Research Proposal: Restraint of Women in Jane Eyre

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Restraint of Women in Jane Erye

Jane Erye is an essential work of fiction outlining the subject of the isolation and narrowness of place for women in its contemporary society. The work grapples with a dichotomy of comparing the right and the wrong of a woman's place, and her right or wrong reaction to restraint, by openly comparing the nature of Jane and the nature of Rochester's first wife, the lunatic Bertha. The options for women, facing social and cultural strife are demonstrated by the choices each makes to survive, Jane to become beguiling and Bertha to go mad in the face of her restraint. There are two passages in the work that express this comparison best, and first the passage where the reader is formally introduced to the secret lunatic locked within the secret room of the manner after Rochester is rightfully accused of attempting to become a bigamist.

Up to this point the work is peppered with finite examples of Jane's good graces in the face of Rochester's bad humor and this passage harkens back to them, as well as her years of confinement and strife as an unwanted orphan, as it directly compares the two women, Bertha and Jane to one another. With this preliminary understanding by the reader, of Jane's conscious decision to be lovable and proper, at all times, even in the face of the betrayal that is unfolding when she is informed by the solicitor and the brother in-law of the crazed alternative first wife. The passage begins after Rochester is driven from the church, having hoped to become a bigamist and marry Jane without recourse, but having been discovered as such. Jane, even guessing what she is facing, is still holding Rochester's hand, always the dutiful future partner:

He passed on and ascended the stairs, still holding my hand, and still beckoning the gentlemen to follow him; which they did. We mounted the first staircase, passed up the gallery, proceeded to the third story: the low, black door., opened by Mr. Rochester's master key, admitted us to the tapestried room, with its great bed, and its pictorial cabinet.

You know this place, Mason," said our guide; "she bit and stabbed you here."

He lifted the hangings from the wall, uncovering the second door: this, too, he opened. In a room without a window, there burnt a fire, guarded by a high and strong fender, and a lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain. Grace Poole bent over the fire, apparently cooking something in a saucepan. In the deep shade, at the further end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing; and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face. (292)

Rochester shows the two women, both who have endured restraint, one of whom has done so without grace, and one Jane who has done so with complete grace and good will. Rochester makes a case for his dire circumstance, even though he knows that legally he has no recourse to change the situation, and marry Jane, as he wishes to do. The passage rightfully compares Bertha's trappings as well, discussing the fact that the room has no window, the only lights coming from a fire and lamp suspended from the ceiling by a chain, a chain that can be seen as a foreshadowing to the actual restraints placed around Bertha's hands to tie her to a chair, so she might make a better comparison to Rochester's chosen partner Jane.

The earlier passage in the church, explaining that Bertha's mother was a Creole might have given the reader not only the idea of racism in the restraint of Bertha but also the idea that Bertha, had once lived a relatively free life, likely within the limited confines of a wealthy island home. Her confinement at Thornfield Hall and the relative restraint demanded of her by not a colonial society but an English society might therefore have somewhat contributed to the fact that she was now mad and obviously resents, her brother, whom she stabbed and Rochester who she frequently attacks, when given the opportunity as the bringers of such restraint as the main sources of her forced confinement. The idea of a language barrier, might also come to mind, but these are issues of conjecture, as Bertha and her very existence is meant to show the reader compassion for the restraint Rochester feels at the nature of the legalistic society in which he lives. The character of Rochester is meant to be shown as pitiful, and the character of Bertha is meant to be shown as vile and unacceptable, and therefore outside the confines of what would be considered a good match for Rochester. Rochester, despite Bertha's madness is expected to live within the confines of the law, and marry no other until Bertha has passed by her own hand or from natural causes, even if that means well into his own old age.

Good-morrow, Mrs. Poole!" said Mr. Rochester.

How are you? And how is your charge to-day?"

We're tolerable, sir, I thank you," replied Grace, lifting the boiling mess carefully on to the hob: "rather snappish, but not 'rageous." fierce cry seemed to give the lie to her favourable report: the clothed hyena rose up, and stood tall on its hind feet.

Ah, sir, she sees you!" exclaimed Grace: "you'd better not stay."

Only a few moments, Grace: you must allow me a few moments."

Take care then, sir! -- for God's sake, take care!" (292)

The maniac bellowed: she parted her shaggy locks from her visage, and gazed wildly at her visitors. I recognised well that purple face, -- those bloated features. Mrs. Poole advanced.

Keep out of the way," said Mr. Rochester, thrusting her aside: "she has no knife, now, I suppose? And I'm on my guard."

One never knows what she has, sir: she is so cunning: it is not in mortal discretion to fathom her craft."

We had better leave her," whispered Mason.

Go to the devil!" was his brother-in-law's recommendation. (293)

Grace Poole the caretaker of the lunatic, herself even a captive of the situation, is not at all an ally to Bertha, distressing that Rochester might be hurt by Bertha if he stays in the room, and noting to him that Bertha is crafty and has been known to find her way out, and steel away with things like knives.

Ware!" cried Grace. The three gentlemen retreated simultaneously. Mr. Rochester flung me behind him: the lunatic sprang and grappled his throat viciously, and laid her teeth to his cheek: they struggled. She was a big woman, in statue almost equalling her husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force in the contest -- more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he was. He could have settled her with a well-planted blow; but he would not strike: he would only wrestle. At last he mastered her arms; Grace Poole gave him a cord, and he pinioned them behind her: with more rope, which was at hand, he bound her to a chair. (293)

Rochester even resorts in the passage to real physical restraint of Bertha, he ties her to a chair, to restrain her and likely to better serve his purpose of showing her off to the men in the room, as a stark contrasting character to the small, pale and seemingly calm Jane. The comparison, therefore takes full force as he forcibly seat Bertha, without striking her, as Jane observes, so she might be fully compared to Jane, the young and appealing alternative.

The operation was performed amidst the fiercest yells, and the most convulsive plunges. Mr. Rochester then turned to the spectators: he looked at them with a smile both acrid and desolate.

That is my wife," said he. "Such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know -- such are the endearments which are to solace my leisure hours! And this is what wished to have" (laying his hand on my shoulder): "this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. I wanted her just as a change after that fierce ragout. Wood and Briggs, look at the difference! Compare these clear eyes with the red balls yonder -- this face with that mask -- this form with that bulk; then judge me, priest of the gospel and man of the law, and remember, with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged! Off with you now. I must shut up my prize." (293)

Rochester builds a case for the fact that his wife is mad, but more importantly he directly compares Jane to the lunatic Bertha, stating to the men… [END OF PREVIEW]

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