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37. Jane Eyre, A Portrayal Of British Middle Class Women In The 19th Century As Reflected In Charlotte Bronte’s Novel “Jane Eyre”


1.1 Background of the Study

There was a great change in social and economic organization, which resulted from the replacement of hand tools by the machine and powered tools in Great Britain between 1750– 1830. It was known as Industrial Revolution. Although the Industrial Revolution brought obvious advantages to mankind, it also brought harm to many people who lived through it, especially women and children.

In Britain, three structure classes generally called as the urban social hierarchy were formed when Industrial Revolution was occurring. First is the Aristocracy. It is the upper stratum of the society. The second class is the middle class. The third class is the working class. They consisted of high- skilled, semiskilled and unskilled people. According to Perkin in Origins of Modern English Society (1969: 176), Middle classes constituted a new class society in the era of Industrial Revolution. Great Britain may have had predominantly open- class type in the nineteenth century. Open class permit people to change status with relative ease all during that century, and continuing up to the present.

Middle class was formed by the people from the lower rank which had enough education and better profession, therefore they could rise their life into a better condition. As the industrial revolution grew larger, middle classes succeeded in industry, trade and commerce and also technology (Perkin, 1969:176).

In the early 19th century, middle class women were required to become obedienct, secret and bend. Married women they were absolutely subordinate to their husbands. The men considered their wives their properties and unfortunately, so did the law.

Women had double values. They considered themselves best as householders and workers. Women in the 19th century started to enter the men’s dominated world of “working”, the world that was used to be prohibited for female. Working was the means to release them from the old and conventional thought that woman for centuries were subordinate to men and could do nothing outside their house.

The novel which is analyzed here more or less shows a portrayal of a British Middle class women. From the earliest time until a modern technology era with its modern way of thinking, women have always become an interesting topic. Women can become workers. They work for a living. For married women, they work for their family. They do all any household chores, get pregnant and nurse their children without any complaints.

Furthermore, literature is a part of my major. And as a student of English Department who take study to get bachelor degree, I attempt to conduct a library research focusing on British middle class women in the 19th century found in Charlotte Bronte’s novel “Jane Eyre” by using sociological approach.

1.2 Reasons for Choosing the Topic

In this study the writer chooses Charlotte Bronte’s novel “Jane Eyre” because of three reasons namely, the novel contains many kinds of values which we can learn, the novel still uses unfamiliar and difficult words, and it also reveals women emancipation especially in education and profession field. Firstly, Charlotte Bronte’s novel which was published in 1847 contains many kinds of values which we learn. Values of human nature in that era also still relevant to be discussed, since human nature does not change from time to time.

In line with this Barrows, et al. (1959: 10) say that “But we also want to be offered something new when we read, not absolutely new, perhaps, because human nature doesn’t change very much, but at least a new combination of human traits, a new illustration at least of how human behave …”. Besides, Benton in Encyclopaedia Britannica (1969: 78) states that it maintains its particular powerful spell despite its melodramatic sentimental.

Next, since the novel belongs to one of the great classics and still uses many unfamiliar and difficult words, the writer is challenged to analyze it in order that she is able to understand it and finally she is able to contribute her work to all readers. Hopefully, it will be useful for all.

Finally, Charlotte Bronte’s novel “Jane Eyre” reveals women emancipation especially in education and profession, which is showed through the hard working life of Jane Eyre. She tried hard to study by reading many books which she found in the library of her aunt, eventhough she has not been sent to school yet. It finally became very useful when she was sent to school. She could
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