Female wards, feminism, and mentorship in Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre

Date
2006-01-01
Authors
McCullick, Miranda
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Altmetrics
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Research Projects
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English
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Abstract

Although a striking number of similarities exist between Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, the heroines of these novels provoke very different reactions regarding their qualifications as feminist heroines. While Jane Eyre is often celebrated as one of the most highly feminist characters in the women's literature canon, many critics read Fanny Price as ultimately succumbing to and reinforcing traditional, patriarchal values. This thesis examines the ways in which these heroines' roles as female wards in a patriarchal society influence their roles as feminist heroines and evaluates them as such using the following criteria to define feminist heroines: 1. That they achieve a sense of independence and assertiveness for themselves. 2. That they form supportive relationships with other women to help those women gain a sense of independence as well. In evaluating Fanny Price's and Jane Eyre's fulfillment of this second criterion, it is especially important to examine the mentoring relationships they form with younger women who find themselves in situations of disempowerment similar to the disempowering situations the heroines have faced themselves. For Fanny this mentoring relationship is with her younger sister Susan; for Jane it is with her pupil, Adele.

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English, English literature, Literature
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