Last week I finished reading Jane Eyre and I have been at a loss for what to post about it. I have been trying to find similarities between the novel and the museums that we have visited, but I have seen very little to compare.
Overall, there is a general lack of attention paid to the working class and middle class of England in these museums, especially in regards to females. The majority of the museums, with the exceptions of the Museum of London and the Victoria Albert Museum, do not touch upon what life was actually like for people in England/London and what people did for trades. Even the Museum of London and the Victoria Albert museums had very selective depictions of English “culture” and “heritage” for the working classes. We have seen royal artifacts.
We have seen artifacts from all around the world that have ties to the English empire hundreds upon hundreds of years ago. We have seen London’s interpretation of the World Wars and other more recent wars. These were all very informative museums offering interesting information which is important to English history, but where are the people? What is their story?
Jane Eyre depicted the story of a female who was educated, hard working and in an interesting social situation. She was born to parents who represented two different classes – the upper class and what I assume is the middle class. Because her mother did not marry a person of her social and economic status, the family disowned her and her new husband and child. I believe by default this made Jane’s family middle class.
After her parents died, Jane was reluctantly taken in by her aunt, who was a member of the upper class and possessed with wealth. However, Jane was not considered to be upper class by virtue of living with her aunt. I believe she would have still been considered a child of the middle class because that was what her parents were when they died.
Jane’s life was pretty interesting from the social standpoint. She is educated at a charity school (basically a school for the poor or orphaned), becomes a teacher at this same school, and then takes a job as a governess for the charge of a wealthy upper class man. Eventually she comes to a point where she is going to marry her employer, Mr. Rochester.
This is temporarily delayed because as it turns out he’s still married to an insane woman who frequently tries to kill him. Jane runs away and takes on a job as the only teacher at a school for poor girls, which I believe temporarily lowers her class status. She then inherits a large sum of money (but I don’t think this makes her upper class) and then she finally marries Mr. Rochester after his insane wife commits suicide and he is severely injured in a house fire… I think her marriage makes her upper class… but the differentiation between classes during this time period is all very confusing if you ask me.
Jane Eyre shows a completely different side of England. The novel shows the human side that hasn’t been captured in museums. It gives insight into the middle class and what some of them did for occupations and how the different classes interacted. It also gave a quick glance to the lower class and showed how people of different educational backgrounds and different economic statuses spoke with different accents.
What is most important and different from any of the museums is the fact that this novel shows England from the eyes of a woman and what life was like for her. Women are practically left out of the museums, which leaves me wondering what life was like for them.