Jane has more problems than just controlling her passions. She has trouble settling into society, not just because her over-zealous passions, but also because of her gender. Like Rochester, English society proved a "buoyant but unquiet sea" for Jane. Even though the Industrial Revolution opened up new venues for lower-class women, offering them new factory jobs in place of household work, it did not do much good for the middle class. A single woman at this economic level still had only one option for respectable employment: working as a governess. Although a woman could maintain a decent living with this job, she could also anticipate "no security of employment, minimal wages, and an ambiguous status, somewhere between servant and family member, that isolated her within the household" (Norton Anthology of English Literature, 2: 903). If she did not marry and had no relatives to care for her, a governess would have to remain a governess all her life, which of course would mean moving from house to house. Even a woman as intelligent as Jane Eyre could not hope to leave the life of governess behind her, take a university degree, and pursue a better job. First of all, before 1848, no women's colleges existed, and even if they had, a woman could not have improved her professional prospects by attending one. The precarious lifestyle of the governess remained all that a middle-class, single woman like Jane Eyre could strive for. And it does not seem too appropriate for someone as passionate as Jane.
Last modified May 1994