Impact of Tone in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

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Jane Eyre: The Impact of the Tone The tone of Jane Eyre is direct, perhaps even blunt. There is no prissy little-girl sensibility, but a startlingly independent, even skeptical perspective. At the age of 10, the orphan Jane already sees through the hypocrisy of her self-righteous Christian elders. She tells her bullying Aunt Reed, "People think you a good woman, but you are bad; hard-hearted. You are deceitful!" and "I am glad you are no relative of mine; I will never call you aunt again so long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say that the very thought of you makes me sick." (In fact, when her aunt is elderly and dying, Jane does return to visit her, and forgives her. But that's far in the future.) With the logic of a mature philosopher, in fact rather like Friedrich Nietzsche to come, Jane protests the basic admonitions of Christianity as a schoolgirl: "I must resist those who ... persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel that it is deserved." And this bold declaration, which would have struck readers of 1847 (in fact, of 1947) as radical and "infeminine": "Restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes ... Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer." Instead, the novel begins with the seemingly disappointed statement: "There was no possibility of taking a walk that [rainy] day," and counters almost immediately with, "I was glad of it; I never liked long walks." When excluded from Christmas revelries in the Reed household, the child Jane says, "To speak the truth, I had not the least wish to go into company." Jane's defiance, which doesn't exclude childlike fears, strikes us as forthright in the way of the adolescent temperaments of other famous literary voices -- Jo March of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield and their now-countless younger siblings.

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