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Social Class and Class Conciousness

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During the Victorian Era, social classes were very distinct. Everyone knew thier social class, and questioning it was unthinkable.

One's social class was distinguished by thier manner, speech, clothing, values, and education. It wasnt only distinguished by thier wealth. In this time period, the lower or working class was just a little more important than pets, and farm animals. They were mistreated, abused, ignored and looked down upon by the higher classes. The lower or working class were seen as a burden to society. Many people thought they were getting what they deserved for the poor choices they made, But no one ever stopped to think that maybe it was just unfortunate luck to which they born into the social class that they were in. No one stops to think of how much for society these low class people do.

Many novels show us what

a big role social class played during the Victorian Era. Many different things distinguished what social class your in. Most of the time you are born into the class your in, other times your manner, speech, clothing, education, wealth and and values determine your social class. In the novel Jane Eyre, Jane first experiences the negative effects of class structure when she is at Gateshead Hall and is horribly mistreated by John Reed. He tells Jane that she is a dependent; an orphan with no money. John Reed puts into her mind that she is worthless and he is superior to her. He uses her low social class as justification that his cruel authority over her is acceptable, and she cannot do anything to change that because she is inferior to him. "I was a discord in Gateshead Hall: I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love them. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing, opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment." Jane felt like no body at Gateshead, even though she was family, her mother married someone in the lower class so she was considered of that class, and was treated that way.

Social class played a an important role in Janes ife. She was mistreated and looked down upon throughout the novel. However not only did John Reed tell her and show her how unimportant she was because of where she stands in the social class ladder, but he also hit and abused Jane. "I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder: he had closed with a desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant, a murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him in frantic sort." She was of a lower social class, and that justified the treatment she recieved.

When Jane Eyre leaves Gateshead Hall, she hopes for a fresh start at Lowood School, but is faced with quite the opposite when she meets Mr.Brocklehurst. Mr.Brocklehurst a cruel, devious, deceitful man who is abusive and corrupt. Oppression is an important theme in Jane Eyre and is tied to class structure in a sense that characters would try to bring Jane Eyre down, due to her class. Mr.Brocklehurst has Jane stand in front of her entire class and calls her a "Liar" and tell her class to stay away from her due to the fact that she is a liar and disrespectful. Making Jane a target, and outting her down from her very first day. Both John Reed and Mr.Brocklehurst use Jane Eyre's low social class as a starting point to overpower her, and control her without her retaliating.

Later on in the novel, Jane only has many others put her down due to her low social class. During the dinner party with Mr. Rochester's high-class friends, Jane gets a glimpse of reality and realizes that class structure is only holding her back and its preventing her from getting all the things she wants in life. Jane mocks herself for thinking that she was ever worthy of Mr. Rochester. Also, by acting like an outsider peering into her situation, Jane Eyre is very harsh and critical on herself. In Chapter 23, Jane tells Rochester: "Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made

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