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This Terrific Separation: The Experience of Girlhood in Jane Eyre and Northanger Abbey
Pages 5 (1255 words)
This paper will look at the first section of Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Brontë in 1846, and compare the childhood experiences of its first-person heroine with the third-person narrative of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1817).
In both novels, the characters are separated from their family very early in the novel, whether through death (Jane Eyre) or by choice (Northanger Abbey); it appears that Victorian women were unable to pursue story-worthy lives in the presence of their parents. With reference to primary and secondary sources on Victorian childhood (Victorian Childhood: Themes and Variations), orphans (Girlhood in America: An Encyclopedia), moral expectations (Childhood in Victorian England and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist), education (The Schooling of Working-Class Girls in Victorian Scotland; Dress Culture in Late Victorian Women's Fiction), work (Victorian Working Women), familial relationships (Family Ties in Victorian England), and others, this paper will look at Jane's and Catherine's very different experiences of young womanhood and what these experiences say about their respective authors, in order to glean a comprehensive view of what it was like to be a working-class and a non-working class girl in Victorian Britain. It will show that in spite of the disparities in their age, time period, finances, class, and more, Jane and Catherine represent the dull restrictions of being girls of their times, and reveal an entire group of society which was, in the nineteenth century, yearning for more opportunities. ...
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