[This is quite a good paper, and it is mostly the student's work, but it is spoiled a bit by occasional plagiarism. Sometimes the student shows the quote but doesn't give the source, which suggests that the plagiarism is mostly carelessness, not intentional, but even when students plagiarize through carelessness they can still lose credit. I have made comments [marked in blue] on other issues in the paper, too.]

There is another student paper on Jane Eyre here.


Why Charlotte Brontë made Jane and Rochester Plain

Jane Eyre is undeniably a plain woman. Brontë emphasizes it at regular intervals throughout the book. Jane even says herself that she is plain (119). Brontë also portrays Rochester as an unhandsome man (224). She could have portrayed the protagonist as a pretty woman in her novel like other heroines in the Victorian era. According to Reed, "Victorian literature abounds with expressions of faith in physiognomy" (336). [This is background.]  Usually, the female protagonists of novels in the Victorian Era in that period of time were beautiful, but Brontë made Jane plain as a protest against attitudes towards women in the Victorian Era, which valued woman's appearance more than her innate character. [This sentence is the thesis statement.] The author encourages girls to look beyond physical attraction and romantic love. This can be seen from the historical background, Brontë's feminism and her family background. [These are the supporting arguments, but they are not clearly expressed; each argument should express an idea and make logical sense by itself. For exqample, instead of "This can be seen from the historical background", we could say, "This can be seen from the fact that only statuesque ladies and languishing beauties were appreciated in Victorian society".]

Brontë lived in a society that rewarded pretty woman but not plain ones (Ellis 202) The Victorians admired both the strong, hearty, statuesque lady (modeled on Queen Victoria herself) and the weak, fainting beauty, which Lefkovitz uses the French word courante to define: "dying, languishing, expiring, fainting, and fading" (36). [This sentence is plagiarized from an online crib site. Be very careful not to do this; once can be regarded as a mistake, but if it happens more than that the paper will quickly be downgraded and in especially bad cases it will fail.] Virginia Woolf described the Victorian idealized woman as follows:  


She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it – in short…she never had a mind or wish of her own…Above all – I need not say it – she was pure. (As cited in Newman, 1996, p.9)                    


As we can see from this passage, the Victorian woman was required to have not only a charming appearance, but also a modest nature, a self-sacrificing spirit and house-keeping ability. In the Victorian period, “Courtship was considered more a career move than a romantic interlude” (Hoppe 1). In that period, women were considered to be appendages to men. Marriage and family life were the whole world to women. Women depended upon men physically, financially and spiritually. [Plagiarized, either from here or from a mirror site.] In a period like that, no wonder people appreciated pretty women who had a modest nature, a self-sacrificing spirit and house-keeping ability (Barker). Brontë herself was plain. It is not difficult to guess that the novel reflects her own anger at a society which rewarded pretty woman but not plain ones. A hero or heroine's beauty (or lack thereof) was probably the most important aspect of his or character. As Lefkovitz points out, beauty is always culturally defined. [Plagiarized.]

Brontë challenges the stereotypes of her age. There is ample evidence to suggest that the tone of Jane Eyre is in fact a very feminist novel and may well be thought relevant to women today who feel they have been discriminated against because of their gender. The women of the Victorian Era can be regarded as the first group to do battle for the equality of the sexes [A reference is needed to support this statement]. Feminism was not spoken of outright at this time, but rather passed through literature, such as this novel. If the protagonist was very pretty, her good appearance might be a barrier yo expressing the author's feminism, because it might seem that Jane's successes more or less depend on her beauty. Only by making Jane plain can Brontë emphasize that all Jane's successes (such as finding a job and winning Rochester's love) are because of her own efforts, her own spirit and her intelligence.      

Brontë's family also plays a part in determining Jane's apprearance. Brontë had five brothers and sisters. Her mother, Maria, died of ovarian cancer when Anne, who was the youngest child, was only two years old. Their father's method of educating his children had a big influence on them. Patrick Brontë hoped to make his children indifferent to physical pleasure and attempted to instill humility in their wild little hearts [Plagiarized]. The following anecdote about Patrick is aignificant: 


When a family friend gave the children sturdy boots to keep their feet dry on their romps on the moors, Patrick threw the boots into the fire. They were luxurious and he thought such frippery would encourage a love of finer things and fancy clothing. He had a fear of fire and forbade rugs and curtains in the Parsonage, giving the home an austere atmosphere. [The student shows the quote, but doesn't give the reference - Dolores Monet," Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre - Social Conscience and Feminism in Victorian Literature". HubPages. This suggests that the plagiarism is a result of carelessness. Make sure you give proper references for all quotes and information used!]


It is easy to conclude that Brontë's feminism was the result of her eccentric education by an eccentric man. Her father who brought her up to have spiritual values, which developed into ideas about the inherent worth of people. Even Brontë's sisters, Emily and Anne, thought the protagonist of a novel should be beautiful like the other authors in the Victorian Era. [There is a logical problem here; if Charlotte's feminism was the result of her father's education, why did Emily and Anne, who had the same father, not share her views?]. Catherine and Heathcliff, who are the protagonists of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, are pretty or handsome. The following is an anecdote of Bronte:

She once told her sisters that they were wrong – even morally wrong – in making their heroines beautiful as a matter of course. They replied that it was impossible to make a heroine interesting on any other terms. Her answer was, “I will prove to you that you are wrong; I will show you a heroine as plain and as small as myself, who shall be as interesting as any of yours." (cited in Gaskell, 235)

She seems to have wanted to show that women's qualities of mind, character and personality are more important than whether they are pretty or not. "Brontë appeals to the literary tradition to sanction their beauty and to undermine the beauty of her conventionally attractive, but unappealing, characters" (148). [Here again the student shows the quote and even gives the page number, but forgets to say which book it is from! In fact, she got it secondhand from Dolores Monet's online essay.] Jane Eyre is not a romantic love story, but the love between Rochester and Jane is true love. Marriage for true love was uncommon in Victorian society. Brontë seems to show in her novel that true love comes into being because of a person's inherent worth, not because of a pretty or handsome appearance. Brontë made Jane and Rochester plain or ugly in order to emphasize their true love beyond their appearance.

   Partly because of Brontë's decision to make Jane plain, Jane Eyre became one of the most popular masterpieces in the world, encouraging a huge amount of girls all over the world through the idea that the standard for evaluating women's worth is not a beautiful face but the cultivation of innate qualities. Bronte compares Jane Eyre and Blanche Ingram in her novel. Unlike Jane, Blanche has a beautiful appearance but is not inwardly cultivated. [Try not to introduce new material in the conclusion; this would have been a good point to make inside the main body of the paper.] The one who gains Rochester's love is not Blanche but Jane. That means Bronte emphasizes the cultivation of woman's innate qualities, rather than a pretty appearance.

Works Cited


Allott, M. (Ed.). The Brontës: The Critical heritage. London: Routledge, 1974.

Altick, R. D. The Weaker Sex: Victorian People and Ideas: A

      Companion for the Modern Reader of Victorian Literature. New York:

      Norton, 1973.

Barker, J. The Brontës: A Life in Letters. The Overlook Press, Peter

      Mayer Publishers, 2002.

Brontë, C. Jane Eyre, Shanghai World Books Publishing House, 2003.

      [To be really professional about this we should give the date of the original

      publication first, followed by "Edition used, ....."]

Ellis, Kate. "Feminism in Jane Eyre and its film Versions". In Barbara Tepa

      Lupack, ed., Nineteenth-century Women at the Movies: Adapting Classic

      Women's Fiction to Film. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State

      University Popular Press, 1999, 192-206.

Ewbank, Inga-Stina. Their Proper Sphere: A Study of the Brontë Sisters as

      Early-Victorian Female Novelists. London and Southampton: Camelot

      Press, 1966.

Gaskell, E. The Life of Charlotte Brontë (Elisabeth Jay, ed.). Penguin Books,

      1977. [Again, the original publication dates should be given.]

Hoppe, Michelle J. “Courting the VictorianWoman.”N.p.,1998.

Li, Xiaojie. "Jane Eyre: 'Improper' Sphere for a Victorian Woman Writer".

      Polyglossia,Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, vol. 18, 2010.

Reed, John.R. Victorian Conventions. Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1938.




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