Individuality In The Victorian Era

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In today’s social and cultural convention, expressing one’s true self or individuality is greatly encouraged. Most societies support individuality for all people. However, sometime before our modern era, the Victorian period’s social and cultural norms say otherwise. Only men were aloud to do public works and have a vast range of privileges; women were left with no choice but to stick to domesticity if they are married or they can work as governesses or school teachers if they are not. Since the Victorian era consisted of radical transformations in England under Queen Victoria’s reign, in addition to these gender roles, social class segregation became extremely apparent and conservative laws became more prominent to resist the drastic changes…show more content…
For married women, they are expected to practice cult of domesticity and coverture. Since Jane’s case is different from that of a married woman, she gets a vaguely larger set of options. Due to her education and capability, Jane can only either be a teacher or a governess, which are closely related. In her book Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres, Ruth Brandon describes the governess role as naturally above domestic servant. However, it is considerably below that of a noble woman in a social ladder. In addition to this, although given the governess position that Jane takes in Thornfield Hall, Brandon still interprets it as ‘nothing but a minor appendage in someone else’s household’ (qtd. in Owsley 59 and 62). This significant change— from lowly schoolgirl, to a charity school teacher, to a governess— in Jane’s place in the social class is one of Brontë’s first moves to get Jane over the social class barriers. And with that, Brontë did not fail in making sure that Jane appears as an independent thinker, utilizing her judgment in deciding for these major turning points in her…show more content…
The bird imagery also suggests Jane’s struggles between dominance and submission. In the first chapter of the novel, Jane reads Bewick’s book (Histroy of British Birds) in which she looks at birds in bleak shores and harsh landscapes. She states “the words in [the book’s] introductory pages connected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray…” (Brontë 4). The isolated and desolate shores that the pictures have foreshadow Jane’s fate, especially with the words ‘rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray’—that she will be encountering hardships as she tries to move on from one place to another. The bird imagery ties back to Jane’s desire to be free from the cage— of social norms and gender roles— through fight-or-flight impulse when faced with
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