Through the narrative techniques of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, we are introduced to Jane and Emma, two nineteenth century women, proceeding through life in two different ways, each growing towards their own individuality, in the process of courtship. Jane and Emma’s characteristics are developed from two different perspectives of class throughout most of the novels Jane Eyre and Emma. Both characters have ideals that conform to their authors view on modern progress. The protagonist’s choices of partners reflected what the women understood about their relationships with the opposite sex in the nineteenth century. Stepping out of the box and into the novel both Bronte and Austen introduce their audience to the real world and reveal a window overlooking a life of the nineteenth century woman.
The young women, portrayed by Austen and Bronte, live in the same society just fill different positions in the class system. Jane Eyre unravels itself around the trials and tribulation of a poor orphaned yet strong willed governess. Austen places Emma in a much more opulent position in the world, she say’s “The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments.”(7) Bronte see’s Jane’s position in the world as strange and exciting “Probably, if I had lately left a good home and kind parents, this would have been the hour when I should most keenly have regretted the separation: that wind would then have saddened my heart… I wished the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness and then confusion to rise to clamour.”(65) Eyre uses the difficulties presented to her as ways to strengthen her ability to cope with adversity. Throughout her novel Bronte develops a perspective that allows the reader to attribute strength to adversity and not base it on class. Austen does it too, except from the other end of the class system, she explains
After these came a second set; among the most come-at-able of whom were Mrs. And Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard, three ladies almost always at the service of an invitation from Hartfield, and who were fetched and carried home so often that Mr. Woodhouse thought it no hardship for either James or the Horses.”(21)
Looking at Emma from Jane Eyre ‘s perspective Emma reflects many similarities in opinion to Jane’s younger pupil Adele. Emma has a lot to learn about the true virtues that are to be reflected by the nobility. Austen writes about how Emma meets Robert Martin,
His appearance was very neat, and he looked like a sensible young man, but his person had no other advantage; and when he came to be contrasted with gentleman. She thought he must lose all the ground he had gained in Harriet’s inclination. (31)
Mr. Rochester bestows Jane Eyre with his good will in the appropriate master servant manner according to Bronte; Miss. Eyre would have it no other way but to leave respectfully after Rochester say’s,
I saw in you eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not… ‘strick delight to my very inmost heart so for nothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of good gennii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My cherished preserver, good night!’(177)
The female authors are acknowledging that the true virtues that reinforce the reasons for class are not material or superficial, but are imbedded in the commitment to maintain the well being of everyone around them, and to nourish those who are successful in supporting others.
While focusing on the main characters of their novels Austen and Bronte reflect their opinions of the process of social intercourse. After a short visit with Mrs. Elton Emma decides,
Mrs. Elton was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with her self, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of living; that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good (253)
These are Austen’s ideals, this is one way for Emma to expose that education, and cultural style has a significant bearing on the level of virtue found in a good person. Bronte confronts the same issues form a different direction,
It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it…Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and field for their efforts as much as their brothers do…and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. (129-30)
Jane Eyre humbly opens our mind to accept that things change. In an ideal world where Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte are both content, people moving up in class do so with the an ambition to grow culturally and with manners.
What the women come to understand about themselves throughout the novel allows the girls to mature into potential brides; the choices these female protagonists make in spouses represents their authors view on men. Emma’s goal was to pawn Harriet off to the highest bidder. Mr. knightly always saw through the façade Emma created and held the idea that Mr. Marine would have Harriet because he loved her. Even Toward the very end of the novel Emma is not prepared for what Mr. Knightly has to say about the two,
“You are prepared for the worst, I see—and very bad it is. Harriet Smith marries Robert Martin.” Emma gave a start, which did not seem like being prepared –and her eyes, in eager gaze said, “No, this is impossible!” but her lips were closed.
Austen has Emma struggle with her acceptance with Mr. Martin right to the very end of the novel. Mr. Knightly insists that she understand him before they can be bound in matrimony. Jane Eyre is called back to a broken Mr. Rochester, who calls himself “a Vulcan – a real blacksmith, brown, broad-shouldered; and blind and lame into the bargain.’”(509) Jane doesn’t mind the way Rochester looks even after the fire. He tries to shake her away from him in all his ugliness when Jane say’s, “I shuddered involuntarily, and clung instinctively closer to my blind but beloved master. He smiled.”(511) Rochester needs to know how Jane feels about him and his deformities; just like Mr. Knightly need to know that Emma understands why Mr. Martin is the right man for Harriet. The novels develop the sense of love then they answer the question of who to marry.
The eighteenth century female protagonist could be from any class, as long as she had a character with heart; according to Austen and Bronte the female hero of a nineteenth century novel has the potential to marry the man of her dreams. Emma overcomes a series of adversities and obstacles that are fundamentally different from the journey Jane Eyre needs to take. Their dreams come true. The two authors use different yet dynamic ways to portray perspectives of young females growing up in the same period in history. Jane and Emma get married to men they love and cherish. Bronte and Austen end their story on happy notes that open the minds of generations of young women to come.
Austen, Jane "Emma". London:Penguin Classics, 1996. Print.
Bronte, Charlotte “Jane Eyre”. London:Penuin, 1996. Print.