Public and Private Space
Nineteenth Century powerfully emphasizes the connection between the representation of the private, feminine space, the possession and strong articulation of an individual self in representations of women’s lives and the women’s struggle to behave differently from the standards imposed by society at that time. According to the patriarchal criterion of an ideal Victorian woman, a woman was supposed to be “the Angel in the House”, the domestic feminine ideal what was expected to be seen by Victorian society, who always devotes herself totally for home and people in it. They believed that woman’s proper sphere should be at home, separated from the man’s one. And there in her proper sphere she should devote to her proper duties, to domestic labor and to the needs of others, as it is shown in this paragraph: She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it – in short…she never had a mind or wish of her own…Above all – I need not say it – she was pure. (as cited in Newman, 1996, p.9).
As the reader may observe after reading the novel, Jane Eyre is too far away from the ideal of “the Angel in the House”, from the very childhood she tries to escape from this domestic space implied by Victorian public. She avoids public spaces where she is expected to act and behave as an idealized feminine figure by patriarchal society. She tries to isolates herself, to reinforce her personality both with the interior space and with landscapes as well. Her estrangement from social and familial life is imaged by her protective isolation from domestic space, while her spirit is constantly wakeful to search out spiritual, moral affiliation in the outer spaces. She finds herself in harmony with the natural space, this enclosure suits her clearly. She is comforted by the weather and she is friendly to all the ambassadors of Nature, she finds herself at home, which is a sign of her psychic maturity and growth in wisdom. In her own, private space she can mediate, and think about her aspirations as an independent woman. From the beginning of the novel, Jane stays near at a window and reads a book. The windows are described as heavily festooned with draperies, in this order it creates a separate dimensional space from the rest of the house, which serves as a shelter and inner space for Jane. As Maurianne Adams states: “Jane has pulled inward, and withdrawn from a physical self occupying social and familial space at Gateshead, into a ‘placeless’ or status – and space-free spiritual and moral identity, occupying thin air. Jane withdraws into her imagination and her spiritual integrity, a process by which ego is reduced to its irreducible and invulnerable inner core. Withdrawal, however, is not to be understood as simply negative. Although the elfin and visionary mirror image also presents to Jane an image of terrifying supernaturalism, this effect is the pagan antecedent for Helen Burn’s mystic and Christian anticipation of that happy day when the spirit would be freed from the fetters of the flesh. (186)”. Her enclosure in the novel takes on forms beyond domestic spaces, she enclosures in her own body and mind in order to overcome the struggle to attain and give voice to her own desires. Even her work as a governess at Thornfiled provides her with a private English home. Jane is seeking for a space which will be out of domesticity and paid labour, she does not find herself happy about becoming a perfect lady who will be to everyone’s liking, she wants to explore woman’s sensibility. Her super mind and omnivorously soul can not be imprisoned in the frames imposed by Victorian public, she is far above these limits. Her own, private space enables her to grow wings, to gain knowledge. Jane is incorporated in a Victorian body, but her tender nature is not from that time. Her inner space is there where she can be herself in a remarkably contemporary way, where she can give utterance to her thoughts.