NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Back to results
ERIC Number: EJ870079
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1938-9809
"Clearing the Sill of the World": Jane Eyre and the Power of Education in the Nineteenth-Century Novel
Davis, Nancy L.; Rainey, William
Forum on Public Policy Online, v2009 n2 2009
The idea of education in nineteenth-century women's writing revolves around social class, social mores, and the subtleties of the writer's imagination. Nowhere can this be seen more vividly and thoroughly than in Charlotte Bronte's novel, "Jane Eyre". The book's opening scene, striking in its symbolic detail, highlights and foreshadows the aforementioned criteria for women's education of the era. Although doors to education were opening wider both in the United States and England due to the Suffragist Movement and other influences, specifically, America's Civil War and the West's Industrial Revolution, the majority of women were as constricted in their educational goals as the claustrophobic space in which the young Jane sequesters herself inside the breakfast-room of the Reed home at the opening chapter of Bronte's novel. Four images made clearly apparent in this first chapter become critical motifs in the book, notably the window out of which Jane gazes; the books surrounding her in the library; birds, as highlighted in "Bewick's History of British Birds", which she is studying; and the red curtains behind which she takes sanctuary from the Reed family. Jane's own imagination is far more advanced and exercised than the Brocklehursts of Lowood or even Mr. Rochester himself as he is first introduced at Thorndale. And so, it is Jane's "subtleties of the imagination" that instantaneously endear her to Rochester, subtleties learned from Helen Burns and Miss Temple, Jane's female mentors. It is these same subtleties that imbue her with moral fortitude when Bertha's existence is revealed; protect her on the moor when, destitute, she is found--unbeknownst to either party--by her long lost cousins; and, finally, fill her with the courage to reject the narrow path of St. John and listen to her own "educated" and by now experienced heart. Given the cultural, social, and economic upheavals of the late nineteenth century, given women's compelling desire to pull down the walls of denial in educational traditions, and given the strength of woman's keen intellect and imagination, it was only a matter of time before the Jane Eyres of the middle to late-nineteenth century opened their windows, grabbed their books, and took off in flight draped in the crimson folds of passion, indeed eventually "clearing the sill of the world. (Contains 47 footnotes.
Oxford Round Table. 406 West Florida Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801. Tel: 217-344-0237; Fax: 217-344-6963; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A