The women of Thornfield

Mrs Fairfax

Mrs Fairfax is a woman in circumstances similar to Jane's situation:

  • She is a lady, the widow, rather than daughter, of a vicar, and therefore socially above the status of the servants, yet like the governess, is dependant on employment for an income.
  • She is described as worthy and kind, but unlike Jane:
    • She is unimaginative, unable to meet with Rochester as an equal
    • She represents the voice of convention regarding the role of women and is disturbed by the idea of Jane marrying her master.

Adèle and Céline Varens

These charaters are French: they are depicted as vain, frivolous and materialistic, and Céline is seen (at least in Rochester's eyes) as faithless:

  • Céline, who is the lover and dependant of several men, acts as a kind of warning for Jane; Céline's lifestyle could easily be the kind of life Rochester is offering Jane after it is revealed that he is not in a position to marry her
  • Even before the wedding, Rochester tries to treat Jane as a kind of doll, or as a woman of the harem, buying her dresses and jewellery, her chains/bracelets being associated with captivity: she has to convince him that she is not that kind of woman.

Blanche Ingram

Blanche IngramBlanche Ingram is the main example of a negative role model. She is someone who is quite unlike Jane, and whom Jane has no desire to resemble:

  • She is represented as physically large and healthy and much more conventionally attractive than Jane. She possesses all the social advantages that Jane lacks: money, position, confidence and the admiration of her family and friends
  • However, she is revealed as vain, proud, lacking in imagination and careless of the feelings of others. Her remarks about governesses also reveal a streak of cruelty and a pleasure taken in humiliating those whom she considers to be of lower social status than herself
  • Rochester allows Jane to believe that he plans to marry Blanche, but in a sense he is using her to demonstrate to Jane what it is he does not want in a wife and why he prefers Jane's less immediately obvious attractions
  • In thematic terms, Blanche could also be seen as contributing to the novel's critique of the use and abuse of wealth, power and privilege.
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