Historical Context in Jane Eyre
19th-Century English Society: Jane Eyre was originally published in 1847 and the events of the novel take place relatively contemporaneously, in an unnamed area of Northern England. The characters’ actions are all grounded within the traditional social norms of the time, with social status and gender subsequently playing a large role in shaping character interactions. For instance, women had few, if any, opportunities to work outside the home, other than as a governess to children. Additionally, women were seen as the weaker sex, and, as evidenced by Bertha, the men in their lives traditionally maintained a level of control over them. The church was hugely influential and knowledge of the Bible was of paramount importance, as evidenced by numerous biblical allusions. Women’s rights were minimal at the time, and the novel received criticism when it was first published due to Jane’s portrayal as an independent woman who demanded equality and respect.