For my comparison I have chosen the following novel and play to compare, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Spoonface Steinberg by Lee Hall. The two authors of these stories show different ways in portraying first person narrative and childhood. The way that they use these two main themes is what I have chosen to compare. Spoonface Steinberg is a heart-warming, funny and moving story about life, death and faith, told from the viewpoint of a young autistic girl dying of cancer. Jane Eyre is a story of a young girl who is orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead and is subject to the cruelty at Lowood charity school.
Jane Eyre is a girl who grows up to be a heroic, powerful and passionate woman and her story shows the changes and inspirations that made her search for a wider and richer life than that traditionally accorded to her sex in Victorian Society. Charlotte Bronte wrote the book in 1847 and it is split up into 3 volumes, indicating the three different stages of her life. Spoonface Steinberg consists of a straightforward monologue, only spoken by Spoonface. Therefore the whole play is spoken in first person narrative. It isn’t split up into acts or scenes, but she just goes from one topic to another.
As a child herself, she talks about her childhood right from when she was a baby to the age she is now (approx 8/9 yrs old). As the play opens, she is talking over the opera music being played in the background. This is similar to Jane Eyre as she also narrates the story in first person narrative, although, unlike Spoonface there are separate chapters, which make up the three volumes. And she also talks about her life but because she is a lot older than Spoonface, there is more to talk about her life than there is with Spoonface. The first section of speech in Spoonface that she says is a very moving one.
She talks about the “olden days” and how you died, “as long as you died beautifully, like how the singers sing and in all of the singing when people heard it they would have a little piece of beauty – which is very important”. I think when she says this, the audience would be moved as its quite an intense subject for a girl of her age to be talking about and the reader or audience wouldn’t expect her to talk about those sorts of things either.
This is also apparent with Jane Eyre; she is very bold and fiery character wise and speaks her mind instead of keeping it inside of her. E. g. “”Wicked and cruel boy! I said. “You are like a murderer – you are like a slave-driver – you are like the Roman emperors! “” This shows her rebellious nature to the way she is being treated in the house by her Aunt and her cousins and how her heart and not her mind dominate her. Spoonface deals with quite an emotive topic for the opening scene but then she also adds a child’s innocence into it. E. g. ”
I would sing the dying and people would love – and I would sing the dying and there would be a lovely piece of beauty in the world – and I would sing the dying and be as free as a little bird floating up to heaven. These are the last things she says before the first topic change and I think it is really touching for an audience to watch and hear that sort of intensity coming from a small girl. This is a contrast to Jane Eyre, because Jane Eyre could be described to be far from innocent. She is daring, confident and strong willed and could be seen as a radical in her own right. Spoonface Steinberg is written in long paragraphs and not full sentences either.
They are all cut off by dash’s that may signify pauses in speech and also shows that she is thinking about so many different things as each little part of speech leads onto the other. E. g. “I came to be Spoonface Steinberg – because my other name is Steinberg – but I never even knew because I was just a little baby – and all the stars and planets were moving inside of me and I was looking up and the world as was bright as colours and as shimmery as light and I was just a baby – and when you’re a baby you have a soft head and that – and that’s what makes you backwards.
Spoonface’s overall speech is very simple and sweet, but she knows what she’s talking about and the fact that it is fairly simple brings out her child like qualities. Whereas Jane Eyre usually has long sets of speech and lengthy descriptions, which set the scene very well and give the reader a clear image of her surroundings. E. g. ” the quite solitary churchyard, with its inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly risen crescent, attesting the hour of even-tide”
The writer makes Spoonface’s speeches intertwine with her childhood innocence and naivety but yet looking past the text and her words, what she says does actually make sense. Lee Hall has had the difficult task of writing this story through the eyes of an autistic child and has done this well, so as not to make Spoonface totally incapable of expressing herself clearly to the reader or audience. She, as a character, has lots of thoughts going through her mind as she is frequently being troubled by her life, and a lot goes on in her life bearing in mind she is of a young age also.
This is also the case with Jane Eyre. She has been orphaned and sent to live with her Aunt Reed and three cousins. They all treat her like she lives as a servant in their house and yet Jane still manages to cope with it and endure it at such young age. She is frequently tormented by the family who only respond to her rebellions with some sort of punishment. E. g. ” I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder… I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck… e called “Rat! rat! ” and bellowed out aloud” Her isolation makes her, in the period that this story was set in, doubly vulnerable to indifference and cruelty suffered in both her school and house. Spoonface talks about past events and almost gives quotes but not directly to the reader.
It’s in the way she says things and the way the author uses the dashes in her speech. E. g. when she talks about her Mom and Dad and why they split up. Then one day Dad said that he had met one person who was doing a different PhD to Mam and that she was very nice and that he would go away to live with her for a bit – and Mam said that she was glad of him to go – and even though I was backwards and that – it would be better than his stupid face-” Spoonface obviously doesn’t think that her dad has a “stupid face” and she doesn’t know if her Dad’s new girlfriend is “very nice” but when she tells this to the reader or audience its as if she is trying to convince them also in the bargain, because this is what she’s heard when she was witnessing the fight.
She shows traits of a malapropian here but isn’t using these words in a ludicrous form; she just uses them because it’s what she has heard. Lee Hall has also done this well because, he doesn’t just tell the reader or audience about Spoonface’s Mom, Dad etc; he tells stories and tells us what they said and how they said what they did. He talks to us about how they acted in different situations and how Spoonface acted towards them or how she felt about them. I think that because it is a monologue, it is hard sometimes to bring out characters and their traits equally, but Lee Hall demonstrates this well.
Jane Eyre brings out the different characters in the book, by their behaviour in different situations and their relationship with Jane. Like with John, she describes him as ” large and stout for his age, with a dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage, heavy limbs and large extremities” As the reader, I don’t think that this is a particularly flattering description and she does this because she shows hatred towards him because of his actions and behaviour towards her, which is natural.
Whereas with a person that she admires and trusts such as, Miss Temple she describes her as ” tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes, with a benignant light in their irids, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round… refined features; a complexion, if pale, clear; and a stately air and carriage… ” This is a definite contrast to the previous description and as I said before but in an opposite way, Jane respects Miss Temple because she shows kindness and empathy towards Jane and so Jane admires her.
Spoonface has a distinct way of talking and explaining things. Towards the end of the play, the mood gets very sombre and thoughtful because it’s at the point in her life where she knows she’s going to die of cancer soon but yet she doesn’t think about it in that way. She faces reality but also she turns it into a good thing, as if to say death isn’t something you need to be afraid of. It’s a part of life and things will still carry on the way they always have. E. g.
Sometimes it is scary – but to think that I’ll not be is impossible because I’m here – and when I’m not here there’ll still be cows and grass and vegetables and radios and telephone machines and cardiologists and soup tins and cookers and walks in the rain and music and my coat and my shoes and my Mam and Dad and flowers – everywhere there’ll be something in the whole world everything will be full except me-” This part of the play is quite sad, and the audience or reader would most probably feel the most pity for Spoonface at this moment in time. Although she is a strong character it isn’t evident till the end part of the play.
I think this is due to her innocence and the way she comes across to the reader or audience first of all. In contrast to this, Jane is a strong character throughout the book and she shows this by many things, such as the fact that she is an orphan, her traumatic childhood both at home and at Lowood school, the death of her good friend, Helen Burns and the difficulties she has with Mr Rochester. This shows that throughout all of this, she has taken these experiences and they have turned out to help her become a woman that is independent, passionate, intense and yet compassionate and loving.
Spoonface relates her life to what she has heard from people and she realises that although she is dying, some people have been though much worse. E. g. when Doctor Bernstein tells Spoonface about the concentration camps of the Second World War ” Concentration camps were these places where they took Jewish people to burn – this is what the doctor said – he said that there loads of people and the Nazi’s shot them and then they starved them and it was horrible for his poor Mam-… nd I felt sorry for the doctor when he told me these things – and he never said any of this to scare me – he said all of this to help me because the whole lesson of the stories was that little children were braver than everybody else” This shows strength and hope in her character. Because Jane Eyre was written at a different time period to Spoonface Steinberg, children were obviously portrayed in a different way towards the public.
Children in the Nineteenth Century, unless they were rich, were seen as extra employees for factories mainly. Only the well off citizens got an education for their children and brought them up in an environment where they weren’t exposed to the lower classes. Girls and women were seen to be, people of the house that stayed there and were escorted round by their husbands if anyone were to. They were treated as second-class citizens and men had all the power.
This is probably why Jane Eyre shocked some critics at the time because of her rebellious nature and outspoken ways. Charlotte Bronte uses a lot of pathetic fallacy in her novel, E. g. ” solitary rocks” and “ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast”. I think this is because of the fact that it was written in the romantic era where books were based on the heart ruling the mind and emotional and long descriptions were frequently used.
Contrasting to this, I think mainly because of the period Spoonface is set, and because she is a child throughout the play, Lee Hall doesn’t use pathetic fallacy. All in all I think that both these stories have similarities and differences, but more similarities than differences and most probably because of the period that it was set and what main writing themes were being carried out back then. In Jane Eyre there is a lot more social and cultural differences but in Spoonface, they area lot less recognised.