George Eliot begins work on her masterpiece Middlemarch
Introducing Jane Eyre: An Unlikely Victorian Heroine
Image courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
When Charlotte Brontë set out to write the novel Jane Eyre, she was determined to create a main character who challenged the notion of the ideal Victorian woman, or as Brontë was once quoted: "a heroine as plain and as small as myself" (Gaskell, Chapter XV). Brontë's determination to portray a plain yet passionate young woman who defied the stereotype of the docile and domestic Victorian feminine ideal most likely developed from her own dissatisfaction with domestic duties and a Victorian culture that discouraged women from having literary aspirations. Through the following activities, students can learn the expectations and limitations placed on Victorian women. Contemplating Brontë's position and desire for literary achievement in that context, students will consider why she felt compelled to write Jane Eyre and then to publish it under the male pseudonym Currer Bell.
At the end of this lesson students will be able to: identify those qualities and traits associated with the ideal Victorian woman.
Evaluate Charlotte Brontë's decision to publish Jane Eyre under a male pseudonym.
Analyze the opening chapters of Jane Eyre in the context of criticism of the novel.
How does Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre refute the notions associated with the ideal Victorian woman?