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    Thinking about Jane Eyre: Subversion of Gender Identity

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    Joumen

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    Registration date : 2006-12-25

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    Thinking about Jane Eyre: Subversion of Gender Identity

    Post by Joumen on Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:34 am

    Topic: Subversion of Gender Identity

    DEFINITIONS:

    Subversion:
    According to the CED, “to subvert” means “to try to destroy or weaken something, especially an established political system”.

    Gender Identity:
    Femininity and masculinity are rooted in the social (one’s gender) rather than the biological ( one’s sex).Societal members decide what being male or female means and males will generally respond by defining themselves as masculine while females will generally define themselves as feminine. Because these are social definitions,however, it is possible for one to be female and see herself as masculine or male and see himself as feminine.

    BRAINSTORMING:
    In her book named The Second Sex, Simone De Beauvoir states that “ one is not born a woman, one becomes one”.
    Beauvoir argues that there is no specific feminine nature and that the concept of “woman” is usually defined as the “Other” of “man”. In other words, it is the man who defines what and how a “woman” should be.
    Beauvoir says that “humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him”. If we apply this to the Nineteenth Century context of a patriarchal society, we know that being a “woman” depends on certain instructions, believes, and images of “womanhood” given by the men of the time.
    I may say that Jane Eyre is a woman but what about a 19th Century person. Here I should ask myself “is Jane Eyre a “woman” in terms of her society’s definition of “womanhood?”.
    While reading the novel, I noticed that Jane is somehow different from the other female characters in the novel. She herself says, “I [am] like nobody there”. The other characters always try to change her as if she is not fit to be the “right one”. They told her “to try to make herself agreeable to them” and that “[she] must pray to God to change [her heart]”. But Jane subvert this Victorian stereotype and “resist all the way”. Since her childhood, she learns to resist, to say “no” and “unjust”, and to defy. When put in the “red room”, the child Jane Eyre considers to escape the Reed family house “through flight” or “through starvation”.
    An other third even more terrifying alternative is “escape through madness”. It is to this alternative that the child Jane momentarily succumbs. Though her madness is momentary, Jane’s ire and rage is not. Her quest for equality and selfhood continues throught the novel until her relationship with Mr Rochester progresses into one of “equality” as she discovers “his need for her solace, strength, and parity”.
    An other act of subversion is Jane’s telling of her story in a society that considered woman a silenced passive object. In such society language forces women to choose: either they can imagine and represent themselves as men imagine and represent them or they can choose “silence” becoming in the process “the invisible and unheard sex”. Most importantly, Jane does speak not only for herself but for others. Throughout the novel Jane does not “allow” some characters to express what they want to say but rather she interpretes what they said of course in her way.

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