Childhood in Great Expectations and Jane Eyre Essay

Childhood in Great Expectations and Jane Eyre Essay

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Compare the presentation of childhood in Great Expectations and
Jane Eyre

Both "Jane Eyre" and "Great Expectation" adopt a typically Victorian
outlook on childhood, which can seem quite alien set against modern
values. However in both books, and particularly in "Jane Eyre", there
is an effort to create a convincing expression of childhood through
strong emphasis of the child's point of view above all others.

In both books there is a interesting use of hindsight within the first
person narration; not only does the narrator describe their childhood
with perfect clarity of detail "before the long hour and a half of
prayers and Bible-reading was over, I felt ready to perish with cold.
Breakfast time came at last, and this morning the porridge was not
burnt" but also with a very mature and refined description of events
that, at the time, the child would most likely not have been capable
of. In "Jane Eyre" this maturity of description is visible both
through the intricacy of the language "reader though I look
comfortably accommodated, I am not very tranquil in my mind" and
through the complexity of the ideas used "I was in discord in
Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with
Mrs Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage." However, Dickens
mostly attempts a slightly more realistically childlike and basic
narrative in "Great Expectations" than does Bronte in "Jane Eyre".
Linguistically, Dickens achieves this with a very structured
childlike, blow-by-blow listing of events "He turned it about in his
mouth much longer than usual, pondering over it a good deal, and after
all gulped it down like a pill. He was about to" but frequently he
changes the tone to one that is far more el...

... middle of paper ...

...cence through which Dickens and
Bronte can portray the adult world and its hypocrisy with a view
untainted by the preconceptions and expectations of adults. Frequently
this technique is used to the detriment of those less admirable adult
characters (Mr Brocklehurst, Mr Wopsle, Mrs Reed, Mr Pumblechook, Mrs
Gargery, and the list goes on), but it is also used to illuminate
those good adult characters (Mr Joe, Mr Lloyd, Mrs Temple, and

Also childhood is the first constituent of the identity of our
protagonists. Pip's childhood is pivotal in the creation of his
identity, which becomes so thematically important later in "Great
Expectations". Also, Jane's moral conviction to honesty and justice
can be traced back to her mistreatment in childhood, and knowing of
her childhood allows the reader to see in context her later actions,
and so her identity.

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