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Female Characters in Jane Eyre

            Like Charles Dickens's 'David Copperfield, 'Jane Eyre' is a bildungsroman, a novel in which the protagonist must undergo a form of spiritual education, to overcome the obstacles they face throughout their lives. In this novel, Jane must overcome her fiery passions that are physically manifested by Jane's 'alter ego' Bertha Mason. Both of these characters, as well as others such as Helen Burns are all females who are constrained by societal conventions, yet subvert them, and arise with great force. From Jane's early ordeals with the Reed family, it is evident that she is a fiercely passionate character, who at times struggles to deal with the oppressive patriarchal society she lives in. Jane Eyre is impulsive and outspoken, this becomes apparent when she recognises that she is a "rebel slave" representing her physical need to stand up for herself and her principles as she believes that "millions are in silent revolt against their lot" and refuses to submit to the tyrannical John Reed to whom she refers as a "slave driver". Robert Southey sums up the typical views of 1840s England, as well as the response to the novel arguing: "women shouldn't try to redefine their roles in society." The Reed family hold precisely the same views and as punishment for defying the social convention of a 10 year old "dependent" Jane is sentenced to the Red Room; however, she "resisted all the way" demonstrating the existence of the unbridled passions instilled within her.
             Jane's passion and fervent resistance to oppression continues throughout her life, manifesting itself when she ascends the battlements and is visited by an expanding vision. Adrienne Rich comments that this vision brings her close to the madwoman captive behind the door. "Jane has no contact with Bertha Rochester; yet Jane's sense of herself as a woman – as equal to and with the same needs as a man, is next-door to insanity" in 1840s England.

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