Decorative Initial J

ane Eyre is written through the lens of the past, with Jane remembering and recounting the events that shaped her as she grew into a woman. This passage uses the same method, saying that "Of all the strange things Alice saw in her journey Through the Looking — Glass, this was the one that she always remembered most clearly. Years afterward she could bring the whole scene back again, as if it had been only yesterday --"

Jane remembers a scene far less tranquil — the memories that still stir her are of suffering and rage, but she sounds remarkably like Alice, when, remembering the episode of the red - room, she says "Now, at the distance of — I will not say how many years, I see it clearly." Hindsight is not the only thing that Brontė and Carroll use to achieve very different views. Both of them present the reader with the scene of a young girl meeting an older man falling from his horse in the woods, but here again the tones and the ideas behind the events are in contrast.

When Jane first meets Rochester, she is alone in a twilight forest, "fancies bright and dark tenanted my mind," and the footstep of the approaching horse makes her think of goblins and sprites. When she first sees Rochester's dog she believes that it is a fabled spirit called Gytrash, and the sight of a man upon the horse's back is the first thing that proves their reality to her. Even when Rochester has lost his seat and needs her help, he remains an object of mystery and fascination. Jane, however, "felt no fear of him, and but little shyness."

Brontë depicts meeting strange men as a disorienting and intimidating situation which must be met with equilibrium and aplomb. When the child Jane first sees Mr. Brocklehurst, for instance, she thinks for a moment that he is "a black pillar! . . . the grim face at the top was like a carved mask," but menacing as he may be, she answers his questions calmly and without the least bit of fear. Carroll, on the other hand, does not feel that strange men should be at all frightening to little girls, even when the strange men are riding around on horseback. When the Red Knight races up to Alice shouting "You're my prisoner!" she feels "more frightened for him than for herself" and describes him as a man with "mild blue eyes and kindly smile," where Rochester had " a dark face with stern features and a heavy brow." Brontë depicts the meeting in a very sensually charged manner, while Carroll describes it as amusing and sad in a nostalgic way. However, he fails to address (although it cannot be expected in a children's book) the romantic nature of the meeting he has created. Jane is fully aware of Rochester as a man, and gives thanks that he is not handsome, as that would make her feel uncomfortable. Carroll gives us a young girl alone in the woods, captured and then serenaded by a Knight in "dazzling" armor. The scene sounds remarkably like a fairytale courtship.

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[Initial "J" based on an image from by Edmund J. Sullivan's illustrated edition of Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, London: George Bell, 1898.]


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Content last modified December 1993