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Jane Eyre | Form

Victoria Elliott | Wednesday September 07, 2011


Brontë’s choice of creating a novel narrated by a ‘first person autobiography’ narrator of Jane Eyre and ostensibly edited by ‘Currer Bell’ is a conceit that serves to heighten the identification between author and protagonist – and which adds effectively to the authenticity and authority of the narrator.

The character of Jane narrates her life with the knowledge that she herself would possess at the time, if she were a real woman, rather than foreshadowing the dramatic narrative or giving any hint of future events. The form is thus a ‘limited first person narration’. She, like Pip in Dickens’ Great Expectations, is narrating the events of her youth from the position of maturity (approximately 30); but, unlike Pip, it is hard to distinguish any division between the two time periods in her life. There are occasional, cryptic sentences which may be the voice of her older self (‘Sense would resist delirium: judgement would warn passion.’) but may also simply be generic reflections. There is some narrative foreshadowing, but this is in the nature of pathetic fallacies, rather than her knowledge of the future. The narrative voice is direct and, as is quite common in nineteenth century fiction, acknowledges the presence of the reader, as with the novel’s most famous line: ‘Reader, I married him.’ Jane is created as an utterly reliable narrator: we trust her from the very beginning as she unflinchingly reveals her young life.

The structure of the narration is divided into the three parts – the three volumes in which it was originally published. Three volume novels were typical in Victorian times, being perceived as more affordable, and being popular with circulating libraries, who charged per volume borrowed.

The first volume ends with Bertha’s attempt to set Rochester’s bed on fire in Chapter 15; the second with the events of Jane’s wedding day (Chapter 26); and the final volume concludes the...

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