Feminism In Victorian Literature

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Charles Bressler (1996) emphasised the belief, that according to feminists, it is in fact “man who defines what it means to be human, not women” where “man is the subject, the one who defines meaning; woman is the object, having her existence defined and determined by the male”. Victorian society, as highlighted within Victorian literature, divided women, the inferior sex, into two separate categories: the angelic and the demonic, a stereotype emphasised within the works of female Victorian writers. Female Victorian writers were given access to a genre that “demanded less intellectual rigor than other forms of writing”, allowed for the opening up of possibilities for female writers in which to explore their literary abilities (Eagleton 1990,…show more content…
278), as Mr Rochester framed Bertha, was an archetypal figure physically acting on as well as embodying the “essence of female anger and rebellion”, trapped within the female’s constricted frame. The figure of Bertha within the novel is said to not only be an obstacle, present for the purpose of being destroyed “before Jane can emerge as an integrated individual” (Lodge 2009, p. 74), but a ‘encrypting device’ that acted as a tool where female writers’ could express “unspeakable rage against patriarchal oppression” (p. 75) within their writing. Bertha’s character becomes reimagined through later “feminist re-writings of Jane Eyre” that aimed at expressing “the sense that Bertha deserves rescue: she is not Jane’s rival, but her suppressed shadow self” (p. 77), isolated for the purpose of a doppelganger, a mere literary device (Gilbert & Gubar 1979). Postcolonial critic, Gayatri Spivak, argues that Jane Eyre is ultimately a text that “white feminists celebrated, the triumph of Jane as an autonomous individual, was achieved through the oppression and death of the racially ‘inferior’ colonial subject” (Lodge 2009, p. 85), in other words, a novel that had blindly failed to emancipate characters situated within an alternative social class, than Jane herself, or rather Charlotte Brontë. Even though Jane momentarily sympathises for Bertha, when she exclaims to Mr Rochester that his depictions are “cruel – she cannot help being mad” (p. 265), Brontë’s exclusion of certain social class and women of colour, from her female empowerment movement, undoubtedly places a question mark next to the feminist ideal presented within the

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