Why was Jane Eyre considered a feminist figure in the context of the Victorian society? She was unable to fully liberate herself from the inherent patriarchy. She was strongly affected by marriage, even though she didn't fail to express her opinions.

Writing in 1966, R. B. Martin, who makes many fine points about the novel's techniques and meaning, argues that it is essentially pre-feminist:

The novel is frequently cited as the earliest major feminist novel, although there is not a hint in the book of any desire for political, legal, educational, or even intellectual equality between the sexes.

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    Considered by whom?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 15:20
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    I don't know much about Jane Eyre, but Louisa May Alcott was also a Victorian feminist. The problem is when you look at Alcott from a modern person's perspective, she doesn't seem much like a feminist because she supports domestic virtues for women. You have to take into consideration the time period and realize that her works were progressive for the time. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:01
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    If you're going to set the bar for feminism at "totally able to liberate oneself from inherent patriarchy," you're not going to find (m)any feminists, even nowadays. Demanding that level of ideological purity, especially during that time period, would mean excommunicating oneself from society as a whole, which was impractical. Patriarchy in the sense you're using it here was, and in many ways still is, everywhere.
    – user80
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:45
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    Can you provide at least one example of some feminist criticism which cites Jane Eyre as a worthy heroine? It would make the question easier to answer.
    – verbose
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 6:24

1 Answer 1


Thank you for your question.

So, from what I have understood from your question, you are questioning the incipient feminist tendencies of the eponymous heroine as her matrimony in the end problematizes her individuality and autonomy which she upholds throughout the narrative. In order to present my case, I would like to expand the scope of our study by including the historical background of the novel and the position which Charlotte Bronte takes through her text as far as the woman question is concerned.

It is imperative for us to look at the kind of female protagonists which were created prior to Bronte's age as it followed the male paradigm of representation by the male writers as Virginia Woolf argues in her theoretical document, 'A Room of One's Own', where she asserts that the domain of novel writing was influenced by male perspective. The female protagonists which were conceived even by writers like Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet would follow a certain class affiliation and have to conform to the ideals of beauty and romance. Bronte's protagonist can be seen as a break away from this myopic woman's world which was depicted earlier as she chooses to have an ordinary, plain looking girl whose independent mind and bold choices accelerates the major action of the story. Marriage for her is always secondary as she asserts from time to time her individuality and rebellious spirit which was seen clearly in her arguments with her mother in the initial parts of the story that forms a critical part of her personality. It is this sense of autonomy in her that gives her the courage to refuse Rochester’s marriage proposal in spite of her admiration for him. More than love, she is looking for self-respect and a sense of equality in social status in the framework of marriage which is an unprecedented demand from a female.

To summarize, even though Jane marries in the end, we need to pay critical attention to the process rather than the destination. Bronte’s creative genius lies in her narrative mechanism which equalizes the difference between both the partners, making it an egalitarian bond which influences and affects both the partners.

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