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This Terrific Separation: The Experience of Girlhood in Jane Eyre and Northanger Abbey - Research Paper Example

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This paper will look at the first section of Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Brontë in 1846, and compare the childhood experiences of its first-person heroine with the third-person narrative of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1817). …
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This Terrific Separation: The Experience of Girlhood in Jane Eyre and Northanger Abbey
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This Terrific Separation: The Experience of Girlhood in Jane Eyre and Northanger Abbey

Download file to see previous pages... In both novels, the characters are separated from their family very early in the novel, whether through death (Jane Eyre) or by choice (Northanger Abbey); it appears that Victorian women were unable to pursue story-worthy lives in the presence of their parents. With reference to primary and secondary sources on Victorian childhood (Victorian Childhood: Themes and Variations), orphans (Girlhood in America: An Encyclopedia), moral expectations (Childhood in Victorian England and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist), education (The Schooling of Working-Class Girls in Victorian Scotland; Dress Culture in Late Victorian Women's Fiction), work (Victorian Working Women), familial relationships (Family Ties in Victorian England), and others, this paper will look at Jane's and Catherine's very different experiences of young womanhood and what these experiences say about their respective authors, in order to glean a comprehensive view of what it was like to be a working-class and a non-working class girl in Victorian Britain. It will show that in spite of the disparities in their age, time period, finances, class, and more, Jane and Catherine represent the dull restrictions of being girls of their times, and reveal an entire group of society which was, in the nineteenth century, yearning for more opportunities. Annotated Bibliography Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. 1803. Gutenberg.org. Project Gutenberg, January 21, 2010. Web. July 13 2011. I have chosen Jane Austen's earliest completed novel, Northanger Abbey, to provide a counterpoint of experience to Bronte's Jane Eyre. Northanger Abbey's heroine is also a young girl, but of a higher class and with greater familial ties than the orphan Jane; she is not expected to find work as an adult, but is under great pressure to find a rich husband. Northanger Abbey is also comedic, intended as a gentle satire of girlhood, whereas Jane Eyre is not. Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1846. Gutenberg.org. Project Gutenberg, April 29, 2007. Web. July 13 2011. Jane Eyre was one of the most interesting books studied on this course, and I was particularly fascinated by the first section of the novel, which deals with Jane's lonely and miserable childhood. In light of the later events in the book, this section is often seen as the unexciting part, through which readers must plod if they are to get to the romance. But Bronte clearly felt that it was important, and so I feel it is worthy of further study. Bronte, Charlotte. The Letters of Charlotte Bronte, 1852-1855. Ed. Margaret Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print. This compilation of Bronte's letters offers a unique opportunity to understand the author's own reaction to her seminal work; furthermore it reveals what it was like to live inside the complex tangle of expectations of nineteenth-century women. Forman-Brunell, Miriam, ed. Girlhood in America: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1. California: ABC-CLIO Inc, 2001. Print. This collection focuses on modern and historical experiences of being a girl in encyclopedic format, with relevant literary references, statistics, and other research. It will be invaluable in placing Jane's and Catherine's experiences in a continuum of young womanhood which stretches from beyond their time to ours. Gaskell, Elizabeth. The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1857. Print. A nineteenth-century biography of Charlotte Bronte, penned by one of her contemporaries, offers a fascinating look at how nineteenth-century women viewed each other, as well as providing necessary biographical information on Bronte's own childhood. Jordan, Thomas E. Victorian Childhood: Themes and Variations. New York: New York University Press, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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