Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ is a novel that takes you on a journey through an eponymous heroine’s life. Jane starts off as a dependant, delicate and isolated young orphan and through experience at Gateshead hall becomes a strong, independent and successful woman.
Bronte uses a first person narrative which brings a strong bond between the reader and Jane as we see the world through her eyes. It also makes Janes experiences real, as though we are living through her abused, harsh and lonely childhood. For this we really sympathise with Jane. Jane is an ill treated orphan girl; she has no correlation with her aunt or cousins and is a ‘discord’ at Gateshead hall. Jane feels vulnerable and emotionally unstable; we feel a great deal of sympathy towards Jane as she questions her existence and at just the age of ten is already planning attempts of suicide. The reader is made to feel hatred towards Jane’s aunt as she continually neglects Jane because she is different to her own children. Jane’s aunt-Mrs. Reed- dehumanises Jane and is aware that Jane is being bullied by her son John. Jane's childhood is most definitely not a happy one.
Jane lives with the Reeds because her uncle took her in following the death of her parents; Jane’s mother was her uncle’s beloved sister. If Jane’s uncle hadn’t died all would most likely be well for Jane. Mr Reed loved Jane dearly. He could have left her for the poor house but he took Jane in and treated her as his own until the day of his death where he made Mrs. Reed promise to treat her as well as her own children. Little did he know that her promise would not be kept.
When Jane has an outburst of rage at John Reed, after he pushes her too far it really surprises us. Jane is terrified of John Reed yet she follows her gut instinct to fight back and her feisty character shines through this shy girls fear. ‘Unjust, unjust’ she screams at john. This gives us an insight to her independent and liberal future.
By the end of the second chapter charlotte Bronte has succeeded in: showing us that Jane has a strong and free future ahead of her, creating sympathy for the heroine and showing us how out-of-the-ordinary this young girl is. She is by far more intelligent than the average ten year old.
‘Jane Eyre’ is a Victorian novel which reflects the customs, beliefs and traditions of the 19th century society. The novel relies on the experiences of the writer to make experiences throughout the book realistic and believable; only one who has experienced so much horror in one’s life can recall the violence realistically. The novel Jane Eyre was influenced by Charlotte Bronte’s life. Bronte uses experiences in her own life to relate to Jane. Bronte, like Jane, had to come to terms with the death of a parent at a young age. Bronte lived in isolation along with her sister in Yorkshire. Like Jane, she too went to a boarding school. Another thing both Jane and Bronte had in common was being brought up by a cold and unfeeling aunt. The similarity between Bronte and what she describes as a delicate, isolated and lonely child makes us deeply sympathetic to both of these shy, reserved women.
Society’s class structure was very important in the Victorian era. If one was of a higher class, he or she couldn’t mix with anyone of a lower status. For this Janes’ mother was disowned; she was from a rich family and yet she married a poor clergy man. Moreover, moving between classes was difficult. If you were poor, you were most likely going to die of starvation in a poor house. If it were up to Mrs. Reed, Jane would be in a poor house .But, much to her dismay it was her husband’s dying wish for Mrs. Reed to bring Jane up like one of her own children. This has left Jane feeling isolated and dependant. Her father was a poor curate yet her mother was of the landed gentry. Jane doesn’t really fit into either class because although she has been brought up into a middle class family, she is not accepted by the Reeds and is treated as a dependant. ‘You are a dependant’ ‘You have no money; your father left you none’. Sympathy is created as ten year old Jane is constantly rejected and neglected by the Reeds.
The position of women in the Victorian society was extremely degrading, sexist and unjust. Women were subservient to men. The men were the ‘master’ of the house. It was expected that middle-class women would make a career out of marriage. Their jobs would be looking after the children. The only real job women in this class could do, would be some charitable work. Single women, on the other hand, could become a governess and teach children-for they have none of their own to look after. Jane starts of as subservient ‘say, ’’what do you want Master Reed’’,’ by becoming a governess at Thornfield hall Jane becomes more intelligent and free to think and do as she wishes.
Both gothic and romantic influences are used throughout the novel. Bronte uses them to create fear and isolation. The romantics believed that art and nature where powerful and that it helped you find your inner self. The romantics also believed that everyone can fulfil their potential and destiny. Jane has a romantic nature; she is strong willed and will succeed. In chapter two she fights her fears by retaliating against John Reed. This shows that Jane will overcome all bad in her life. Jane also has a strong sense of justice like the romantics. She questions why she has been treated so indifferently. An example of this is ‘Why was i always suffering...For ever condemned?’ Jane is presented by Bronte in a very romantic manner; she uses pathetic fallacy and nature to describe Jane’s feeling of coldness and isolation. Bronte also shows us that Jane finds herself through imagery of adventure and nature books. Moreover, gothic influences are used in chapter two, Bronte builds up horror when Jane is treated badly and left locked alone in the red room. Jane is convinced that her uncle-who died in the red room- has come back from the dead to haunt her and take revenge for the way Jane has been treated. This creates a chilly, dark and depressing atmosphere. The superstitions that Jane has been manipulated into feeling have left her terrified. Jane screams to get out, but her heartless aunt locks Jane back in leaving her on her own in her virtual nightmare. Then subsequently Jane faints from fear and we are left on a cliff hanger...
The setting is described in the first to chapters and is also used to create sympathy for Jane.
hall is a large country house, this shows off their wealth. Furthermore we know
they are well-off by the furniture and rooms described. Examples that show
wealth are ‘folds of scarlet drapery’ and ‘small breakfast-room adjoined the
drawing room.’ They also own numerous bed chambers and own lots of books. Only
the rich owned books; only the rich were taught to read. The use of rich
materials ‘covered in a crimson cloth’ suggests wealth and opulence.
Jane doesn’t like living at
hall. Despite all the wealth and comfortable furniture Jane does not fit it
because she is unloved hence this big house doesn’t feel like home to her. Jane
feels a sense of awkwardness in this big house an example of this is ‘I was a
discord’. Jane is left isolated in this mansion, unloved, for she is neither a
servant nor is she accepted as part of the family. ‘You are less then a
servant, for you do nothing for your keep.’
Bronte starts chapter 1 with pathetic fallacy and then uses it to lead into Mrs Reads’ dislike for Jane. Jane detests the cold and wintry weather as she despises the Reeds. The miserable setting is affective at setting the mood and reflecting Jane’s emotions-‘clouds so sombre’. Even Jane’s imagination is dark and isolated. Whilst looking through adventure books filled with images she uses words like ‘forlorn, bleak, dreary and desolate’. Jane sees the worst of everything ‘ghastly moon’ because the Reeds are always negative towards her. Her imagination and ideas reflect her depression.
Bronte’s description of the red room also creates sympathy for Jane. Jane’s passionate and wild emotions transform the bedchamber into a vision of pure horror. ‘Glittering eyes of fear’. The red room is described in Jane’s point of view: scary, overwhelming and horrific. It is called the red room to add an element of fear, passion and danger. Abbot uses gothic references to panic Jane. For instance ‘God will punish her: he might strike her dead’ ‘say your prayers Miss Eyre’ and ‘ something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away.’ The servants shut Jane in the room leaving her to her terrors and nightmares. Jane thinks her uncle has come back from the dead to haunt her because his last wish has not been carried out. Jane sees the room with a supernatural presence. Everything in the room becomes terrifying, such as ‘the room was chill’. Although the red room is scary it also has a sense of mystery-‘Secret drawer’. As the room gets darker and the day turns to night Jane’s imagination goes wild. ‘Glittering eyes of fear’ and tiny phantoms’ are examples of what Jane sees in the dark room. Nothing is how it usually seems, furniture becomes bloody and ghostly. The concept of a big, dark and empty room with a little girl in it increases our sympathy for Jane. It is clear that Jane is vulnerable and has an emotional break down when she faints.
The novel Jane Eyre is written in first person narrative. This makes the eponymous heroines experiences so real. She describes the settings, her family and her treatment in her own perspective. ‘Me she had dispensed’. In addition it makes the novel true to life, convincing and recognisable; we see events from Jane’s point of view. The first person narrative is also an effective device for creating a bond between the reader and the main protagonist, our sympathy is naturally extended unconditionally towards Jane; we feel what she is going through. Hence we are encouraged to be sympathetic towards her situation.
Jane sees herself as an inferior and less attractive to her cousins. For example ‘humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority.’ As a result to her low self esteem and lack of confidence she is a likely victim of bullying as she is so vulnerable and such an easy target.
We are sympathetic towards Jane as she recalls her childhood in an adult’s point of view and our sympathy increases as the adult Jane acknowledges that no matter how stunning she was Mrs Reed would always be irritated by her. ‘Now, at the distance of-i will not say how many years, i see it clearly’, ‘i had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed.’ Mrs Reed is irritated by Jane because Jane is above the intelligence of a child-Jane would rather read a book than play outside-and her aunt does not understand this so she excludes Jane instead of trying to understand her.
Bronte reveals Jane as a lonely and isolated character. Her life is so sombre, so lamentable, that even when she tries to escape from her realty to the world of her imagination it is dark, desolate and filled with evil. She hasn’t been loved or happy in so long that she can’t imagine what it’s like. Jane looks at adventure books and separates herself from the rest of the world, leaving her to her own imagination. She hides behind the curtains and reads. ‘Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view’
Bronte uses very little dialogue between Jane and Mrs Reed to emphasise on the coldness and distance of their relationship. Jane never asks Mrs Reed anything, the only time they speak consists of Mrs Reed chiding Jane. ‘Jane, i don’t like cavillers or questioners’.
Mrs Reed thinks of Jane as a nuisance and doesn’t value her ideas or opinions. More over Mrs Reed thinks Jane always acts and lies- ‘I was a precocious actress in her eyes’- that everything Jane does is just a charade. Mrs Reed addresses Jane as if Jane is always lying. Even when Jane is begging her aunt to get out of the red room her aunt shows no mercy. ‘I abhor artifice’. Mrs Reed is very much dictatorial and shows no affection towards Jane. We readers are initially shocked by how Mrs. Reed treats Jane and by the way she speaks we instantly know that she is in charge and has the power.
Bronte uses John Reed as a catalyst to increase our sympathy for Jane. We, as the reader going through Jane's experiences, loath John. ‘Every morsel of flesh on my bones shrank when he came near.’ John Reed constantly dehumanises Jane and physically bullies her. John is a big, fat 14 year old boy and Jane is a petite, 10 year old girl. The idea of such a big grotesque boy bullying such a small terrorised girl increases our sympathy for Jane and our envy towards John. John is the master of the house. He can do what he wants, when he wants and he knows that there won’t be any consequences for the actions he takes. ‘He bullied and punished me’. ‘Won’t i tell mamma? But first...’ John exploits his power by bullying Jane. Furthermore John forces Jane to address him how he wishes and constantly belittles her.
Jane's’ resentment and strong will to keep on going through the suffering she faces in the hands of John Reed shows her strength and potential to do well and be successful.
By the end of chapter 2 Bronte has successfully described Jane’s increasing anxiety and fear which increases our sympathy for Jane. We readers recognize that Jane has been treated unfairly. Through chapters 1 and 2 we watch Jane’s fear increase and progress until all the tension and anxiety is too much for ten year old Jane and she loses control. In conclusion by the end of chapter Jane is a victim of bullying, terrified and isolated but surprisingly she still has a strong spirit that nothing can get past and from this we know that Jane inevitably will do well.