The comparison and contrast opinion of the two novels (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy) is made possible by the fact that both authors wrote these books during the same time period. The aspects of the two books can therefore be attributed as being of one genre. But it is also worthy to be aware of the differences of the two books together with their similarities.
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Each book is written with some diverse angle presenting an opportunity to the book being individual and become quite different from other books. Both books are written during a time when women were considered to be lesser human beings as compared to men. The authors of the books base their works on the experiences of their main characters, Tess and Jane who have a lot in common.
Charlotte Bronte writes an autobiographical book about Jane Eyer, while Thomas Hardy writes on the experiences of Tess. These two women are subjected to discrimination because of their gender as they grow up but are brave enough to tackle and overcome their problems.
Jane Eyre is an orphaned child who lives with her cruel aunt and cousins who constantly bully her and pick on her and these presents the beginning of her problems in life. For Tess, she lives with her family but they are poor and she seeks to help her family to move away from a poverty lifestyle.
Comparing the two characters, Jane was able to endure hardships because she was used to facing all kinds of problems since she was young, something Tess did not experience as she lived with a loving family. It was very difficult for Tess to cope with the problems once she started having them. Besides, Jane was also advantaged to having had an education hence being portrayed as cleverer and much intelligent than Tess who was poor and less educated.
It was only until the ninetieth century that women begun to be perceived as people who have a mind of their own and can participate in the building of a society. Before then, women were isolated by men from the society they were seen as weak and largely condemned by the society regarding their morals and traditions. But from the nineteenth century women underwent some kind of transformation they became empowered and that’s when also the evolution of literature begun.
Most of the written works at that time were dominated by men as heroes while females assumed the character role of being helpless victims, which totally is in contrast from the analyzed novels of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. The two authors are able to bring forth vividly strong characters who reflect the social change of that century.
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Charlotte Bronte describes the agonies of an individual while growing up in an environment which is hostile. The memories of a child brought up in a hostile environment bring the child painful experience once they are older and the extent of their pains varies in degrees of the experiences of emotional deprivation. She describes Jane as a character who undergoes isolation from her family to the extent of feeling like an intruder in her own home.
Moreover she suffers the same alienation once she sent to boarding school at Lowood once her family describes her as an outcast to the teachers and the rest of the students. “…Little castaway, not a member of the true flock…an alien. You must be on your guard against her, you must shun her example, avoid her company, exclude her. This girl is- a liar” (Brontë 14). But unlike Jane who is excluded from her peers while young, Hardy creates a character having an opposite experience to that of Charlotte character.
Tess grows up in a loving family although they were poor. Her alienation takes place when she is raped by Alec and heads home where she spent most of her time in her room alone and continues on when a man from Trantidge named Grody is able to recognize her and in a cruel manner begins to allude to her sexual history.
She faces much embarrassment when her husband Angel chooses to sleep on the sofa during their wedding night after she confesses to him of her sexual history. “O Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case! You were one person; now you are another. My God–how can forgiveness meet such a grotesque–prestidigitation as that!” (Brontë 56).
In both novels the protagonists are seen to have a relationship with nature. This relationship emphasizes that both characters Jane and Tess correlated religion with some form of rejection. For Jane, at one scene we are able to see her being punished using a bible when it was thrown on her head while she was young as for Tess the mention of the absence of a guardian angle symbolizes the catholic morals. “Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around.
Above them rose the primeval yews and oaks of The Chase, in which were poised gentle roosting birds in their last nap, and about them stole the hopping rabbits and hares. But, might some say, where was Tess’s guardian angel, where was the providence of her simple faith” (Hardy 45).
“Perhaps, like that other god of whom the ironical Tishbite spoke, he was talking, or he was pursuing, or he was in a journey, or he was sleeping and not to be awaked.” (Brontë 77). When she faces rejection from her husband it is seen as a rejection from religion. The two characters are able to create a maternal relationship with nature. We see from the novel Jane seeks guidance from Mother Nature as opposed to God and her absent mother
“Nature seemed to me benign and good: I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; an I who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, and insult clung to her with filial fondness. Tonight, I would be her guest, as I was her child, my mother would lodge me without any price” (Brontë 69).
This shows that Jane was indeed feeling safe around nature’s presence as she despises men. In a similar way Tess feels like an outcast a victim of religion and the only thing that she finds comfort in is in nature. This is well described when Tess and angle leave to go to the Stone Henge after she killed Alec.
At that point she accepts her fate as a sinner but through her words she finds comfort with nature “so now I am at home” home meaning the presence of nature is appealing and comfortable. She utters these words while lying on an alter in a way Hardy uses this symbolically to describe the fact that Tess has to be sacrificed according to the moral laws of the nineteenth century.
In contrast, we see Tess as a pure a virtuous individual but she encounters a misfortunate experience when she is raped diminishing her spirit and Madonna image. It is evidently described that she dint choose to have any physical relationship with Alec but even though this was not her own wish the society still considered her as a whore.
During that time, women’s sexual behavior was largely dictated by the society. Women had only two options at that particular time either to be virgin or if not a wife and a mother other wise she would be termed as a whore which was in the case of Tess.
Indifference of the gender of the two authors also has a significant impact on the deference of the novels contents especially in the representation of women in the society. Hardy is seen to create several instances of human victimization where her main character Tess is victimized through being born in a poor family; she is raped as consequence of her family desiring to be rich. After being raped Tess gets pregnant but her baby dies.
She faces rejection from her husband most especially on their wedding night and the novel ends with her death. The novel creates a sympathetic mood for fallen women but the author is able to sympathize with her at least portraying some of her strong willed character when she finally kills Alec. His way of writing can be affired to the society that was in existence at that time. he was able to write it in that manner because he was a male living in a society that had changed threatened by the change of women rights.
When compared with Bronte, her heroines are often characters guided by what the author terms as her understanding of how human can be evil. For this reason she is able to empower her characters to overcome all forms of victimization identified by her character Jane despite being alienated when young she grows up to be overcome the rebellious world that demanded women to obey men.
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Jane is able to get education and she rises to the role of governess and despite her misfortunes incidences with Mr. Rochester, she marries the man of her dreams in the end.
In “Epic and Novel” from The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays”, Bakhtin writes that “the novel is the sole genre that continues to develop, that is as yet uncompleted” (263). The epic contrary, is an accomplished and old-fashioned type. The author observations are that “Of all the major genres only the novel is younger than writing and the book: it alone is organically receptive to new forms of mute perception, that is, to reading” (285).
He continues to state that “ The ability of the novel to criticize itself is a remarkable feature of this ever-developing genre” (356). This text can be used to compare the two novels written by Charlotte Bronte and Thomas Hardy) where both authors try to bring out a well defined experience of their characters hence does not need further explanations as they story flows remarkably for the reader to understand.
Bakhtin is able to contrast the novel which at that time in the eighteenth century preciously was not available until the nineteenth century when people denounced epics in favor of the novels. He contrasts the novel with the epic in the easy Epic and Novel briefly explaining that epics are finished works which are complete works. He cites that one of the characteristics of an epic work is the distance used in using contemporary reality while the novel uses contemporary reality as its subject.
Brontë ‘s novel can be categorized as a gothic novel as it contains too much contemporary reality which focuses on mysterious happenings which is illustrated by the presence of Jane and the mad woman in Rochester’s garret who is referred as doubles; “Two wives, one of sound mind and the other insane” (Brontë 102). There are also several instances where the author mentions elements of ghosts and magic.
Bakhtin, Mikhail M. “Discourse in the Novel.” The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. University of Texas Press Slavic Studies 1. 1975 (Russian). Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981. Print.
Brontë Charlotte. Jane Eyre: an autobiography. New York: Macmillan, 1997. Print.
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the D’Urbervilles: a pure woman faithfully presented. North Billerica, MA: Harper & Brothers, 1921. Print.