‘Jane alone, much like how she is ‘dispensed’ like

‘Jane Eyre’ illustrates the firm, ordered class system in
England that required everyone to maintain carefully circumscribed class
positions. This is particularly evident in Jane’s childhood lodgings at the
Reed household and at Thornfield, where her position as the governess seemingly
complicates her relationship with Rochester. Moreover, her role as the governess
leads readers to question whether she should be considered of a higher class,
based on her superior education, or lower class, because of her status as a

Within the first chapter, Jane appears to exist in a
no-man’s land between the upper and servant classes, alienated at the home of
her callous cousins and her hateful aunt.  Jane’s position as a dependant means that she
is vulnerable to the abuse of her cousin John. John Reed tells Jane she has ‘no
business to take our books; you are a dependant …you ought to beg, and not to
live here with gentlemen’s children like us’. The liberty
of reading normally indicated that one was of a higher class as a thorough
education was associated with wealth. By affirming that Jane has ‘no business’
reading their books, he both limits her ability to move up the class system and
solidifies her place as being isolated from the rest of the family. In
addition, the use of the sentence ‘ought to beg…not live with gentleman’s
children’ reinforces this idea of her lower-class position and displays a clear
difference between the pair of them- Jane, an orphan who is required to ‘beg’
and John, who is to inherit the family’s riches and is therefore the ‘young
master’ of the house.

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Like her son, Mrs Reed displays her utter contempt as she
‘lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, with her darlings about her…Me, she
had dispensed from joining the group.’ Jane’s exclusion from the assembly due
to her class is evident through Bronte’s use of isolating the word ‘Me,’ which
stands alone, much like how she is ‘dispensed’ like trash from the ‘group’.
Moreover, the contrast between the verbs ‘reclined’ and ‘dispensed’ reveals the
societal prejudice towards the lower class; ‘reclined on a sofa’ reveals how
privileged Mrs Reed is, as she can relax knowing that she is financially
stable-as opposed to ‘dispensed from the rest of the group’ which shows,
ultimately, Jane is beneath them. Karl Marx stated ‘proletarians have nothing
to lose but their chains’, ‘chains’ being what holds them to their position and
what Jane is exploited of-she does not fit in anywhere. Marxists would see this
as referencing slavery and therefore having ownership over the person who wears
the chains. Moreover, this links to the idea that the higher class would
exploit the proletarians for their own gain, with no regard for their wellbeing.

Bronte introduces the disturbing motif of the Red Room at Gateshead.
Once the bedroom of Jane’s Uncle Reed, where ‘he had breathed his last’, it is
now used to correct Jane’s sins after she hits John Reed. The room is described
as having ‘curtains of deep red demask…blinds always drawn down, were half
shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery; the carpet was red…bed was
covered with crimson cloth’. This space allows audiences to visualise the room
in a sense of being womb-like, which comes to life through the usage of the red
curtains (which symbolise isolation or shutting one out of something), the red
carpet and ‘crimson cloth’. Subsequently, the idea that Mrs Reed is the mother
figure that is essentially forcing Jane back into a ”womb” underpins the
common idea in literature that forcing one into an enclosed space brings about
the sense of being reborn. The less Freudian interpretation is that the red
room is much like that of another notorious red place-hell, which is strengthened
through the idea of it being dark – ‘blinds always drawn down’. This use of the
blinds being drawn down can be viewed as the family’s metaphorical way of
blocking her off from the rest of society (again, reinforcing this idea of
isolation), as the family are embarrassed that they have an orphan to take care
of. Following this, it is as if Jane is thrust into the pit of hell and must
face everything fierce and horrible about her status in life as an orphan. So,
from this understanding, the reader can gather that either the Reeds wish for
Jane to be reborn so that she may be pure like them and belong to the same
hierarchy, the bourgeoisie, or Jane is being condemned to hell for her sin of
being a victim of poverty. This symbol of death and blood remains prominent
throughout the book, as Jane in her later life at Thornfield is reminded of the
room in various moments and this is used to foreshadow the impending
unhappiness and unfortunate events in Jane’s life.

Jane, after many years studying at Lowood where she became
an accomplished linguist and then teacher, advertises for a job as a governess.  The role of the governess usually belonged to
young, educated women who became responsible for the teaching of girls of any
age, ranging from toddler to young adult. Teaching varied from complex subjects
such as French and the study of Globes to the more classical subjects such as
music and drawing. Employing governesses became a mark of status or conspicuous
consumption for the middle class, as it said ” I can afford someone to teach
my children” and ultimately solidified their place in the social hierarchy.
Although she possesses skills that typically a woman of class would own, her
status does not progressively incline or decline, but rather oscillates between
the two ends of the social scale. Blanche Ingram states, ‘You should hear mama on the chapter of governesses: Mary
and I have had, I should think, a dozen at least in our day; half of them
detestable and the rest ridiculous, and all incubi – were they not, mama?’ in
addition to that,  Mrs. Fairfax says,
‘only servants, and one can’t converse with them on terms of equality; one must
keep them at due distance for fear of losing one’s authority’ displays Jane’s
wavering place in an era of unprecedented solid change.  The word ‘incubi’ that Blanche uses to
describe her past governesses, denotes a male, devilish or demon form shows the
view of poverty from the higher-class perspective. Moreover insinuates that
perhaps people who were poor (governesses usually came from underprivileged
backgrounds) were not human at all but animals. Mrs. Fairfax’s use of ‘only
servants’ supports the comparison of poor people to animals as it shows total
disregard for wellbeing by saying ‘only servants’. Furthermore, this idea is
reinforced using the word ‘equality’.


Bronte challenges
the wealthy’s perception of the poor by Jane being educated yet a dependant and
ultimately using the literary device of Deus ex Machina. This device is used to
bring Jane a hefty sum of income and a family that free her from social
confinements-the Rivers who happen to be distant cousins that she has conveniently
been given shelter by. Although Jane has a ‘wealth to the heart’ from the startling amount of
money she has received, the
major factor that saves her is
finding a family: ‘exhilarating
— not like the ponderous gift of gold: rich and welcome enough in its way, but
sobering from its weight.’ She is now an equal in terms of class, as she
divides the money between them all making them financially equivalent. With the
series of extraordinary events, Jane can marry Rochester. Marxists would argue
that the use of Deus ex Machina allows Jane to be liberated from the
constraints of her previous social status. However, Jane escapes  poverty rather easily and therefore Jane does
not address the problem of class prejudice through actions but rather gets to
her position through convenient luck. This suggests that oppression remains