Feminism Concept in Jane Eyre and Brick Lane
Submitted By: Hena Ashrabi Dola
Submitted On 10th September, 2018
Course Code: ENG 530Course Name: English Literature: A Conspectus
Dr. James Bryan Hilem
My essay paper is done on novel’s – Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. The main theme in both of the Novels is Feminism. In my essay paper, I have focused on feminism theory and fate in both the Novels, and also the cultural differences in both the novels. Charlotte Bronte of Jane Eyre is a Victorian period writer, whereas Monica Ali of Brick Lane is a 20th Century modern writer. Monica Ali is also a Bangladeshi born writer. Thus both of the writers have cultural difference which is reflected in their work. My essay report is based on how feminism theme works with two different culture at two different timeline/period. Charlotte Bronte, writer of Jane Eyre, was an English novelist and poet, who was born with three sisters. She worked as governess for sometime during her early age and taught her sisters. Her experience in early childhood was used in writing the novel Jane Eyre. Monica Ali, writer of Brick Lane, is a Muslim Bangladeshi born British writer and novelist who moved to England at the age of 3. Her experiences in childhood of immigration and adjusting to a new culture, all played a role, in writing her novel Brick Lane. In the novel, character Nazneen was a voice for Monica, where she also was a Bangladeshi immigrant to London, who experienced cultural dislocation and gender biasness, influenced by Bangladeshi culture. Nazneen displayed many of the cultural aspects of Bangladeshi immigrant such as wearing Saree at all times, praying namaz as per of her Islamic rituals and so on.
Feminism refers to the ideology of achieving equality among women with men, in respect to political, personal, economic and social equality. Women want equality in their professional life, with men.
In Charlotte’s novel, Jane Eyre, the main character Jane Eyre is a poor young orphaned girl, who lives with her rich aunt and cousins. Jane wants to establish her own identity in a male dominated society and she does not want to marry and lose her freedom. Thus she breaks away from the traditional rule in the patriarchal society. Her aunt always torture her but she is a brave girl. But some character such as Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst always made hurdles against her, and caused her frustrations. As Jane was an orphan, she experienced deprivation from family, beauty, wealth and other social benefits. Throughout the novel, Jane experienced hardship from cruel treatment of Lowood. She also suffered heartache when she attempts to marry Rochester and also suffers when she rejected proposal from St. John. Despite all the sufferings in her life, she still managed to maintain freedom of thought. Her courage help her overcome all her hurdles and led to a happy ending in the end, with marriage with her beloved Mr. Rochester. Her courage led to successful completion of schooling and also a teaching profession, for two years.
Jane feels that women have the same feeling as men, in respect to the desires her brother experiences of travelling the world, playing piano and so on. Also women also feel the same hard ships men face, from stagnation and restrains at work. Women should not be thought of only belonging to home who loves only jewelry, cooking food for men or self and purchasing new dresses only.
In Monica Ali’s novel, Brick Lane she represents Nazneen as a feminist character. At the beginning, Nazneen, a Bangladeshi girl, gets married at an early age, to Chanu. After marriage to Chanu, she is sent off to live with her husband, at London. Due to her lack of education, she could not speak English although her husband could. She eagerly wanted to learn, but her husband always made excuses for her to stay at home, away from her wish to pursue knowledge. Even when she had her first child, Chanu would provide what she wanted and didn’t want her to go outside home. One of the first words she learnt was ‘Ice Skating’, but she never learnt its meaning, as Chanu never allowed her outside the house. Nazneen, meets a tattooed woman, in her neighborhood who gives her an idea of freedom. The tattooed woman smoked and was free to do whatever she wanted to do. Her husband would keep her at home, while he worked all day and return home. It was finally when Chanu resigned from his work, that they felt Nazneen also needed to contribute to her family to meet ends. Thus Chanu bought a sewing machine for Nazneen to sew cloths for a handsome merchant named Karim. She starts an affair with Karim, who shows her the world outside of home and gives her a glimpse of freedom. Also shows her a beauty of life. WhenChanu decides to leave for Bangladesh, Nazneen decides to stay behind in London and lead her life with her own rules and freedom.
The novel, Brick Lane, portrays an image of women, in a male dominated society where she faced gender discrimination and biasness from her husband Chanu. Her husband would not allow her to go outside of the house to pursue knowledge.Nazneen wanted to learn and to see the outside world with her own eyes and be independent. Nazneen describes that like men, women also deserves right to education and work, as per their wants. Women should be allowed to work to find their identity in the society and achieve self actualization. In the end of the novel, Nazneen leaves Chanuto stay in London and breaksup with Karim to live a independent life.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, was published in 1847, during Victorian period. During Victorian period, women faced domestic violence, reproductive rights and sexual harassment, in the society. Women were expected to run the household, take care of children and live inside the house. They were not expected to contribute to society other than home. During this period, women including men started a mass movement known as suffrage movement which included upper and middle class background. The movement was raised as women were frustrated with the social and economic situation at the time. The Victorian period, influenced most of what Jane Eyre experienced in the novel. Jane Eyre, experienced domestic violence from her aunt, as she was an orphan. She also faced abuse from her cousins. She was regularly abused and humiliated in her school, from her headmaster. In the period, Jane feels her lover Mr. Rochester wants to give her jewelry, give her fancy cloths and bear all her expense. Thus in a sense, keep her less independent. But Jane, inspite of her time, feels unlike. She chooses to be independent. She feels that she can bear her own expense and not want to be dependent on her male counterpart. In the 19th century, women wanted similar rights to men. Charlotte through Jane showed that, women must be equal to men and not inferior to them. They should also have equal rights to education and work.
Brick Lane, by Monica Ali, was published in 2003, refers to period of mid 20th Century. During 20th Century, women we encouraged to participate in education and contribute to society, side by side, with men. In this period, women are aware of their equal rights and their equal participation in society. The novel begins with migration of a young girl Nazneen, to London with her older husband Chanu, after their arranged marriage in Bangladesh, at a young age of 18. Since then, Nazneen wanted to learn, work and wanted equal rights such as men. But her narrow minded husband never allowed her to move outside the house. Always kept her busy at home and even gifted her with her first baby, and said “Now you have your handsful in taking care of our first child”. Thus Nazneen, was more or less separated from her wish to learn and be independent. But later on, in the novel there is a sudden change in events, when her husband Chanu resigns from job. She then suggests her husband she will do minor sewing job in the neighbor and support the family, to meet ends. While doing her sewing job, she meets Karim, a young Bangladeshi boy, with whom she ends up having extra marital affair. The novel shows, how in the 20th century London, Women are marginalized in the typical Bangladeshi Ideology of male dominated society, where women are subjected to a conservative environment. The novel gives a glimpse of immigrant Bangladeshi women, who faced confinement to home, where she is not allowed to go out for shopping or walk at all. Even in 20th century, women from third world country are taken as ignorant, uneducated, submissive, family oriented and traditional bound, to their husbands. Thus third world women, are not treated the same as men, from her husband. Because of which she has have no understanding of freedom and knows how to fight for equality. But then she starts receiving letters from her sister, Hasina, who us in Bangladesh, writes letters to her about her various adventures with men. She writes about her betrayal from her husband and from her lover, later on. Thus finally decides to pursue her goals, independently. And finally at the end of the Novel, Nazneen learns how to live independently in the 20th century London, and pursue her dreams independently.
By comparison between Novel’s Jane Eyre and Brick Lane, we can find there is a huge difference between Victorian period and 20th century period. In the Victorian period, women faced domestic violence, reproductive rights and sexual harassment, in the society. Women were expected to be submissive, run all types of household chores, take care of children and live inside the house. They were not expected to contribute to society, as men was considered to work outside and women inside the house. Whereas, in the 20th century, women experienced independence in society. They we considered equals to men and experienced equality in rights with men in education, work environment and so on. But women from third world country, experienced age old tantrum of submissiveness, home boundedness and were considered less educated. Even, immigrant women, from third world countries experienced, such isolations in a male dominated society. Therefore, the similarity found in Victorian period and 20th century period, is that women still had to fight for their rights to equality with men, in a male dominated society, as a whole.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Smith, Elder ; Co., 1847.Ali, Monica. Brick Lane. Doubleday, 2003.