Charlotte Brontë uses complex first-person narration to tell Jane Eyre's story, and her explanation of certain events indicates a much more logical and mature thought process than a young child's. A mastery of language and punctuation allows the story to retain much of its excitement and urgency despite the fact that we are led to believe it is being told many years later. The following passage illustrates this perfectly:
I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest any sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfort me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over me with strange pity. This idea, consolatory in theory, I felt would be terrible if realised: with all my might I endeavoured to stifle it — I endeavoured to be firm. Shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room; at this moment a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked myself, a ray from the moon penetrating some aperture in the blind? No; moonlight was still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to the ceiling and quivered over my head. I can now conjecture readily that this streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam from a lantern carried by some one across the lawn: but then, prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the door and shook the lock in desperate effort. Steps came running along the outer passage; the key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered.
Lines such as "steps came running along the outer passage; the key turned, Bessie and Abbot entered," add a sense of urgency and excitement to the story by simply listing a sequence of actions without any emotional or explanatory interludes. The build up to this small climax consists of a very long and detailed paragraph in which Brontë (through Eyre) slowly gains momentum. Progressively the sentences are shortened and more punctuation is added until it reaches the section quoted above. Afterwards, the chapter becomes mostly dialogue, continuing the earlier air of excitement by providing line breaks to give the eye a rest.
The language makes us identify with Jane and feel her distress, but this distress only manifests itself when Jane imagines her uncleÕs ghost coming to her aid. Although this distress can easily be explained away as a childÕs normal fear of the supernatural, it can also be seen as her being distressed over her isolation being disrupted. The theme of Jane as an isolated figure, which runs throughout the novel, becomes especially prominent in this chapter when she is literally isolated from the rest of the household in the red room. It is not the isolation which frightens her but the idea that someone would try to remedy this isolation.
1. What is the significance of the color red in JaneÕs description of room in which she is imprisoned?
2. Eyre seems like an interesting choice for a last name and could serve to remind us that Jane turns out to be an "heir" to a fortune. Why other reasons could Brontë have for choosing this name for her protagonist? What significance do names in general serve in the novel?
3. Also relating to the significance of names, can a connection be drawn between John Reed and St. John? It seems telling that the "selfless" missionary has a "St." as part of his name. This draws attention to a possible association between the two who appear as bookends in the novel with most of JohnÕs action occurring in the beginning and most of St. JohnÕs occurring at the end. How does JaneÕs behavior around the two of them show growth? Has she grown?
4. As the narrator of the novel does Jane exaggerate certain events or circumstances within the novel? Are there any clues given to this effect? What does it mean that many of the people who offend Jane within the novel come to an unhappy ending (ex: John Reed)?
5. How are locations used within the novel? Do they serve as ways of differentiating different periods of JaneÕs development in what can be considered a bildungsroman?
Last modified 27 January 2009