A postcolonial, feminist reading of the representation of 'home' in Jane Eyre and Villette by Charlotte Brontë.
This dissertation comprises an exploration of the concept of home and its link to propriety as it was imposed on women, focussing specifically on Jane Eyre and Villette by Charlotte Bronte. These novels share a preoccupation with notions of 'home' and what this means to the female protagonists. The process of writing on the part of the author, Charlotte Bronte, and the act of first-person narration on the part of the two female protagonists, Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe, is significant in that the "muted culture" of women (Showalter 1999: xx) of the nineteenth century was given authorial and authoritative power in their stories. Questions of identity and location developed from Jane Eyre's and Lucy Snowe's being orphans, penniless and without homes. Subsequently issues of ownership and self-sufficiency emerged in their stories, all of which found particular focus in the home. This "muted culture", examined through the theories of marxism and new historicism, is also illuminated by a feminist analysis of Jane Eyre and Villette which reveals that the marginal female figures are entitled to, or deserving of, the privileges of home and selfhood only once they have made some sacrifice for this "unthinkable goal of mature freedom" (Gilbert & Gubar 2000:339). The exploration of 'home' finds resonance in a post-colonial context, as Bronte encompassed marginal figures in her society who remained homeless, bereft of their stories due to the effect of drastically "interrupted experiences" (Ndebele 1996: 28) in the process of identity formation. The situated analysis of the concept of home operates in two contexts in this thesis, that of nineteenth-century Britain and twentieth-century South Africa. Njabulo Ndebele states that South Africans have been marked by the experience of homelessness, "The loss of homes! It is one of the greatest of South African stories yet to be told" (1996: 28-9). By drawing on Bronte to illuminate the concept of home, a South African reader is able to further an understanding of the multi-faceted nature of this concept and to see that the new possibilities claimed for marginal figures at the periphery may have their origins in the representation of an earlier woman writer's "double-edged" (Eagleton 1988: 73) representation of 'home' .