Event Title

Birds and Beasts: An Ecocritical Reading of Character in Jane Eyre

Poster Number

55

Faculty Mentor

Casey Cothran, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Location

Richardson Ballroom

Start Date

21-4-2017 2:15 PM

Description

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been analyzed from a breadth of critical perspectives, which most recently includes ecocriticism. Brontë’s rich descriptions of nature and emphasis on setting are captivating, and they encapsulate nature’s versatility. In this paper, I posit that Brontë does not merely incorporate nature into her novel to serve as an aesthetic element or to play a background role; she interweaves the qualities of nature with her characters and develops nature as its own character. My paper examines the ways in which Brontë portrays male characters—who each exert their oppression over women, the racial Other, and nature itself—versus how she employs nature to empower females. Brontë connects Jane to the natural through the symbol of the bird whereas Bertha is intertwined with nature through her primitivism. Brontë also invokes the supernatural by relating Jane and Bertha to vampires and fairies respectively, which infuses nature with a spirit that is both powerful and clever. Along with granting nature autonomy through characterization, Brontë treats nature as an end in itself. Nature brings the atrocities committed at Lowood to the forefront by breeding sickness, which led to the establishment of better living conditions (Brontë 84). However, at the end of the novel, women, nature, and the racial Other are still confined by the hegemony that upholds the male oppression. Through interlinking Jane, Bertha, and nature, but not fully deconstructing the male/female binary, Brontë conveys the powerful, ubiquitous stronghold of men in Victorian society that proves extremely challenging to alter.

Course Assignment

ENGL 300 – Cothran

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Apr 21st, 2:15 PM

Birds and Beasts: An Ecocritical Reading of Character in Jane Eyre

Richardson Ballroom

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has been analyzed from a breadth of critical perspectives, which most recently includes ecocriticism. Brontë’s rich descriptions of nature and emphasis on setting are captivating, and they encapsulate nature’s versatility. In this paper, I posit that Brontë does not merely incorporate nature into her novel to serve as an aesthetic element or to play a background role; she interweaves the qualities of nature with her characters and develops nature as its own character. My paper examines the ways in which Brontë portrays male characters—who each exert their oppression over women, the racial Other, and nature itself—versus how she employs nature to empower females. Brontë connects Jane to the natural through the symbol of the bird whereas Bertha is intertwined with nature through her primitivism. Brontë also invokes the supernatural by relating Jane and Bertha to vampires and fairies respectively, which infuses nature with a spirit that is both powerful and clever. Along with granting nature autonomy through characterization, Brontë treats nature as an end in itself. Nature brings the atrocities committed at Lowood to the forefront by breeding sickness, which led to the establishment of better living conditions (Brontë 84). However, at the end of the novel, women, nature, and the racial Other are still confined by the hegemony that upholds the male oppression. Through interlinking Jane, Bertha, and nature, but not fully deconstructing the male/female binary, Brontë conveys the powerful, ubiquitous stronghold of men in Victorian society that proves extremely challenging to alter.