Fairies and Fairness:
The Aesthetic of White Femininity in Jane Eyre
The traditional association of whiteness with fairies warrants a closer examination, as this mythological yearning for a specific childlike realm reveals an idealization of a white past. Indeed, the likening of women to a pure, infantile domain reveals an elevation of whiteness, which, by default, degrades people of color as lesser. While there has been considerable scholarship on the racialization of Charlotte Brontë’s Haitian character Bertha Mason, the construction of whiteness in conjunction with Jane Eyre’s character has remained largely unexplored. I explore these themes of the construction of whiteness through fairies and the romanticization of a white past through a close analysis of humanity in Jane Eyre. I first investigate Victorian and Edwardian fairy visuals, moving on to demonstrate how Jane’s individuality and feminism gains autonomy with her religious spiritualism. I also show, however, how the faerie language in the novel serves to override and disregard Jane’s position as a human being with agency due to Mr. Rochester’s aesthetic of white femininity. Through close readings of the supernatural in Jane Eyre, I scrutinize how the use of fairy language creates a power imbalance where the dehumanization of women and minorities creates a male fantasy directly opposed to the theme of the individual. I discuss how the sexualization and racialization of women as supernatural beings bolsters the self-serving, problematic construct of the ‘human’ which continuously labels women and minorities as less than. Therefore, to restructure this racism and misogynistic thought, I propose a decentering of humanity from a white male perspective, seeing women and minorities not as a monolithic “Other,” almost supernatural beings, but as equally human and worth of respect and dignity.
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