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As shown in the essay, these two female characters, Jane Eyre and Maggie Tulliver are quite ahead of their time and represent unique figures of female heroines during the Victorian era. They rejected Victorian standards for women, Jane and Maggie’s main purpose in life was not to become wives and mothers, allowing men to control all their properties and incomes if they worked, they wanted to be self-sufficient, independent and equal to men as they are not weak nor helpless.
They are heroines who break social norms and refuse to succumb to gender inequalities and to be confined, challenging their limitations in life and society as they want much more than what society is offering them, they want to break free and follow their own paths towards maturity and independence.
Following Victorian codes of conduct, passion must be restricted as it was considered to be harmful. Both Jane and Maggie will experience these strong feelings and will have to deal with reason, trying to control their emotions throughout their adulthood.
Maggie fails to achieve self-fulfilment and becomes self-destructive due to the strong bonds she has with her family and the past. In fact, she will be deprived of happiness and self-determination because of these issues. There is an unavoidable contrast with Jane Eyre, who refuses to be repressed. She doesn’t want to be Rochester’s mistress or becoming part of a loveless marriage with St. John Rivers as both actions would mean going against her nature and principles.
Although Jane and Maggie are not considered radical feminists by contemporary critics, it is clear that, particularly Jane is the most radical of the two.
She is more strong-minded, stays true to her principles, not allowing restrictions to her actions, and succeeds to achieve independence without having to die. On the other hand, Maggie’s renunciation and martyrdom will be crucial for her failure on becoming and independent woman, and therefore, of her fatal fate.
Jane is aware of what is good and what is not and does not allow anyone to take control of her life, but also Maggie despite of her self-renunciation. For instance, when she chooses to return to St. Ogg’s, accepting that she will be treated as an outcast or when, besides her self-sacrifice, she rejects marrying Philip when she starts to have feelings for Stephen. Both Jane and Maggie are aware of the importance of love, duty and the importance of choosing the correct marriage, and, as they are heroines, they fight for being able to choose who to marry.
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