The Use of Literacy Techniques and the Narrative Voice in "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte


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Through the use of a nineteenth-century gothic setting in Ferndean, the author, Charlotte Bronte, uses literacy techniques and loves to develop the narrative voice of Jane as an independent and passionate young woman.

The first time Jane lays eyes on Ferndean Mansion she feels it is a place of solitude and death. Jane’s journey through the thick forest to reach Ferndean demonstrates how secluded the house is from the outside world .When Jane re-encounters Rochester, she uses the imagery that he previously used to describe her; he is a “wronged” bird, a “caged” eagle. However, with Jane’s emotional development and new financial wealth her decision to re-enter a relationship with Rochester is impartial, she is now free of any feelings of inadequateness, which is juxtaposed to Rochester who is now fettered. In their first conversation, Jane highlights that she is now financially and emotionally independent and uninhibited from all binds “I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress”. Earlier in the novel, Rochester had objectified Jane, but now due to her newfound wealth and liberation he accepts her as his equal and his marriage proposal is based purely on love and not on status or appearance as shown by the quote “Never mind fine clothes and jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip”. Similar to Jane’s character development, Rochester needed to “pass through the valley of the shadow of death” which is representative of the suffering he has undergone from his blindness and maiming from the fire, and his detachment from the world he knew in order to tame his fire and virility. Rochester’s loss of vision can be seen as what he needed to lose for Jane to have her ideal relationship, just as Bertha’s life had to be sacrificed. Both hidden in Ferndean’s seclusion, Jane and Rochester have attained spiritual isolation. Jane reminds the readers of the telepathic bond between them and emphasizes Rochester’s atonement of his sins for attempting to make Jane his mistress. “I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower”. Jane’s forgiveness of Rochester allows for a deeper connection between the couple. Bronte uses this psychic affinity to emphasize the spiritual bond between Jane and Rochester. The remoteness of the gothic Ferndean mansion, which is fitted with narrow windows and doors, combined with the density of the surrounding forest would suggest an ominous ending for the couple and shows that no physic or physical barriers can block their passion for one another, and that their relationship is on a spiritual level.

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Bronte uses symbolism to explore the conflict between social classism and religion which is used to shape Jane’s identity. Jane first experiences social hierarchy as an orphan at Gateshead where she is considered lower class. Due to her lower-class status, she has a traumatic childhood where she is locked in The Red Room, which serves as a symbol of the obstacles Jane faces on her journey to freedom. The deep planted feelings of exile and being physically undesirable are embedded in Jane’s mind by her childhood family, the Reeds, and her distressing experiences in The Red Room “my habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my decaying ire”. The Red Room is symbolic and has shaped Jane who often thinks about it when she feels ostracized or imprisoned, such as when she leaves Thornfield. The room is also a symbol for Jane’s lack of social standing and being separated from those in high society, and the exclusion and imprisonment she battles throughout her journey. Social class governed life in nineteenth-century Britain; Jane’s social advancement allows Bronte to examine the sources and consequences of class boundaries. The game ‘charades’ is symbolic of the façade of the upper-class use to interact. An example of this is how Blanche Ingram excels in creating a good performance, which is all there is to her – a show “you would not encounter such a low imposter? Dismiss her, by all means, at once!”. Blanche and most of the upper class treat those they deem inferior as extras in their ‘performance’. Jane is an exception as she saw through this ‘charade’ of the pretentiousness upper class and considered the social order as a ridiculous game being played. The self-importance placed on the social hierarchy by the upper class themselves is juxtaposed with the character Helen Burns who is symbolic of New Testament ideals. Helen is instrumental is Jane’s development and is paramount in helping Jane with her internal struggles against social oppression. Helen embodies the idea of loving indiscriminately, having the unwavering patience for others and turning the other cheek, unlike those who use social hierarchy as a platform of power. Helen does not use religion for selfish gain and is an emblem of positivity. Jane admires Helen for her ability to love herself and her caring nature whereas Jane overthinks of the opinion of others “if others don’t love me, I would rather die than live her”, however Jane knows she still needs social recognition in her life in order to feel fulfilled. Bronte uses the symbols of The Red Room and “charades” to show the social oppression Jane growing up, and Helen is the symbolic character that shows Jane there is a way to not conform to those social roles.

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