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Archive for September, 2011

For Liberty She Gasped

The circumstances under which Jane first conceives of the idea to advertise is consequently after the departing of Mrs. Temple. This instance causes Jane to recognize that she has “undergone a transforming process” and no longer possesses any substantial motive to remain within the confines of the school at which she has been for 8 years. However, this transformation did not necessarily mean that her first utmost wish was to become a governess. Advertising for a new position was not the direct conclusion she came to when she desired a new circumstance in life. In fact, the thoughts that truly gripped her mind was “…the real world was wide, and…a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils” (73). Therefore, her foremost desire was the effervescent liveliness of the world, and knowledge of what lies beyond the boundaries of one’s home. This was what she called “liberty”: “I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer.” The extent of this desire of Jane’s conveys the innate, curious, knowledge-hungry nature of her character. As she looks out of the window, pondering her situation, her description of the world seems to indicate that she might as well be inclined to travel the world and explore it – a disposition which would be highly condescended upon for women during that era. Therefore, when she realizes that such form of liberty would not be possible for her position as a woman, and lacking wealth and status, she resorts to the closest form of change and liberty available to her: as a governess. The means by which she undertakes the fulfillment of this plan again emphasizes the extent of Jane’s independent nature. She does not go about inquiring other teachers at the school for any possible positions which they might be able to connect her with; she does not even ask for advice, even though she admits that she “know[s] nothing about advertising” (74). Instead, instantly the next morning she herself goes off to the post office to send in her advertisement.

The second instance in which Jane yet again considers advertising is at her time of sheer heartbreaking and hopelessness. As she discloses to Mr. Rochester that since he is to be married to Blanche, she must leave Thornfield, and she relays to him that she will “seek another situation somewhere” (197). Thereupon, Mr. Rochester consequently assumes that Jane’s aunt will seek out a position in her stead. When she announces to him that she will instead advertise, Mr. Rochester becomes aghast and outraged at the prospect. This is due to the fact that the act of advertising as a woman in the Victorian era implied the notion of almost a demeaning, lowly position to sink to. An acquaintance or family are to seek out possible prospects for the governess, but the governess to go about advertising oneself, especially as a woman, was considered practically degrading during the Victorian era. Therefore, when Mr. Rochester insists that Jane not advertise, he does so because he is concerned about the image she would convey (not to mention the fact that in actuality he does not intend for her to really leave). But the mere fact that Jane Eyre is a female living in the Victorian era who defies the standards established for her gender exemplifies her headstrong and independent nature. Instead of relying on others to seek out a new life for her, she herself grips the reins of her life and directs them to her will, and undertakes them of her own accord.

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