Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Committee Member

Dr. Kimberly Manganelli, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Megan Eatman

Committee Member

Dr. David Coombs

Abstract

In an investigation of Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, Jane clearly desires liberty in the form of social belonging or freedom, and makes the active choice to pursue it, but finds that liberty is ultimately best won not by an antagonistic battle, but instead through subjugation by those of a higher class than herself. As a social inferior, the mere association with a higher-class family name (whether that is through employment, marriage, etc.) is enough to set Jane's eye on the ultimate goal of total autonomous freedom through social climbing. Jane actively participates in subjugation as a means to elevate her state in society, evident through choices of language. This language ranges from inhuman equations to magical creatures to derogatory social labels, but functions in the same way throughout the novel. I assert that Jane is fully active in her pursuit of a place in society. It is paradoxically through assimilating to the language and culture of the higher classes and referring to herself as an inferior that Jane takes back her power. By acknowledging her inferiority through her language, either to herself or by participating in conversations with (or active silence toward) social superiors, Jane actively wrests conversation to her advantage.

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