‘Jane Eyre’ is a novel written and published in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte; the author had very strong opinions as a young woman although during the time period in which it was written it was unusual for a female to have such views. To overcome this issue Bronte used the pseudonym of Currer Bell to create the correct impression on the public. Since the pseudonym seemed ambiguous in gender the readers of that time would assume the opinions were of a male, hence taking the opinions seriously.
Charlotte Bronte uses multiple techniques in order to create sympathy for Jane, figurative language, personification and atmospheric descriptions are just a few methods the author uses in conjunction with Jane’s own personal feeling and actions to thoroughly ensure the reader can empathise with Jane’s distressed situations. So, firstly the main technique used by Bronte is gothic imagery which is used throughout the novel. Charlotte Bronte used an almost excessive amount of gothic descriptions to thoroughly stress the sympathy created for Jane.
A gothic atmosphere is given by the natural imagery of the weather, ‘the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating’, Bronte’s use of negative adjectives; ‘cold’, ‘sombre’ and ‘penetrating’, gives the impression that Gateshead is surrounded by bleak, grey weather which represents Jane’s miserable life and the emotions she feels as a result of the dull life she leads. This creates sympathy for Jane as the readers would become empathetic about what life would be like imprisoned in a boring, miserable home with no day unlike any other, all of them the same tedious experience.
Another major section of the novel showing this technique is in chapter two when Charlotte Bronte is developing the gothic description to explain the connotations of the ‘Red Room’. ‘The red room is a spare chamber’, in which Jane Eyre has been sentenced to as a biased punishment from her aunt, Mrs Reed. The first of many descriptive sentences of this room, ‘a bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany’ immediately gives the impression of large, towering items of furniture intimidating the small frame of Jane.
The use of the phrase ‘massive pillars’ portrays how Jane feels the least important within the Reed household, each individual pillar could represent a member of the Reed family having vast amount of power over her. On the other hand, this phrase could represent how Jane Eyre would initially have been of lower to middle class although because of her upbringing by Mrs Reed she is labelled as upper class. This creates sympathy because she isn’t generally an upper class citizen so the use of language gives connotations to suggest Jane feels as if she doesn’t belong within that community.
Another key phrase written whilst Jane is in the Red Room whilst she finds her reflection in a mirror is, ‘the strange little figure there gazing at me’, this phrase has connotations that Jane is beginning to misunderstand who she is. Using the word ‘strange’ is effective as it lets the reader become aware that Jane is seeing an alien reflection staring back at her which represents how Jane is somehow seeing herself from a different perspective. If she can see herself from a non biased angle she has the opportunity to understand what she is doing wrong and how to change it.
The novel, when published, was thought to be a genuine autobiography of a real woman name Jane Eyre although this was not the case as Bronte used a very effective technique of using the first person narrative to create the idea that the book was a self written life story, speaking directly to the reader to ensure they can empathise with Jane because they feel she is talking to them personally. Also, since Jane is narrating her life ten years after the events occurred Bronte is able to allow Jane to analyse what happened and to remember how she felt with the understanding she had of herself and what she went through.
For example, ‘My hopes were all dead’ was one sentence Bronte used to explain Jane’s emotions through personification. This quote shows how little control she had over her emotions; if Bronte describes Jane’s emotions with human attributes, this method explains how Jane’s emotions may well have been individuals and control themselves. Another example is from the quote of ‘I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay stark, chill, livid corpses that could never revive. ‘, this represents how Jane sees her feelings as changes of seasons.
The phrase ‘yesterday so blooming and glowing’ represents colourful flowers or ripening fruits of spring and summer that her emotions had once portrayed, the verb ‘blooming’, when describing a person, shows to me how this character has recently grown in confidence and have become a genuinely, happy person. Secondly, when the word ‘glowing’ is used I felt that Jane showed a bright, smiling personality that brought on a warm atmosphere. Then, the harsh, conflicting description of ‘chill, livid corpses’ represents how quickly the warm and blissful emotions of summer can be ripped away to be replaced with the corpses of winter.
So, the quote shows how Bronte can describe in explicit detail by using personification to portray Jane Eyre’s feelings and emotions, this particular quote shows that Jane’s cannot keep in manage how she is feeling because her emotions change as seasons do, the seasons will always change and nothing can control that. Using personification within the first person narrative creates sympathy for Jane by expressing the emotions in very close detail, which makes the reader empathise with Jane because it becomes apparent through this method about the hardship she had endured.
Another reason for using the first person narrative is so the reader can understand the changes Jane Eyre goes through throughout her life; a descriptive opinion of Jane’s nearer the beginning of the novel is her opinion when she was a child, so if nearer the end of the book is her as an adult, ten years later, the reader can compare how her views change and how her impressions of other people have altered. In chapter four, when Jane Eyre is still a young ten year old girl, she meets the headmaster of Lowood School for the first time; Mr Brocklehurst. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! What a great nose! And what a mouth! And what large prominent teeth! ‘ This short paragraph Bronte uses when Jane describes Mr Brocklehurst represents how important it was for Charlotte Bronte to use the first person narrative, when the phrase of ‘now that it was almost level with mine’ reminds the reader how the description is coming from a young girl because Mr Brocklehurst had to crouch down to speak to Jane.
It is important that this response is of a young girl because the readers of the time period when it was written would have a different opinion to what would be said now, in the mid-1800s a young child of Jane’s age should be respectful of their elders and behave well under their supervision. So, the readers of this time period would have had a disapproving feeling towards Jane and feel less sympathy for her in these given situations. On the other hand, the reader of today would have an entirely opposite opinion towards Jane’s actions.
The quote is also an example of allusion; Charlotte Bronte would presume the reader knows the story of ‘Red Riding Hood’. This would encourage the reader of nowadays to become fond of Jane Eyre because her immediate reference to a character in another book shows how well read she is, thus creating the assumption that she is an intellectual young girl. This method of allusion within the first person narrative creates sympathy because Jane gains her entertainment from her own imagination which makes her dull life seem more exciting for her instead of living with no entertainment provided from her aunt.
The opening chapter to ‘Jane Eyre’ establishes Jane’s position within the Reed household; Charlotte Bronte uses many techniques to label Jane as the outsider in the family, natural imagery is used commonly within the novel, like the ‘leafless shrubbery’ to represent Jane’s emotional state affected by her treatment of the Reeds. The ‘leafless shrubbery’ is a representation of Jane; on a plant the leaves would represent health and life, although because Jane describes the shrubbery as ‘leafless’ it shows how she is lacking the emotional health a young girl would have.
Another analysis to this phrase could be that the use of the word ‘shrubbery’ emphasises how Jane is of least importance compared to the other family members, a shrub is a cheap, worthless object which symbolizes how Jane is also a worthless being in the eyes of the Reed’s. Jane also gives descriptions of physical actions the Reeds take which isolate Jane as if an outcast to the family, ‘She lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her.
The use of language Bronte has chosen for this phrase represent how the Reeds have the intention of segregating Jane from the family, the fire symbolizes emotional warmth which is issued by Mrs Reed to her beloved family although Jane doesn’t gain any of this emotional warmth. Sympathy is created for Jane as her lack of loving attention from her only parent figure making her seem a neglected child. The first time we read about Jane, she has positioned herself into a window seat in the small breakfast room, Bronte uses a particular vocabulary to evolve the fact that Jane does not belong within the Reed family.
Jane willingly isolates herself by drawing the curtains across the window so she is ‘shrined in double retirement’. Bronte uses the phrase ‘protecting, but not separating me’ to describe the window-seat to create sympathy for Jane, this is effective because Jane is, understandably, wanting to enclose herself within a protected environment away from the abuse and ill-treatment received from her cousins as well as their mother.
The word ‘protecting’ gives the impression that Jane is a vulnerable and defenceless child, so this choice of word has effective connotations for the reader to sympathise with Jane. Secondly, ‘but not separating me’ shows to the reader how Jane will never be able to get away from the Reeds even though she is unconsciously creating a barrier between herself and the Reeds, she will always have the relations to these people she detests even though she will try to do anything in her power to get away.
After Jane Eyre’s incident in the Red Room, Charlotte Bronte uses Jane’s emotions as a way to express how her unhappiness is not necessarily a result of the Reeds disrespect for her. Jane sits by the nursery heath crying silently, ‘no sooner had I wiped one salt drop from my cheek then another followed’, this phrase is effective in showing what emotive state Jane is in because it is showing to the viewer that whenever Jane tries to overcome the unhappiness she is smothered with during her stay at the Reeds another incident occurs to send her back to her equilibrium of sorrow.
The use of the words ‘no sooner’ represents how quickly and frequently bad situations occurred to Jane to make her feel so upset, also ‘salt’ is an effective word to use in this sentence as it shows the bitterness of the emotions Jane was currently feeling at that stage. Despite this, it does not seem that her unhappiness was an effect of the Reeds presence, ‘Yet I ought to have been happy, for none of the Reeds were there’, this explains that even when the people she dislikes aren’t there she is still upset, and therefore the solution to Jane’s problem is within herself.
Jane hardly ever has the opportunity to express her feelings and her worries to a family member, which every young child should have the chance to do. Jane needed a maternal figure in her life to care and love her in a way Mrs Reed would not. Other than the Reeds themselves and their servants few people come to the residence, so when Mr Lloyd, the family doctor, arrives to speak to Jane about the Red Room incident she has a rare opportunity to speak her mind. As well as the other techniques used by Bronte, the reader can also see the sympathy created for Jane by her actions towards other characters within the novel or their responses to Jane.
The first example associated with this is in chapter four when the young Jane stands up for herself when arguing with her aunt, Mrs. Reed has crushed Jane’s hopes of accomplishments at her new school of Lowood. ‘I am glad you are of no relation to mine. I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty. This powerful outburst from Jane creates a shocking effect on Mrs. Reed, Jane continues to express her feelings which had been hidden for many previous years and her aunt eventually accepts defeat. Mrs Reed shows signs of panic and worry as a result of Jane’s actions. ‘Mrs Reed looked frightened: her work had slipped from her knee; she was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even twisting her face as if she would cry. ‘ This quote shows how Jane has quickly overcome her fear of Mrs.
Reed, the phrase of ‘her work had slipped from her knee’ represents how she has suddenly lost control over Jane, it seems as if Jane is Mrs. Reed’s ‘work’ because she is a being of which Mrs. Reed has raised and brought up through childhood. She was also ‘lifting up her hands’, this can be connotations of surrender and how Mrs. Reed gives in to the verbal abuse she is receiving from Jane. The readers of the time when the book was published may not be feeling sympathetic towards Jane at this point in the novel, if children were raised during that time period they were usually taught to be seen and not heard.
The readers would frown upon Jane’s actions towards her aunt as she should be respecting her elders, especially those who have given her a roof and warmth. On the other hand, readers of the present day would probably feel both sympathetic and pride towards Jane as she has stood her ground, also the readers of today would probably rather a young child of Jane’s age speak up if they feel abused or neglected in any way rather than to live a life of adversity.
In conclusion, Charlotte Bronte creates sympathy for Jane by using many different techniques including using gothic imagery to create the dull atmospheric life Jane Eyre leads, the first person narrative creates an empathetic bind between the reader and Jane influencing them to believe how life was life for Jane and the hardship she was forced to endure and also her position within the Reed household. The author has successfully created a connection with Jane and the author, she incorporates many profound connotations to thoroughly ensure the reader understands and sympathises with her main character. The famous Jane Eyre.