Friday, October 9, 2009

Jane Eyre as a Bildungsroman

In the comment box discuss the following prompt:

Jane Eyre is often described as a bildungsroman or "novel of formation." However, although Charlotte Bronte portrays a protagonist who "comes of age" over the course of the novel, her novel does not adhere to all of the conventions of the nineteenth century bildungsroman.

How does Bronte's novel adhere to and deviate from the bildungsroman conventions (as listed below)? How is the novel's adherence to and deviation from the conventions significant to the novel's overall effect and meaning?

Suzanne Hader developed the following list after reading Marianne Hirsch’s The Novel of Formation as Genre.

1. A Bildungsroman is, most generally, the story of a single individual's growth and development within the context of a defined social order. The growth process, at its roots a quest story, has been described as both "an apprenticeship to life" and a "search for meaningful existence within society."

2. To spur the hero or heroine on to their journey, some form of loss or discontent must jar them at an early stage away from the home or family setting.

3. The process of maturity is long, arduous, and gradual, consisting of repeated clashes between the protagonist's needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order.

4. Eventually, the spirit and values of the social order become manifest in the protagonist, who is then accommodated into society. The novel ends with an assessment by the protagonist of himself and his new place in that society.

Due by Pumpkin Time Friday, October 16.


Marisa D. said...

I have a thought about the first part of a traditional bildungsroman where the character is trying to find a place within a defined social order. I noticed that what Bronte does with Jane is she allows the character to grow and develop within the social order but not lose herself to it. Bronte deviates from the bildungsroman in a very subtle way, she still has the character growing up in a defined social order but instead of the character conforming to society, her character creates a place for herself. I don't know if this is right but thoughts?

Meredith S said...

What Marisa said is true because Jane never explicitly wants to incorporate herself into to the social order. Instead, she wants to remain herself in the midst of it. This is why I think that Jane Eyre might stray from one part of first description in the list. The description says that the growth process in a bildungsroman is fundamentally a “quest story.” I do not think that Jane Eyre should be described as a "quest story." The word “quest” implies that Jane is expecting to obtain something from the start to finish and she directly sets out to find it, as if she is embarking on a treasure hunt. Although you could say that she does obtain something by the end (a husband, social status/money, etc.) these are not things that she directly sets out to find. Most of the time it appears that Jane does not even know what she wants or what she is after besides the freedom to live with her own values intact. If Jane Eyre was a “quest story” she would know what she is after the entire time and have some sort of strategy to get it. This can’t be true because Jane’s actions are often impulsive and based on pure emotion, not determination to achieve something.

nFrye said...

Jane Eyre is considered a bildungsroman, despite the deviations that Bronte incorporates into the story. By looking at the general definition of a bildungsroman (according to Suzanne Hader) it is possible to see that Jane is growing and developing within a social order. While not necessarily falling into the "typical"genre of a person within the order, she is growing up surrounded by it. She finds herself searching for a meaningful existence, although perhaps not one that is within the bounds of society's expectations. Rather, she finds her own niche in the world with Rochester.
Jane Eyre also adheres and deviates from a "traditional" bildungsroman on the second point addressed by Hader. Since Jane never truly feels a family connection between herself and the Reeds, the incident in the red room does not truly drive her away from home and family. However, the incident does set her forth on her journey at a young age.
Most of the novel Jane Eyre consists of Jane's maturing process. Throughout the story, Jane's needs and desires conflict with the views of the social order as well as with her own expectations for herself. (Because of the element of her own set of rules for herself, Bronte allows Jane to deviate from a typical bildungsroman protagonist.) Over and over again, Jane desires to be with Rochester or to have family, only to be pushed away from those wants by her own pride and occasionally by the social order.
Jane never really becomes a part of the social order, and does not ever really enter into society. Instead, she creates her own society, consisting of the person who is most important to her, Rochester. (An example of this is their wedding, where only she and Rochester were in attendance.) Instead of belonging to a society that excluded her for so long, Jane creates her own society.
Bronte deviates from the traditional bildungsroman in order to make points about society. She creates a character that all of us would like to be like in some way. Jane had courage and an independent, passionate soul. Bronte appears to be saying that by conforming to society, it is difficult for one to find one's true self and that only by having courage and following one's passions (with some control) are people able to find their place in the world.

Anonymous said...
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Molly A said...

Jane Eyre is a piece of literature that is commonly classified as a bildungsroman. It is, however, a novel that manages to constantly deviate from what a bildungsroman is typically defined as. The reason Jane Eyre is classified that way, is because it does stay true to one important quality- the growth and development of a singular individual- Jane. Charlotte Bronte parallels Jane’s constant development, with a series of standards she sets for herself. As a result, Jane’s main focus becomes her own standards, rather than the expectations that are set by her surrounding society.
This deviation, of society vs. personal expectation, is the most common through Jane Eyre. Her personal desires and needs always conflict with what she views as right, or justified. Society, although providing a guideline for Jane’s personal morals, does not play as significant a role in her life, as it would if she were the main character from a traditional bildungsroman.
This observation is significant to the storyline because ultimately, Jane’s feeling of right and wrong is what both creates and solves her problems. She has a tendency to begin to drift away from her standards but quickly regain knowledge of their importance. This leads to a bumpy road of self development and a understandable difficulty to conform to meet complicated expectations.
Jane Eyre, however, does end on a bildungsroman-like note. In the end, she achieves both happiness and a level of expectation she had for herself. Jane Eyre, for all purposes, is a bildungsroman. However, Jane is her own society, creating and controlling all that she must conform to fit into.

Brianna A said...
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Andrew Ryan said...

Jane Eyre meets certain elements of a bildungsroman but differs greatly from what is expected. The definition of a bildungsroman is a story of a single individuals’ growth and development within the context of a defined social order; based on this definition alone Jane Eyre is not a bildungsroman because she does grow into a defined social order. Instead she lives her life the way she wants to without the care of what people might think. By getting married to Rochester at the end of the novel, it would appear she is reconciling with the social order but at the wedding it is known that there is no one there. This shows that she still does not care about the social order, which refutes the possibility that Jane has developed from beginning to end. Even from the beginning Jane knew what kind of person she was and did not feel the need to change. The novel does have inciting action in that Jane is spurred into leaving Gateshead. When Jane stands up to Mrs. Reed she is forced to leave Gateshead to Lowood which gets Jane’s life in motion. At the beginning of the novel Jane is locked in the red room which went against the idea of the bildungsroman because the red room suppressed Jane from leaving her home. Jane Eyre does fit the second element of a bildungsroman which is the process of maturity. The definition of the process of maturity is that it is long, arduous, and gradual and along the way are clashes with society and the characters wants and needs. Jane Eyre meets the first part of this element of a bildungsroman because Jane spends eight years at Lowood where she works hard and is belittled and ridiculed by Mr. Brocklehurst. Jane clashes with society during this time because she is not following society’s status quo; she takes what people say to her but she does not abide by it. For example when Jane meets Helen, Helen informs her all about God and faith, and Jane listens intently to her but does not truly believe it, instead she forms her own conclusions and follows them. Jane also clashes with society when she decides to marry Rochester the second time because Rochester is already married and for Jane to marry an already married man would be to go against God. While Jane is at Thornfield with Rochester during the time that the rich, upper class citizens are there, she is restricted from being with Rochester. The sole individual that tries to separate Jane from Rochester is Blanche. Blanche prevents Jane from expressing any emotion and takes Jane out of her comfort zone. While Blanche and the others are there, Jane secludes herself and in a way she is back in the red room where she is suppressed. When Jane meets with St. John she yearns for his love and passion. For example when St. John is saying goodnight to Mary and Diana Rivers and Jane, he kisses both sisters on the head but not Jane. By not receiving his affection, Jane feels empty. Even though most of the community likes Jane now for her teaching she is still missing the love and passion that Rochester showed her.

Andrew Ryan said...

When Jane decides to leave Rochester in the first place after discovering Birthe she refuses to accept his money which would against most people actions. But by not taking his money it shows Jane’s true values and one thing she values most is hard work. By taking Rochester’s money it would be going against her beliefs that money is earned with hard work. Since she did not earn his money she feels she can not take it. The last element of a bildungsroman states that the spirit and values of the social order become part of the protagonist, that society has taken in the “mature” individual, the individual and the social order merge, and the novel assesses the change of the individuals’ role in society. Jane Eyre does not follow any social order but it just so happens that things fall into place in such a way that it could be perceived that Jane is reconciling with the social order. For instance at the end of the novel Jane marries Rochester which is accepted in society but Jane makes the decision without regard to anyone else but herself. This is proven because at her wedding no one is present and if she truly cared what people thought about her, she would have invited more people. At the end of the novel Rochester is described as being blind and having a mutilated hand but she still marries him anyway. If Jane had the values of the social order she could never have married Rochester because of his appearance. Since Jane is not superficies she sees Rochester for who he truly is and no deformity could stop that. Society would take Jane in now, now that she is married with money and a social status but Jane opts out of it and decides to live with Rochester in the woods away from society. The novel does not assess the change in the Jane’s role in society because Brontë wants the reader to know that Jane is the same individual she was in the beginning. By separating herself from society there can be no change in Jane’s role in society.

amycarpenter57 said...

Jane Eyre as a Bildungsroman

A large part of a bildungsroman is the part of social order and the protagonist’s place in it. For this reason there is some contention about whether or not Jane Eyre can qualify as a bildungsroman because it is thought that perhaps, in the end, Jane does not join the social order due to her choice to marry Rochester, help and serve him, and mainly stay out of society.

However, “society” is not the same as “social order”. Mr. Rochester was part of high society at the beginning of the book due to him money and name. As a gentleman, that was his place in the social order. But servants and lower class workers too, had a place in the social order, in their own society. It was not the same society as Blanche Ingram but it was still the same social order.

Jane marries Mr. Rochester at the end of the book. This gives her a place, not only in the social order but also in higher society if she ever chose to enter it and mingle with upper class people due to her money and his legacy. If Bronte had really wanted Jane to leave the social order, at the end of the book she would have been unmarried and have joined a traveling gypsy caravan or something of the like. Jane chooses to enter the social order on her terms but that does not negate the idea of her reentering it.

Furthermore, Jane has a child at the end of the book. According to mores of the day, she has now attained her “most important role” as a woman, that of a mother. To the contemporary of that day, Jane’s life now has an acceptable purpose, that of raising and caring for her child and any further children. Bronte has brought a free and independent woman around to a wife and mother, how much more can Jane follow the social order than that?

But Bronte does not portray this as bad or that Jane has “succumbed” to the social order. She follows the rules for a bildungsroman perfectly by having Jane find the place within the social order that suits her best. Although she comments on the society that Blanche Ingram falls into she by no means condemns the social order overall. Bronte also does the same thing with Christianity.

Although Christianity is technically a part of Victorian England social order, by viewing them separately one can see how Bronte treats them similarly. Christianity in the form of Mr. Brocklehurst is condemned and Christianity in the form of St. John is not esteemed either. But in the person of Helen, Bronte shows that she doesn’t think that Christianity is inherently bad, in fact Christianity is good when its believers understand correctly what it means to be a Christian.

In the same way that Bronte comments on Christianity, she shows that she does not believe that the social order of the day is bad either, it’s just that one must find the right place to be happy. Jane does not loose herself to the social order but Bronte says she doesn’t have to to be part of it. For Jane, her place by Mr. Rochester’s side as a wife and mother makes her happy and fulfilled now that she has rejoined the social order.

Katina T said...

Jane Eyre is both different and similar to a regular bildungsroman novel. The protagonist follows several steps of the classic bildungsroman novel that were mentioned in the blog, but also deviates from it in her own way too. For example, in most bildungsroman books, the character has set backs, yet is in a constantly slope of development through out the story. Jane’s development, however, is not constant. Jane’s passion as a child got her sent away to Lowood charity school, where she learned to control her passion. Once Jane left for her next destination in her journey, at Thornfield, she finds that the passion she has learned to control is let loose once again when she meets Rochester. And then once again, she has to control this passion when she comes to the conclusion that she must leave Rochester in order to do the right thing. She is in a battle between what is right and what is wrong. Should she follow her instinct of passion, or should she listen to a voice of reason of what is supposedly morally correct? The author tries to get her readers to understand that too much of both can lead to the protagonist losing her own sense of self.

Despite some differences from the bildungsroman genre, Jane has to go through the hardships that are continuously conflicting between her own opinion and what society thinks is correct. In each segment of the novel, she is angered by the certain pressures that society forces upon her. For instance, at the Reed’s, she is treated as an outcast even though she feels that she has done nothing wrong. At Lowood, the teachers have the right to physically hit students, yet Jane thinks she should have the same right to retaliate. When Jane is at Thornfield, the circumstances are a bit different. She falls into the predicament of loving a man who is married. It would obviously be extremely wrong in the view of society’s eyes to marry a married man, but she could care less about what society thinks. She realizes that the reason she doesn’t stay with Rochester isn’t because of society’s pressure, but is because of her own personal morals. Finally, once she leaves Thornfield, she encounters the St. John, who represents the exact opposite of Rochester. Jane has strong feelings for Rochester, but St. John is far to cold to ever love. St. John pressures Jane to marry him. Jane knows that she could never love St. John and therefore, knows she could not marry him.

The novel ends with Rochester and Jane isolated from the rest of the world besides a few individuals. With all of these social pressures surrounding her, Jane does not conform to society, but makes her own. Within their isolation, they are as happy as ever, and feel no need to worry about the rest of society.

nFrye said...

To clarify:
The social order in Jane Eyre as I believed it to be is the order of the nineteenth century where people who were wealthy stayed wealthy and married wealthy people and otherwise continued to socialize on that level. Jane Eyre defies the social order by separating Rochester and herself from that community of wealthy people and creating her own world with him.

There are some points where Bronte conforms to the order, however. Jane did marry Rochester after she had received her own inheritance (thus maintaining the idea of "wealthy marrying wealthy.") Jane also maintains a household, as many women of that time did.

Anonymous said...

Jane Eyre is often referred to as a bildungsroman due to the fact that it is a coming of age novel. However, there are many ways in which Jane Eyre deviates from the conventions of a traditional bildungsroman. While in most coming of age novels the protagonist works to fit in with society, Jane is more concerned with being able to live within the society with her own morals in tact. There are many elements of the social order in Jane Eyre, all of which Jane has to deal with. We learn from Helen, and St. John about the religious elements of society, and we see that Jane (although not able to completely give her self over to god passionately, like Helen or un-passionately like St. John) works to find away to live with her own beliefs, what ever that may be. The issue of social class comes up often with the Reeds, and with Mr. Rochester. Jane is often viewed worthless in the eyes of Mrs. Reed especially because her father was below her mother. With Rochester Jane for a while feels out of place co-existing with Miss Ingram, and then again when she is engaged to Rochester. After their interrupted wedding Jane makes the decision to leave because her beliefs don’t entitle her to stay. Jane is only able to return to Rochester when she is better off then he is. Although she was never fully concerned with being rich, she does notice that wealthy people tend to have an easier life, and often she wishes she could experience that. At the end of the novel Jane’s wedding that is lacking guest tells us that although Jane has accumulated things such as marriage, wealth, etc. which would normally indicate that she has comformed to the social order, Jane actually has found her place with Rochester. She has her own life, that is outside most of society.

Brianna A said...

Jane Eyre outlines the main ideas of a Bildungsroman. Jane starts with a troubling, out of place and out of society life. Society and the social order in this novel are being religious, rich, beautiful and worldly. Jane is none of these things; she does not have a respectable lineage nor is she handsome and she has gone no where but the Reed’s house. She is then granted the chance to leave and become her own self. This is where in a traditional Bildungsroman we are hoping for the character to find him or herself to be embraced into society. Jane does encounter many events that she seems to take away some experience and wisdom from; Jane grows in her own way from them and keeps on moving. These events include when she stands up to Mrs. Reed and then she is rejected from that environment and pushed to go on. Also when Jane meets Helen, Jane deals with the tragedy of her only peer friend and learns how to mature within herself. From this Helen experience it isn’t that Jane changes into what the society wants from her which is to believe completely in God and respect all authority that discipline her. We know that Jane merely just grows up in her own way, she understands what Helen means when she talks about Broklehurst’s punishments and how one should deal with them. However, we know Jane does not necessarily change because she flirts with the line between subordinate and authority when she is talking to Rochester and answers him so frankly. Also when Jane is discussing God with St. John we can see she does not reiterate what Helen has talked to her about but rather she listens to St. John and silently disagrees which is executed in her actions later in the novel. When Jane is challenged on a larger scale with Rochester she has to sacrifice her passion because it clashes with the social order. Rochester is presenting her a marriage with a lot of baggage. He has a wildly mental wife locked up in his attic but he is asking Jane to see Bertha as he does: a burden but not a lover. Jane obviously wants to be with the man she loves and get the big house and rich husband but she does not want to do it for those reasons or in place of her self respect. Jane goes on and in the end she ends up with the spirits and values embraced by the social order, she does get the husband with the money and the big house but all in her true way.
I agree with what Meredith was saying about quests. No, Jane does not have a set out goal, other than to stay true to herself which was not always clear. However, as Meredith said, a lot of Jane’s decisions were impulsive and emotional; this is not true most of the time. With Jane's decisions such as marrying Rochester, she pulls out reason and law (even religious law which we could never really depend on her for before) to explain to him that she could not follow her heart, her passion and marry him. Also when she is deciding to marry St. John, she again takes a lot of time to consider and is about to again use reason and law (again religious--to reach the divine) to sway towards accepting St. John's proposal. It is only when Rochester is free of Bertha and REASONABLY needs help and aid that Jane returns to him, so again reason and law are in order but luckily enough so is passion.

Brianna A said...

This use of reason and law and clash with Jane's desires and passions connect to Hirsch's Novel of a Formation as Genre because this process is said to progress into maturing. This is where Bronte makes the lines a little blurry; Jane is dramatically maturing. Yes she is responding to her environment and the people. This is not the exciting action that is traditionally supposed to mature the protagonist however; Jane Eyre's exciting action is within Jane's time at Thornfield. Here again Jane is not changing or maturing but rather she is strengthening. Jane does not quest out for acceptance in her self relaying into acceptance into society, Jane is rather just keeping down her path doing what's she's doing and all these events seem to fall around or in front of her. Jane stays true to herself and handles them with her own values and beliefs and then eventually her path has led her to greener pastures and everything ends up working out.
Jane does not grow with in a social order to eventually embrace the resolution of her spirit and values, but rather Jane triumphs over all obstacles by being herself and believing in her own values.

Sabrina said...

Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, follows the bildungsroman conventions through many scenes of the book, but it often deviates away from the principles. Suzanne Harder developed a four point definition to a bildungsroman, which makes it questionable for Jane Eyre to be placed under the category. The story is about a young girl, or a single individual, who goes through a development within a defined social order. Jane lives in a time where almost everyone is Christian and those who are wealthy do not usually socialize with people of lesser wealth. Jane goes through her life clearly trying to find a place in her society, but while she does this her strong character always remains the same. Jane goes through many environments and comes out proving that if she has not found a place, she will not change for that social order. For example, in the beginning of the book, she is at her Aunt Reed’s home where she is treated poorly. When Jane finally stands up for herself, after many times of being pushed around or beaten, she is put in a position where she will be sent away to a school for orphans (the second convention of a bildungsroman). Even at Lowood, Ms. Eyre searches for a place to fit and be happy. On page 51, Jane makes a statement that the feeling of loneliness is normal to her when she says, “As yet I had spoken to no one, nor did anybody seem to take notice of me; I stood lonely enough: but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed; it did not oppress me much.” After meeting Helen and learning from her, Jane beings to mature, although she has a long way to go. After eight long, arduous years at Lowood, learning and teaching, Jane is ready to move onto another stage of maturity. This is the time that Mr. Rochester is brought into the picture, a wealthy man whom she falls in love with. In the book, Jane, being practically poor, would be a problem to follow the fourth and final principle of a bildungsroman, being that the values of the social order become manifest in the protagonist. After a long journey, Jane inherits money from a relative, thus allowing her to marry Rochester and become part of the social order.
On the contrary, Jane Eyre, easily deviates from the conventions of a bildungsroman by the way Jane does not become part of the social order although it seems like she does. Ms. Eyre could have became completely a part of the social order by marrying Rochester, but she did not do this to follow the social classification, but for her own assurance. This is important to realize because she does not do this for anything by herself. Jane is a girl who does what she wants, which is proven throughout the book. For example, it would only be the right choice of Jane to marry Mr. Rochester when she finds out that he is married to Bertha, and be his mistress. But Jane defies that and does what she desires. Another place that Jane defied social order was with Mr. Saint John. Ms. Eyre could have married her cousin and done the Christian duty that he educated her of. Being that the two were on the same level of social class, it would have only been appropriate for her to accept that social order, but all Jane cared to follow was her own happiness. Since her strong character holds itself throughout the book, the way that Jane Eyre follows the guidelines of a bildungsroman through her life is by chance.

Megan Keegan said...

The novel Jane Eyre adheres to the convention of a bildungsroman in many ways. However, there are also many ways in which it deviates. A bildungsroman can be defined as “the story of a single individual's growth and development within the context of a defined social order.” It is true that Jane Eyre is the story of development and growth, but the social order surrounding her is far from being defined. As Jane starts her journey through life she is constantly reminded of where she is in the public eye. Characters in this novel are placed to serve as a contrast to the conventional social order. Similarly, Christianity helps to define different characters natures and what lessons they can teach Jane. By interacting with then, Jane learns what her true values are and grows as an individual. Helen is an example of this. When Jane goes to Lowood, she has just left the Reed’s household where she was never treated as an equal. At Lowood she meets Helen who is always emanating a sense of dignity no matter what circumstances she has to endure. She represents a type of Christian that is rare for this time period. Helen is all about forgiveness and tolerance. In this way, she diverges from the social order. By being around Helen and learning to think the way she does, Jane matures and is furthered on her path to finding her true values. A contrast to Helen’s delicate nature is Mr. Brocklehurst who is the headmaster at Lowood. Brocklehurst comes from money and even though he is running a school for children in need, he feels no mercy toward them. He represents a kind of Christian that comes from high class and money. Although he has funds, in order to make the children more appreciative of what they have, he strips them of everything they desire. They didn’t have anything but the bare essentials for survival. Brocklehurst used his religious views to instill fear in the children so that he could maintain his power and superiority. To Jane, both of these characters are important. Brocklehurst represents someone she doesn’t want to be like, but Helen is exactly what she desires to be. In this case, the social order was a struggle Jane had to overcome in order to grow as an individual.

Power and class comes up yet again when Jane meets Rochester. Since he is from money and has power because of his status in society, Jane at first is unsure how to react to him. She never changes who she is in order to be accepted by him though. This was key in their relationship. Rochester wasn’t interested in someone that would pay attention to his class; he was interested in true love. This became evident when Ms. Ingram was introduced. She was a socialite who desired to marry Mr. Rochester. Although he appeared to be interested, his heart was never there. In the end, Rochester admitted to never loving her and always adoring Jane. They decide to get married but there were complications that resulted in Jane leaving him. An inner conflict with Jane has her lost, but she finds her way back to Rochester in the end. When she does, she discovers that he has been through a traumatic experience that left him blind. He needs her in a way that he never did before. The two are married and are finally equal in terms of social order. By Jane encountering so many diverse characters of different social classes, she is able to become her own person.

Nick B said...

Bildungsroman novels are usually written in order to indirectly impart some lesson or piece of wisdom by trial and error on another’s’ part. Charlotte Bronte, in contrast to other bildungsroman writers, felt that she could impart deeper meaning by twisting a bildungsroman, and by giving the twists significance. She wrote Jane Eyre in this manner, superficially adhering to a traditional bildungsroman, while also throwing abnormality in with the standard.
A key part of a bildungsroman is developing your personality in compliance with the social order. Jane Eyre does not adhere to this principle, as she is constantly trying to rebel against the norms of society. In the end however, despite her roundabout ways, we find her in a very socially acceptable position. She’s gets happily married to a wealthy bachelor, herself a wealthy single woman, and soon has children. That’s the fairytale ending of a bildungsroman, but the road leading there was far from happy.
When there is a conflict in a normal bildungsroman, you expect for there to be some stress and debate over it, but you always know the eventual outcome, and it is always the right (easy) decision. In Jane Eyre on the other hand, you think you know what’s going to happen, and then it just doesn’t; over and over and over. It’s disconcerting as a reader and forces you to question which decision is really better. When Jane is debating whether or not to leave Rochester, and he comes in to argue, I was positive that she would eventually stay. Her self-convincing, really reader-convincing, that her decision was actually better did make me realize that overall it was right for her. No other bildungsroman has ever made me question the choice that always makes sense, always is what I think a protagonist should do. The key reason for Bronte’s deviation from a bildungsroman is just that, to make the reader slowly realize the subtle differences and consequently question the values and lessons of the generic novel of self-formation.

Francesco P said...

The classic bildugsroman is stereotypically the story of an individual, who, because of the conflicts and tensions that they are forced to confront within a conflicting society, must in some way mature and change in order to co-exist productively within such a society. Charlotte Bronte’s conscious deviation from this conventional structure of the novel suits the purpose she plausibly intended.
An essential trait that the individual of the novel seems to posses with the majority of bildungsromans is the absence of an ordinary childhood. This remains true with Jane Eyre, as by living as an orphan within the Reed’s imperial and impeding household, she nevertheless developed the need for exposure of something more true and genuine for her. This we were presented with discreetly with the character of Helen Burns. Her rational persona and authentic individuality was the distinction from the insincere and oppressive social order that Jane required in order to realize her own identity was not in error. The following eight years of Jane’s life serve the purpose to augment her knowledge, and clarify her principles of reason as they are throughout the novel. Here lies the significant deviation from the classic bildungsroman. Jane, be it by nature or development, has a tangible identity, nearly realized in its values. While in other bildungsroman, such as in Invisible Man, the protagonist lacks a true identity initially because their perception of the world is naïve and skewed, and they proceed to develop their identity by realizing the truth that exists within the world. This, though, does not hold true for Jane. We know she is uniquely perspicacious, observant and aware of the world around her. She is not disillusioned about society, rather she feels the social order of 19th century England is, due to it’s prioritizing of class and monetary values. This reflects Bronte’s critique on the flaws she perceives within this time period. Jane’s clashes with the social order were in most occasions the result of distinctive incompatibility between Jane’s principles and those that conflicted against hers. What made Jane adamant about maintaining her principles was not a blind desire, or disillusioned motive, but rather her earnest and ardent will to remain authentic. The conflicts that result, as Bronte makes evident, are the outcome of outside sources that endeavor to break Jane’s intention to remain true to herself. In this sense the “spirit and value” of the social order never manifest themselves into Jane’s persona, rather they are represented from the surface aspects of Jane’s later life (her opulence, and equality with Rochester). In truth, Jane and Rochester had to inevitably create their own independent existence distinct from the orthodox society, as a result of their unique relationship. This definition of a bildungsroman I believe is far more valuable than the more stereotypical version. For if one must sacrifice aspects of themselves in order to fluidly exist within the society, it is not worth it at all if your place within the world results in being one separate from the social order. With this I believe Bronte is trying to say the self-realization that is commonly associated with a bildungsroman is semi-flawed. You become self-fulfilled by realizing your own values, using your keen observations and personal critiques of the world around you to apprehend the way you think and feel and how you can most satisfactorily exist, as Jane maintains by incessantly remaining true to her ideals and morals, not by having to sacrifice your own principles for the benefit of a co-existence within society.

fenkor said...

H. Ono

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte has a character who grows throughout the story. The story starts with Jane as an orphan. She has relatives but they dislike her and she them. In ch 1 pg 9 Jane says she "never liked long walks" and realized her "physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed." This sets Jane apart from her relatives physically and emotionally by not allowing her to enjoy the things that her relatives enjoy. In ch. 2 p 15 Jane is locked insided the red room. There she decides that she wants to come out and begins to resist her relatives even more than before.

Over at Lowood Jane meets many people who influence her and helps her to grow. Helen in ch 5 pg 54 seemed to be thinking "beyond her punishment." Jane sees that Helen endures her punishment and tries to be the best she could ever be. This shows an ideal and a new way for Jane to deal with society. At the time Jane was too young to fully understand and sees Helen as strange. Mr. Brocklehurst is supposed to be a good man who does good and loves others as a Christain but he (p 68) called Jane a "careless girl" though she has tried hard and gets Jane angry. While Mrs. Reed who locked her up and then sent her away to Lowood was seen as "her benefactress" under the rules of the society. These factors contributed to make Jane rebellious.

At the end of the book Jane goes to Mr. Rochester's place. But, he had (ch 36, pg 432) "one eye knocked out, and one hand so crushed that Mr. Carter, the surgeon had to mputate it directly." Some people argue that from this Mr. Rochester had lost his manliness and this allowed Jane to take care of him. As a rich and strong man, he wouldn't have allowed Jane to care for him as much and allowed Jane to become more of his equal. Jane also inherited money and was now rich enough to be independant. This could be interpreted to mean that a woman had to be rich and be with a cripled man to be on equal footing with him. Bronte could be said to not be following the normal course of a Bildungsroman by poking fun at the values of the established society. Then on ch 38 pg 455, "when his first-born was put into his arms, he could see." This sounds like a typical Bildungsroman with a happy ending. A miracle accurs and suddenly Mr. Rochester could see his first-born child so that all is right with the world. But, the story end with Saint John dying and looking forward to his death. Ending with a death sound unusual and not like like a typical Bildungsroman. It was discussed in class that St. John was serving to get a reward and having a happy ending for Jane just before it seems to suggest that John's way is not the best way. To the end Bronte picks apart Christainity.

Anonymous said...

Terri M.

According to Suzanne Hader’s list of characteristics of a bildungsroman, the main character’s life is that of a quest, and the protagonist might be searching for a meaning to their existence. The protagonist will also have a sense of loss in the case of family that adds to the heroism that they obtain. They will be set in a strict social setting and there will be conflicts between what they want and what society requires of them. Eventually the main character fits into the society that they had difficulty fitting into. Jane Eyre fits all of the criteria to qualify as a buildungsroman novel.
As a child, Jane lived in the Reed’s household. It is inferred that Jane is searching for something. She asks many questions. This is a reference to a questioning spirit, and searching soul. In addition Jane enjoys reading. Reading for some people is a way to escape the place that they are currently in, and I believe that Jane was escaping in her books to a place where she could be happy and not be oppressed by the Reeds. She was also curious about life outside of Gateshead, as displayed in this quote from chapter one, “At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near, a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.” This quote shows Jane’s interest in life beyond the cell of the Reed household. She knew that there was something better outside the walls in which she was contained. She did not know exactly what she was searching for, but she knew that she did not belong with the Reeds and she was dreaming about the outside. The first step to a journey is to wonder about what it is like, and learn about it as much as you can.

Anonymous said...

Jane Eyre, being an orphan takes on the characteristics of a protagonist that is separated from their family. This also inspires Jane to find a meaning for her continuation at an early age, contributing to the characteristics of a buildungsroman, From the beginning Jane feels ostracized about her place in the social order, a quote that exemplifies this is found in chapter two and says, ‘This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song in my ear; very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible. Miss Abbot joined in’: “And you ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed, because Missis kindly allows you to be brought up with them. They will have a great deal of money, and you will have none, it is your place to be humble, and to try to make yourself agreeable to them.” These words can be hurtful and degrading for anyone who hears them. The readers are rooting for Jane throughout the entire book because we see the hardships from Jane’s point of view, and she deserves to find a place in society that she feels accepted in. Compassion is stirred up with in the reader, and they want the best for Jane.

hayden said...

Jane Eyre is most definitely a Bildungsroman. It shows the story of someone trying to find place in a social order. In Jane’s case it’s her own order she cares about. An order based on morals and judgment on herself. She also wants to be part of Rochester’s though he becomes part of hers in the end. She is spurred with the death of her family and the forceful breakaway form the harsh Reeds. She is pushed into the second essence of the Bildungsroman form. The third essence is thrown throughout the book. For instance when she wants to marry Rochester but cannot because he’s already married and her morals forbid her from doing the deed even though her heart tells her it would not be a bad thing. Also throughout her school days she is put on display for the other children to be made a fool. She struggles wondering if she should give in the way her friend Helen does but she takes Helen’s ways and forms them into her own ways. And as the fourth manifest itself into the twist of an ending where Jane inherits the large sum of money. She is accommodated as a wealthy citizen and becomes above the social order in her mind. She is put in the social order by keeping from it herself and grows as a person without faltered morals.