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Jane Eyre | Language

Victoria Elliott | Wednesday September 07, 2011

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Brontë uses extended passages of direct speech to tell Jane’s story. In some ways this acts as protection against Jane’s later knowledge intruding on her younger self. As a device it enables characters to speak for themselves; it enables the reader to see, for example, Rochester’s feelings about Jane when she herself cannot. Apart from her initial introduction of the Reeds, we do not usually rely on Jane’s assessment of anyone, instead being given the opportunity to judge for ourselves from their actions.

Many passages in the book are made up of Jane’s direct address to the reader and her introspective reflections on life, religion, and her feelings. This puts us very close to her emotions and thoughts; the fact that Bronte creates Jane as a very sympathetic character means that we are therefore perhaps more likely to accept her valuation and assessments. Perhaps it can be said that, since Jane Eyre seems so close to being Brontë herself, this has enabled the author to create a more persuasive narrative, one that guides the reader’s reactions quite closely.

Religious Language

The novel has a great deal of religious language and allusion, both in passing and in extended passages, reflecting the position of religion as one of the dominant themes of the book. Even Jane’s love for Rochester is expressed in such terms – he becomes her ‘idol’.

There is also over use of religious language by characters who do not seem particularly Christian in their outlook: Baroness Ingram claims to have ‘suffered a martyrdom’ because of incompetent governesses. This merely serves to underline her foolish hyperbole. Jane, Rochester and St John all talk directly of God, particularly at key moments in their lives; one of the first characters to do so is Helen Burns, whose gentle Christianity is a model for Jane. Her direct teaching, being so gentle, is much more acceptable than the lecturing tone adopted by St John Rivers.

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