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Jane Eyre - Coursework Example

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On the very first page it is made clear that the prevailing upper class view of childhood is one of repression and dominance, since Jane finds herself in a new family, but not of the same status as the original children in that family. The mother, Mrs Reed makes it clear that Jane is an outsider, because of her birth, and that she is inferior and must learn to submit to those who are in some indefinable way superior to her when she says: “Jane, I don’t like cavillers or questioners: besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent.” (Bronte: 1922, p. 1) The tone of this cold mother figure is that of criticism and command, making it quite clear that Jane does not deserve the privileges of upper class childhood, because she does not possess the ability to hide her own feelings, keep quiet, and submit to the will of adults. The other children in the family, and their nurse Bessie, conspire to treat her with contempt and, at times violence, but the blame for any conflict always falls upon Jane. Appalled by the unjustness of it all, Jane’s instinct to use her reason against this “unupportable oppression” (Bronte: 1922, p. 9) is what saves her from being completely overcome. This shows a child who has developed a strong sense of right and wrong, and a firm determination to endure the hardships of childhood so that she can escape into a time where she can make her own decisions. There is a long tradition in European literature of works about childhood, and they often take the form of the Bildungsroman which is a German term meaning a novel of education. Kern defines this genre as follows: “The central feature of the Bildungsroman is the protagonist’s progress of psychological and moral growing and developing from childhood until finally maturity. The central figure has a good look at certain fields in life and works out his relation to them until he finally achieves true self-knowledge and is in accord with the world and himself.” (Kern: 2007, p. 4) The purpose of childhood in this genre is to provide a starting point for this journey of self-discovery. Jane’s unhappiness in her adoptive family is soon replaced by another kind of institutionalized unhappiness at the dreadful boarding school called Lowood. Here all the proper and dutiful attitudes of female childhood are drummed into the girls. The language used by the first person narrator makes it seem like a prison, and the religiosity of the regime is linked again and again with the extreme cold: “Sundays were dreary days in that wintry season. We had to walk two miles to Brocklebridge Church, where our patron officiated. We set out cold, we arrived at church colder … “ (Bronte: 1922, p. 55) Bronte stresses the cold and the poverty partly to emphasise the warmth and consoling power of human relationships. In the absence of parents, Jane finds inspiration in her admiration for Miss Temple, and in the absence of brothers and sisters, she finds affection for Helen Burns. Eyre shows a childhood that is filled with physical hardship and yet an inner core of humanity remains within the child Jane, ...Show more

Summary

Analyse the role of childhood in Jane Eyre. The novel Jane Eyre tells the story of a young woman from the age of about ten until her marriage in adult life to Mr Rochester. There are two contrasting views of childhood in the book, and they are the childhood of orphaned and impoverished Jane herself, along with the children in Lowood school on the one hand and the childhood of her cousins, the Reeds, and of her own pupil, Adele, on the other hand, who all come from an upper class background…
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Jane Eyre essay example
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