even his own. Jane levels the field by proclaiming them equals and thus abolishing Rochester’s haughty conformity to the social system. Jane and Rochester are soon after married and by this union a member of the upper class and formerly middle class is revitalized and live in peace with each other. They reinstate moral values into their marriage as well as disregard the old mixed morality Jane witnessed earlier in her life throughout her former relationships. Rochester is seemingly resurrected as a good tempered husband who relies on his wife as much as she does him. They are rendered classless with each other without material goods polluting their relationship, and thus they are the definition of a Marxist political system.
Jane through questioning the flaws with the society around her comes to the conclusion that Marxism will solve the problems within Victorian society. Jane in her interactions with her cousin John, as a child, lead her to question her own views upon the hypocrisy and cruelty of those that were supposed to be the pinnacle of society. After this revelation, Jane seeks out a balance between the upper and middle class. Through this rejuvenation, Jane becomes an upper class elite while still possessing the dedicated craftsmanship and work ethic the middle class is characterized as. Jane, through her unwavering will and due north moral compass, tames Rochester and furthermore redefines a sound political system within their relationship. Humanity must strive to discern what is truly right versus what has been presented to them. Even though communism has failed within the modern world, equality sans bigotry creates prosperity for all. If humanity continues to look at past events and analyze the underlying motives of each action, they can hope for a better tomorrow. If they fail, they will hurt themselves and the community around them ultimately leading to confusion and ruin of humanity as a whole.
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