Throughout history women have played important roles in society. Women have gone through much adversity to get where they are today. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte are some the pioneers of women’s literature. Each shows their different aspects of a women’s role in society in their books Emma by Austen and Jane Eyre by Bronte.
In both of these books the author shows how a woman deals with societies’ norms, values, and manners.
Jane Eyre is an orphaned daughter of a poor family. She is brought up by her aunt Sarah Reed. Where she is teased and tortured by the aunt and the family. She is not very pretty and is barely on the social structure.
On the other hand Emma Woodhouse is a beautiful girl and is financially sound. She is raised by her maternal father. In Emma, Emma Woodhouse is in search of finding the appropriate man for herself is the main theme.
As the reader goes deeper into the text Emma slowly progresses into a self-deception. Having since childhood been obliged to manage her father, she still likes to manage things, and particularly people. She manages to manipulate everyone except Mr. George Knightley.
In Jane Eyre, Jane demonstrates a strong need to be herself, to take responsibility for her action. She is put to the test by her daily teasing and abuse from her cousins.
When she is brought to a boarding school she soon distinguishes herself through her classes. Eventually ends up in Thornfield where she meets Edward Rochester. While growing up in Gateshead Hall, Jane is treated less than a servant. Her cousins John, Eliza, and Georgiana Reed remind Jane she has no worth and is an unwelcome relative. Out of the three cousins John was one of the meanest, not only of Jane Eyre but of all living creatures. “John, no one thwarted, much less punished: though he twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep, stripped the hothouse vines of their fruit, and broke the buds of the choicest plants in the conservatory:”(pg.9) Jane becoming unable to withstand her treatment at Gateshead Hall she is sent to Lowood, a boarding school for the poor. Before she leaves Gateshead she tells her aunt how she feels. ” I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you, but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world expect John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may give to you girl Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.”(pg.31) From that point forward Jane realized her newfound power over other. She stands her ground and refuses to be walked over.
In beginning of Emma, Emma is left alone with her father because her best friend Anne Taylor is being married to Mr. Weston. Now that Emma’s friends and relatives are all married for the first time she is left with herself. No longer having friends to talk to she relies on her imagination, realizing that she could match between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston and then stating that she matched them up. But George Knightley reasons with Emma that is unjust should not do. This set the tone for the story by setting up the opposition between imagination and reasoning. Emma begins to shape her self-deception by meeting Harriet Smith, a pretty girl who is orphaned by her maternal parents. Emma shapes her self-deception by taking Harriet “under her wings”. Emma takes on a snobbish look on the social structure. “A degree or two lower and a creditable appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other. But a farmer can need none of my help, and is therefore in one sense as much above my notice as in every other he is below it.”(pg.29) In helping Harriet, Emma discourages her interest in Robert Martin because she is from a more conventional family than his. Emma then sets Harriet with Mr. Philip Elton to be his future spouse. This planned fail because of Mr. Elton loved Emma instead of Harriet.
Jane Eyre soon arrives in Lowood, where she becomes friends with Helen Burns, a sickly child whose saint-like encouragement helps Jane with the hardships of school life. Here is where Jane’s renewal in faith starts to develop. Helen who dies in Jane’s arms tells Jane that they will meet again in heaven. Jane soon begins to thrive on her academic successes and becomes a teacher. Where she decides to take a job in Thornfield, where she is to teach a foster child Adele Varens, who speaks French mixed with English. The owner of Thornfield, Edward Rochester often travels therefore Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper maintains the house will Rochester is gone. Jane and Rochester introduced each other when Rochester is the person whom Jane helped when she was on her way to mail a letter. Their relationship starts to build up from that point. Where Rochester proposes to Jane and she accepts.
In Emma, Emma rejects Mr. Elton because she does not love him, and Emma is faced to tell Harriet. “Her tears fell abundantly-but her grief was so truly artless, that no dignity could have made it more respectable in Emma’s eyes-and she listened to her and tried to console her with all her heart and understanding-really for the first time convinced that Harriet was the superior creature of the two-and resemble her would be more for her own welfare and happiness than all that genius or intelligence could do.” (pg.142)
Emma starts realized that she is not above Harriet any more. Emma has her encounter with Jane Fairfax, an elegant and accomplished person. Emma dislikes that Jane has met Frank Churchill (read also Frank Churchill Emma essay). Where Emma has somewhat of crush for Frank Churchill even though they have never met before. For when the two meet Emma becomes inhibited by Churchill that is no longer attached to him.
In Jane Eyre, before the Rochester proposed to Jane she took a leave of absence to visit her aunt, Sarah Reed. Her aunt is ill and calling for Jane. For her daughters do not care for her anymore and did not visit. Jane offers to reconcile with her aunt but, her aunt rejects Jane. Jane’s aunt resented that a long time ago, she promised to obey her dying husband’s request to care of Jane and, also that Jane’s uncle, John Erye has been trying to locate her. Soon after Sara Reed dies. On Jane’s wedding day is ruin some news that Rochester is already married. They all go up to the top of Thornfield where they find Bertha Mason Rochester, a madwoman married to Edward Rochester. Jane being a witness to all this leaves Thornfield on a coach to the Moor House where she meets St. John Rivers, a Minster.
In Emma, Emma starts to have feeling for George Knightley. Emma observers that Harriet and Churchill have something developing between them and decides not to interfere. But in actuality Harriet is interested in someone above her. Emma finds out it is George Knightley. And Emma does anything to make Knightley marry her even if it is loose her friendship with Harriet. But eventually Harriet marries Robert Martin. Emma marries Knightley in “perfect happiness” In Jane Eyre, Jane becomes good friends with St. John Rivers and his sister. One day St. John discovers that Jane has inherited twenty thousand pounds from her uncle and that St. John is a cousin of Jane. Jane gives half to St. John and his sister. St. John realized that she loves Jane and proposes to her but she does not accept for she is still in love with Rochester. Jane leaves St. John in return to Thornfield. Coming back to Thornfield Jane find out that it is burned down. She finds out the Bertha Mason Rochester set it on fire and jumped off the roof.
Austen in a way showed this as a rebirth for Rochester and Jane Eyre. Jane returns to Rochester even though he suffered an amputated hand and is blinded by the fire. Eventually they marry and Rochester regains his sight in one eye and produces a son. In both of these books the author shows how a woman deals with societies’ norms, values, and manners.
Jane and Emma endure harsh realities in life. Jane had to be a strong character to go through what she did. Emma not as strong but the determination in find a spouse. Even though Jane and Emma had different hardships the had similar characteristics. They both had wisdom, imagination, and character.