Jane Eyre Feminist Analysis

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How can one ‘read as a woman’? Feminist critics have grappled with this problem in their traction of providing a new, alternative and feminine way of re-reading literature. In the process of doing so, the question of how a ‘female’ mode of reading can potentially be achieved by almost anyone becomes particularly salient. This question has no doubt been explored in different ways throughout the history of feminist criticism. In his essay, ‘Reading as a Woman’ (1982), Jonathan Culler notes the various ways of reading that feminist critics have undertaken in order to ‘read as a woman’, particularly in what he calls the “hypothesis of the female reader”. The postulate of a female reader that feminist criticism undertakes, according to Culler,…show more content…
On the surface level, Brontë’s portrayal of Jane as a successful and independent woman that can equal her male counterpart, Rochester, is a noble cause that warrants applause from fem-inist critics. However, Rhys ultimately demonstrates through WSS that Bronte has not been able to read as a woman, in Culler’s terms. WSS exposes how the empowerment of Brontë’s female protagonist, Jane, in Jane Eyre depends upon the marginalisation and fall of another woman, Bertha Mason, also widely known as the ‘Madwoman in the Attic’. In other words, Brontë is complicit in doing what phallocentric texts have done by allowing her heroine to be empowered in the same cruel way feminist critics have decried male readings as sinful of – to deny the sanity of a woman figure in order to emerge victorious. In writing a prequel that accords Bertha a voice which Brontë has denied, Rhys posits Ber-tha Mason as alienated, neglected and misunderstood by Bronte and other critics of the book. Her reading of Jane Eyre arguably becomes even more feministic than Jane Eyre itself, when she recognises how Brontë upholds the same phallocentric assumptions that characterises the ‘male readings’ described by Culler. Brontë depicts Bertha as the obsta-cle to Jane’s marriage with Rochester, much in the same way Culler describes how male readings make “women…show more content…
This is done so in part by having Antoinette overhear the conversation between the disembodied voices of Grace Poole and Leah at the beginning of Part Three in WSS. Although one can make assumptions, the location of where the conversation is held is unclear, which leads to a sense of physical detachment of the voices from their surroundings and arguably a detachment on the part of the reader reading WSS. Antoinette herself, like the readers, is not really there, eavesdropping on the conversation as an outsider but not involving herself in it, again disembodied and rendered invisible and physically absent by the particular narrative structure set up by Rhys. Moreover, this conversation argubly makes up the narrative strand that promises what is closest to objective truth in a novel full of dreams, deception and multiple perspectives. In freeing the voices and perspectives from their physical bodies, Rhys arguably allows an alternative reading to be made that is free from biases of the male and female experience that Culler implicitly ties to the physical make-up of the female and male condition. Additionally, her narrative disintegrates the use of a singular authorial

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