Gender and Sexuality in Society Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

As she explains to the reader: "I felt no fear of him, and but little shyness. Had he been a handsome heroic-looking young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning him against his will, and offering my services unasked. I had hardly ever seen a handsome youth; never in my life spoken to one" (idem, 173).

The young woman who was actually full of energy and eager to live with more intensity than what life offered her in the quite almost deserted Thornfield Hall, during winter, has fallen for the first stranger she met because he offered her the first occasion to feel more alive than her only companions at Thornfield ever offered her. Of course, she is unaware of her feelings yet, but a certain distress from her usual routine is already in place.

Mr. Rochester will soon befriend the strange creature he found on his grounds as the governess of his warden and he will unfold another completely different male-female relationship, that between him and the late mother of little Adele, Celine Varens. His observations related to the child's reactions to the presents he brought her make the connection between the coquette manifestations she inherited from her mother who used to be an Opera dancer. He tells Jane the story of his "grande passion" for Celine.

His stories introduce new aspects of the human soul to Jane: blind passion, jealousy and remorse. As soon as he admits liking being at Thiornifield again, the reader understands that he is in love with Jane. She represents everything else he has ever met. Although she has none of the classical characteristics of beauty, she succeeds to charm him as if putting him under a spell. This is made possible by the power of inner innocence doubled by inner beauty and intelligence. They are attracted to each other intellectually first and then physically as well.

A second much more painful relationship between the man Edward Rochester and Bertha, his wife, will be developed at a later moment in the novel. The relationship and everything it implied is related to a sum of aspects in the life a young people in Victorian England who were fortunate to be born in a wealthy family, but unfortunate enough not to have been the first born. Edward was a younger son and therefore he was almost forced into marrying a young lady of good family and with a great fortune. The fate takes a tragic turn as she will soon manifest signs of being mentally ill. Society at that time was pretty harsh with those who were in Edward Rochester's position and although his wife was gravely ill, all he could do was to go on: "divorces were extraordinarily difficult to obtain in Victorian England. In Bronte's time, only an Act of Parliament could dissolve a marriage. Such an Act was quite expensive. It also made the divorce a very public experience, more public than a private man like Edward Rochester was willing to be & #8230;Edward Rochester was, therefore, legally tied to Bertha until death broke the marital bond. The only kind of marriage he could even consider until that time would be a bigamous marriage of the sort he almost engaged in with Jane Eyre" (Teachman, 2001). The situation is of course extraordinary and it is the fruit of the writer's imagination, nevertheless the circumstances are taken from the reality of her contemporary society. The out of the ordinary events, the incident in the church, the fire at Thornfield Hall, they are all ingredients of a romantic novel. They only increase the dramatic in the course of events in order for the reader to feel connected to the characters he or she is closely following along a good portion of their lives.

The novel Jane Eyre could be considered as a feminist novel from many points-of-view. The author is criticizing the mentalities of her time and firmly condemning all the beliefs that confided the Englishmen and women living in the Victorian era to the narrow mindedness of those who were often in charge with their children's education, just as they used to be with their own. Men and women in the Victorian era were never given the chance to treat euch other as equals, as partners, as human beings equally worthy of attention, consideration and value in the close circle of the family. Not only women were disadvantage in their relationships that were supposed to bring them the much desired husband, but also men who were the first born in a family, no matter how wealthy the family was. They were aften forced to take a job in order to provide for themselves or to marry for fortune, as it was the case of Edward Rochester. The irony and the stupidity of such customs is obvious to the contemporary reader, but it was a custom that went on for centuries in England before it was abolished.

Social norms and natural interactions, experience and knowledge from study and education, they are all interconnected in Bronte's Jane Eyre and Villette. Even though, Jane Eyre is more autobiographical than Villette, the two share the same fondness of setting the inequities due to social norms aside and giving people a chance to express themselves freely and without the fear of being punished by society or even by law. but, Bronte places her characters in a time a space that are real and even if they are imaginary characters, they cannot ignore the society they live in and its rules. The women and men in the two novels are freer in movement, than one would expect them to be, considering historic and social facts. Piehler and Lang are studying the gender relationships in Bronte's Villette from a new perspective: a geographical one. The two authors consider Daphne Spain' analysis of structure, spatial arrangements and architecture in the way they express or determine people's relationships' arrangements: "So, it seems that with the extra space an estate home provided, men gained even more exclusive realms. The home, the domestic environment, may have been all that was appropriate and permissable for women; yet, even in that environment, their access was not complete" (Piehler, Lang, 42). The space arrangements were not restrictive as they were confining men and women to certain quarters of the house, but the free movement of men and women was distinctly differentiated. As shown before, Lucy, the protagonist of Villette finds herself in an odd position as she is traveling across the Channel by herself.

A separation inside the spaces of a family home is however even if unofficially recognized, customary even today. People need their private space even if they are in love with their partner. Regardless of the nature of their relationship, men, women and children need to create their own spaces where they can retreat from time to time and be with themselves. The situation was of course, much more radical during the past centuries in England and in the rest of Europe, but it started from the same natural need for privacy. However, in the case of men, this was much more at hand in the Victorian England than it was for women or children. Extended descriptions of spaces, both inside and outside spaces are destined to complete the image of Bronte's characters and to make the reader better understand their evolution as well as the evolution of their relationships with each other.

The disturbing image of Celopatra makes Lucy, in Villette experience a situation that was characteristic for the Victorian era: Caught by M. Paul standing unaccompanied in the gallery and gazing "with the self-possession of a garcon"(9) at the portrait of a fleshy, dark-complexioned gipsyqueen entitled "Cleopatra," Lucy is ordered to look away. Compelled to redirect her gaze from the Cleopatra's improper "wealth of muscle" and "affluence of flesh" (p. 250) toward the drab and impoverished four-part creation, "La vie d'une femme," Lucy temporarily recedes back into the feminine visual cloister to which she should naturally have been confined in the first place. Lucy's violation of feminine modesty of vision elicits from M. Paul nearly instantaneous retaliation; "Astounding insular audacity!" he cries in utter frustration as he leads Lucy away from the offending canvas. (Ciolkowski, vol. 26)

Works Cited:

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. Published 1850.Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Nov 23, 2005

Bronte, Charlotte. Villette. Published by Oxford University Press, 1902

Ciolcowski, Laura E. Charlotte Bronte's 'Villette': Forgeries of Sex and Self. Studie in the Novel. Vol. 26. 1994

Teachman, Debra. Understanding Jane Eyre: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Greenwood Press. 2001

Bloom, Harold. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Chelsea House.…

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