Gender And Vocation In Jane Eyre

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The Relationship of Gender and Vocation in the 19th century novel

Women and men in 19th century society occupied separate spheres since it was believed that the sexes have different physical and mental characteristics. Men belonged in the outside world or the public sphere, “where they could use their capacity for logical thought to best effect” (Rowbotham). Women, on the other hand, according to Rowbotham, were expected to belong to “the more passive, private sphere of the household and home where their inborn emotional talents would serve them best”.

Physicians and anthropologists justified this division further by saying that if women were to mentally exert themselves like men, “women would divert the supply of blood and phosphates from
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Jane, as a protagonist, is extremely assertive and passionate with strong principles. Her refusal to permit society to mould her into traditional roles of femininity, her immense self-respect and zero submission towards those who mistreat her – all of these created a female heroine who threatened to dismantle conventional social norms and breathe desire and ambition into women readers of the novel.

Bronte uses Jane’s character to voice her own restlessness and powerlessness, which is relevant to her experience as a writer, as seen in the following passage from the novel, when Jane is wandering through the halls of Thornfield Manor:
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their
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In a clear reversal of roles, she becomes the one to take care of her father and make arrangements for the big move of the family from Helstone to Milton. She is the one who comforts him after his dissenting views get him kicked out of the parsonage. She refuses to let him turn back, telling him that “It would be infinitely worse to have known you a hypocrite”. Her father lets her take the reins, leaving her in charge of breaking the news to her mother and taking care of their future

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