Narration and Conversation in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

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Narration and Conversation in Jane Eyre

Throughout her life, Jane Eyre, the heroine of the novel by Charlotte Bronte, relies heavily on language and story-telling to communicate her thoughts and emotions. Not only are good story-telling skills important to Jane Eyre as a the narrator, but they are also important to Jane Eyre as a character in her own novel. From the beginning of the novel, we learn of Jane's love of books -- "each picture told a story" (40) -- and of her talent for telling her own stories. As the narrator, she makes sure the reader is fully aware of her thoughts, emotions, and the constraints put upon her as her life unfolds before us.

In the opening scene of Jane Eyre, we immediately see how Jane is suppressed by the Reed family. She is often forbidden to show expression in any form. Upon questioning her guardian as to the reasoning behind her being excluded from the rest of the family, she is told, "Be seated somewhere, and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent" (39). She retires to solitude in another room of the house with a book to keep her occupied and is never allowed to explain herself. When John Reed finds her and hurls a book at her head, she is forced to go to the "red-room." Jane is immediately blamed without having a chance to give her account of the incident.

Jane's straightforwardness and honesty when relating with others is fundamental to her character; but it is not until Mrs. Reed accuses Jane of having "a tendency to deceit" (65), in the presence of Mr. Brocklehurst, that we see this attribute of her character surface. Before this time, Jane has been able to suppress her anger and emotions regarding the Reed family quite successfully. In this scene, how...

... middle of paper ... character as a form of expression, but she consistently uses communication skills and narrative ability as a measure of character. Jane assesses the ability of every character to communicate effectively and then proceeds to make judgments about that character based on these assessments. Her favor, as is repeatedly shown, rests with those who are proficient in their narrative abilities. Jane is the dominant narrator, but she delights in letting other characters share in the task. Our focus is continually shifted from one character's narrative to another's. By allowing her story to be told through various characters, Jane not only emphasizes the high regard she has for these particular characters, but she emphasizes the veneration she has for eloquence in narration as well.

Works Cited

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847. NY: Penguin, 1966.