Compare and contrast two novels Middle March and Jane Eyre and terms of realistic narrative style the themes of social classWord essay comparing and contrasting the two novels (Middlemarch and Jane Eyre)
The focus of this paper is to compare and contrast the two books in terms of realistic narrative style the themes of social class and the status of women. The paper looks into the contents of both books and the different messages the authors portray about the cultural aspects of the society. The paper finally provides a concluding sentence that summarizes the content of the paper.
Summary of Gorge Elliot’s “Middlemarch”
George Eliot’s Middle march is a book written in the 1800s predominantly referred to as the Victorian age. The book is based on the character of Dorothea Brooks. Dorothea is a woman of impeccable character and taste. She succeeds in marring her husband who dies immediately after marriage. This experience places Dorothy in a compromising situation due to her position in life. Dorothea has no choice but to face reality and overcome the pressures of being a widow. During her journey, she encounters a number of experiences in regard to social expectations such as morals, religion and conformity. Dorothea manages to persevere the hard times through her interaction with Will, her future husband. She finally finds true love in Will and changes the dynamics of her situation giving new meaning to life (Groundwater, p. 256).
The society at this time is different from the society in present day. This is owed to the cultural norms that are encouraged by the community. Eliot writes on several aspects that affect the relationships in the community. The content of the novel is summarized by the use of different themes which elaborate the message of the author. One of the themes is the concentration of social class; social class is a significant aspect in this era. Society classifies individuals according to their influence in the community. Different classes are encouraged to keep to themselves so as to maintain protocol. The author uses various character traits to show the different classes that exist during this period. The society expects people to conduct themselves in a certain manner. This is determined by the authoritative individuals in the community who set the standards in regard to social conduct. All cultural norms are expected to be followed without restrain. Failure to conform by the rules is met with harsh judgment by the rest of society. Punishment in this case is imposed through harsh criticisms and seclusion. An example of social discrimination is seen through Ladislaw’s character. Ladislaw comes from a different part of the country and thus belongs to a different race. This makes him vulnerable to discrimination in that he is not of a pure breed.
Education is a significant aspect in the community. All people are expected to receive a quality education so that they can improve their social standing. This is one of the features that are used to determine the level of social significance. Fred Vinci chooses to defy the odds by forgoing a university education. This is met with harsh criticism by the rest of the community due to his disregard for all things education. Vinci faces an immense amount of pressure in that his family expects him to become a member of the prestigious clergy. Members of the clergy are highly respected due to the spiritual superiority and guidance bestowed to them by the church. Vinci chooses to follow his heart by pursuing his relationship with his long time love.
The pressure to rise above one’s social class is not uncommon. Being classified in the lowest class is not a desirable aspect due to the hardships that come with this position. People are thus inclined to climb up the class so that they can be recognized by the most influential. Eliot uses Rosamond’s character to show the desperation of the people in the lower social class. She uses all means possible to improve her status making her forget her principles. This in turn, becomes the cause of her downfall due to the enemies she makes during her quest.
Another essential aspect in the novel is the view of gender role in society. Gender roles feature a great deal during the period. Society expects each sex to follow the social norms put forward. Failure to do so makes them prone to ridicule and resentment. Women have for a long time been regarded as the weaker sex. This is due to the social-cultural rules and regulations that define the role of a woman in the society. Women are expected to be submissive to their male counterparts. Due to their gender position, women are expected to be seen and not heard. Their opinion is not as valuable making them subservient to the male gender. The status of women is measured differently from the status of men. For a woman to be significant member of the society, she has to achieve her role as a dedicated wife and mother. Failure to do so makes her an outcast in the society. Dorothea’s character best explains the situation of women during the Victorian era. After the death of her husband, she is left with nothing to live for in that she does not have a child. Dorothea is still expected to show courage when in the presence of her family and friends. Despite her new position as a widow, the society does not have pity on her situation. She is expected to uphold this position with honor and grace (Groundwater, p. 214).
Summary of Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre is based on the life of a girl orphaned at an early age. She is the product of unfortunate circumstances due to the death of her beloved parents. She is immediately placed under the care of her wealthy aunty. Her aunty does not take on her new role as guardian well; she mistreats Jane making her an outcast in the family. This disheartens Jane and makes her seek solace in other members of society. Jane overcomes a number of unbecoming events at the hands of her aunty and cousins. She finally chooses to confront them on their behavior towards her which worsens her situation. This earns her a place in the red room which is identified as the room where her uncle died. Her experience in this room is traumatizing due to the amount of delusion’s she gets of her dead uncle. She manages to leave the protective care of her aunt by getting a position in a boarding school. In the boarding school, she receives love from people around her making them her new family. She becomes a governess and is sent to work for a wealthy family which leads her to the next stage of her life.
Themes used in Jane Eyre
The novel places emphasis on the social divisions in the community. The author uses various characters to make this notion known. Jane is an orphan who has no means of survival; her situation does not get any better due to her parent’s lack of success. Her only affiliation to the high social stature is through her relation to her wealthy aunt. It is evident that a majority of the people marry rich so that they can become a part of a higher class. This is displayed by Jane’s aunt’s marriage to her late uncle Reed. Jane is thus treated different from the rest of the family placing her in the bottom of the pyramid (Francis, and Brontë, p. 135).
Jane takes on the role of being a governess after the completion of her education. This is one of the positions reserved for women in the Victorian age. The number of jobs available for women is limited compared to that of men. This is due to the social roles that expect women to invest in a family as opposed to a career. A governess teaches young ladies on how to behave in accordance with the societies norms. This aspect showcase the pressure put on women on how to conduct themselves in the presence of different people. It also explains the significance of social class and the struggle to uphold the traditional norms (Roberts, p. 301).
Jane’s character displays the perfect example of a woman who seeks to change the view of women in society. There is a significant difference of roles of men and women in the community. Social roles define the way each sex conducts themselves in public. The patriarchal oppression places women under the rule of men. This is seen in distribution of resources in terms of influential position, wealth and education. Women are as a result disadvantaged making them have less influence in the society. Jane tries hard to follow the rules set forth by society. She finds this difficult and as a result chooses to rebel against the norms. Society believes that women have less to offer compared to men. This places men at the top of the society and women at their mercy. Jane has encounters with different male characters who try to keep her in the submissive position. This makes her fight back by making her view known despite the hardships and criticisms she encounters. “Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex”.
The following quote is one of the few thoughts that Jane relays to her peers. In the modern era, women are known to state their opinion on the role and treatment of women. This statement is however considered radical according to the Victorian age. Jane is thus placed under the category of a feminist due to her desire for change and equal treatment.
The woman’s role is an ideal theme in the most of the books written during this era. The Victorian age is known for their disregard of equality between the two sexes. In order to maintain this feature, Roles are formed so as to keep women grounded and on the’ right path’. Jane manages to prove her worth by the display of courage in her most vulnerable state. She becomes independent financially which makes her reliant on herself as opposed to the men in her life. This earns her the respect she deserves from people who had defied her for a long time (Roberts, p. 231).
In conclusion, classic English novels are an essential part of the English literature. Most of the books form themes that are reflective of the societal norms. Both books showcase the rich culture that serve as both an advantage and disadvantage to the development of society. Both books represent realist narratives that talk on occurrences that are not surreal or supernatural. The analysis of both books is thus ideal in that it displays the similarities and differences in the themes in the novels. The common themes in this case are the role of women in the society and the observation of social class. Both factors have a special role in the lifestyle of the people in this period. The factors have over the years changed due to the change in culture. The changes are evident in the present society. Society continues to places emphasis on maintaining the two factors. This however is minimal compared to the occurrences in the novel.
Groundwater, Anna. The Scottish Middle March, 1573-1625: Power, Kinship, Allegiance. London, England: Royal Historical Society, 2010. Print.
Francis, Pauline, and Charlotte Brontë. Jane Eyre. London: Evans, 2010. Print.
Roberts, Timothy. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. St Kilda, Vic: Insight Publications, 2011. Print.