9 January 2013
The Governess and the Social Ladder
In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the governess did not have a definite position in society’s status structure. She did not fit in with her employer or the servants. Although inequality is present throughout the novel, it clear that money brings freedom in gender and social mobility in Jane Eyre. When Jane is a governess, she is treated wrongfully and as a woman of the lower class. Jane is treated like a “detestable” servant (Bronte 200), because she is only a governess. Rochester’s fiancé treats her scornfully because the word governess “makes
[her] nervous” (Bronte 200) and because Jane is the governess of Rochester’s child Blanche depicts her as lower than herself and tries to embarrass her. As a governess, Jane becomes the bottom of the totem pole in the wealthy world as the high members depict her as poor and unequal to a man like Rochester.
As a woman
of the lower class, Jane is dependent on her occupation as a governess to Rochester’s child. This puts Jane in a difficult position as she faithfully listens to Rochester’s every beck and call only because she wants to please him as an employer and her male love interest. Jane is submissive and “docile” (Bronte 230) in her every action and thought. Without her obedient attitude, Jane would have nowhere to go since she obtains no money. Jane’s lack of money leaves her to be subservient, unlike Blanche Ingram who is free to do what she chooses because she comes from a wellconnected family that provides money and safety.
However, once Jane became wealthy after inheriting her fortune in Jane Eyre, and she gained a
wealthier position in society, she was treated more like a person and not a servant. When she gained money and became a woman of wealth, Jane became a teacher at “a villageschool”
(Bronte 397) and obtains a salary. As a woman of the upper class she is able to support herself and create a name for herself that equalizes her to Rochester and even St. John who falls in love with her. Being wealthy, she now has a job and love interests that are within her social status, which she obtained the rights for when she inherited money from her uncle. With the rise in social status, Jane obtained new rights that she did not have when she was a governess, and upon moving from an imprisoned governess life to an