The Victorian era in England was marked by several significant economic, social structure, and technological changes. These changes profoundly impacted the lives of British citizens, especially those in the lower classes. Before the Victorian era, education in England was primarily the domain of the wealthy upper class. (Brontë p54) One of the most significant changes during this time was the introduction of compulsory education for all children between the ages of 5 and 10. This change resulted from the Factory Act of 1833, which required all children working in factories to receive primary education. This act also led to the creation of several new schools and educational opportunities for the working class. In addition to compulsory education, the Victorian era saw several changes to labor laws. These changes resulted from the growing industrialization of the British economy and the increased number of factories and industrial workplaces.
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The impact of Victorian education and labor laws can be seen in the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The novel’s protagonist, Jane, is a working-class girl who can get an education and eventually find work as a governess because of the compulsory education law. Jane Eyre, the novel’s heroine by Charlotte Bronte, was born into a low-income family and had to work hard all her life. She was lucky enough to get an education, but she still had to work as a governess and a teacher to support herself. The education system in Victorian England was very different from what we have today. There were no state schools, and only the wealthy could afford to send their children to private schools. Many poor children didn’t go to school at all. The labor laws were also very different in Victorian England. Her experiences gave insight into the lives of poor Victorian women and the difficulties they faced. However, she is also able to find work in a factory before the passage of the Factory Act of 1847. It allowed her to witness firsthand the working-class conditions during this period. This act was important because it protected workers from being exploited by their employers.
Victorian education and labor laws profoundly impacted the characters in Jane Eyre. For instance, the character of Jane Eyre herself was shaped by her experience as a student at Lowood School, where she was subject to the strict and often harsh rules of the Victorian educational system. This system emphasized learning and discipline and often favored boys over girls. As a result, Jane is a highly educated woman who is exceptionally disciplined and capable (Stoneman, p32). However, she is also deeply scarred by her experiences at Lowood, which is reflected in her character throughout the novel.
The other central character in Jane Eyre, impacted by Victorian education and labor laws, is Mr. Rochester. As the owner of a large estate, he is subject to the strict labor laws of the time. These laws often favored the wealthy landowners over the workers, so Mr. Rochester could exploit his workers and keep them in virtual slavery. It is evident in the way he treats his employees and also in the way he treats Jane herself. Although he is attracted to her, he can also control and manipulate her due to his position of power. While at Thornfield Hall, Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester, the estate owner. However, Mr. Rochester is already married, and Jane is forced to leave Thornfield Hall (Diver p222). Jane eventually learns that Mr. Rochester has been hiding his wife, who is insane, in the attic of the estate. Jane also learns that Mr. Rochester has been blinded by a fire that his wife started. Jane leaves Thornfield Hall and goes to live with her cousin, St. John Rivers. St. John is a missionary, and he offers Jane a job working as a teacher at his mission in India. However, Jane decides not to go to India with St. John and returns to Thornfield Hall. At Thornfield Hall, Jane finds that Mr. Rochester has been living in poverty since the fire.
After the end, Jane and Mr. Rochester move in together and lead a happy life at Thornfield Hall. The events of the book Jane Eyre take place in the Victorian era, and the reader has a better understanding of the educational and occupational standards that were prevalent during that period. Despite originating from a working-class family, Jane demonstrates in the book that she is capable of obtaining a high-quality education. The establishment of public schools during the Victorian era made this outcome attainable. (Brontë p60) In addition, the novel illuminates the working realities of the era, particularly the use of children in labor-intensive jobs. The Victorian era was a time of significant change, as evidenced by the fact that the time period’s educational system and labor regulations reflected such shifts. The transformations throughout the Victorian era were essential contributors to the formation of the society we now find ourselves in.
The impact of Victorian education and labor characters in Jane Eyre highlights the inequalities of the time. These laws often favored the rich and powerful, while the poor and vulnerable were left to suffer. It reflected the conditions of the time and helped to help slain the unrest and dissatisfaction prevalent during the Victorian era. Victorian education and labor law labor were very different from today. They didn’t have any laws to protect them from being abused or hurt at work. And if they didn’t go to school, they would be sent to prison.
Brontë, Charlotte. “Jane eyre.” Medicine and Literature. CRC Press, 2018. 53-72.
Diver, Alice. “jane eyre and social justice: how to survive a (victorian)“witch” trial.” Preternature 9.2 (2020): 209-242.
Stoneman, Patsy. Jane Eyre on Stage, 1848–1898: An Illustrated Edition of Eight Plays with Contextual Notes. Routledge, 2017.