Discuss how Charlotte Bronte employs narrative techniques in the novel Jane Eyre Throughout Jane Eyre, Bronte incorporates narrative techniques to emphasise certain points and to keep the reader’s attention. In the first few chapters of the novel we are introduced into the world she is surrounded by, with the use of very descriptive imagery, with a gothic element also incorporated for the audience to obtain a grasp of Jane’s situation. As the nature of the book develops and unravels, frequently used devices such as the incorporation of a gothic element is seen throughout many of the main chapters.
For example, the lead up before the fire scene is build up through the eerie laughs made by Bertha, although at the time we do not know this. Also, using first person narration emphasises not only the personality of the narrator, but also makes the audience feel as if they are being directly addressed and included within the novel. Literary techniques are re-enforced throughout the novel to directly emphasise certain points and re-iterate subjects within the reader’s mind.
For example, rhetorical questions asked by Mr. Rochester as he accuses Jane of never having felt love. The metaphors throughout the novel represent symbols for things that are needs or wants within Jane’s life, seen through food, fire and burning, the chestnut tree and the moon. Gothic imagery appears frequently throughout the novel, as Bronte has employed this element to become a technique to achieve the flow of the narrative. Through several important scenes, the gothic imagery is prevalent.
In the red room, it is described to be dark like blood, along with a mirror that provides ‘subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels’ and distorts her appearance. The red room is actually where Mr. Reed had taken his last breaths and Jane believes his ghost haunts the room, troubled by wrongdoing of his last wishes. In these few pages, the red room where a family member had passed away, the colour of the room itself and the romantic gothic scene of rain on the moors are prominent as parts of the gothic element and set precedent for the rest of the gothic elements within the novel.
The incident on the third floor of Thornfield introduces Jane and the reader to the first gothic aspects of what is to be the most extended location throughout the novel. Jane describes Thornfield as dark, old and laboured with the secrets and memories of the past. This sets Thornfield Hall as the mysterious manor which has the potential to turn supernatural ‘strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of moonlight’ as Jane claims. Through the beginning of the mysterious and curious laughs made, Ms.
Fairfax claims it is Grace Poole’s laugh, and as Jane does not believe this, neither does the reader. The reference to Blue Beard’s Castle is important because the French Fairytale is a Pre-Gothic account of a duke who murders all his wives and puts their bodies in different closets, and telling the new wives they are forbidden to look behind the doors. As every wife looks behind the door, they are murdered and this provides an interesting prediction of what is behind the door.
Although the tale is a pre-Gothic based plot, it resonates many of the gothic plot within the novel through the mysterious castle, the cold, damp, moonlight environment, the mysterious, misunderstood, enigmatic yet lovable male character, who is only understood and cured of his torment by the marriage or companionship with a good Christian female who would enter the plot (Jane). In the visitation to Jane’s room the night before her wedding, we see it is not Grace Poole, but Rochester’s first wife who is hysterical and insane, being watched over by Grace Poole in the attic.
In her visit to Jane’s room, Jane is revisited by the greatest terror, only equal to that of the red room as it is the only other time Jane has passed out. The enactment of Jane trying on the veil and gazing into the mirror, is later re-enacted by Jane the morning of the wedding (page 252). When Jane looks in the mirror she only sees ‘a robed and veiled figure… the image of a stranger. ’ This is a typical example of Gothic imagery employed throughout the narrative.
The narrative technique used for first person point of view is a constant point of view that creates a more consistent work, as it also tends to give more credibility or authority to the narrative, since the person telling the story (Jane) observed or was involved in all the incidents. ‘Reader, I married him’, is an example of how the first person point of view creates the sense of involvement between the narrator and the reader or the observer, as well as ‘I am glad you are no relation of mine. I will never call you aunt again as long as I live’.
This last quotation demonstrates the negative aspect to the first person narration, as it only presents a one-sided view on every situation and incident to occur in the novel. It is also limited to what the narrator saw or had heard as well as the interpretation of the remaining characters within the novel. Although the audience may feel very involved with the narrator’s experiences within the novel, the action is being completed before the story begins and the narrative may not be as vivid or lively as fiction using other points of view, and the characters and incidents may seem more distant.
Charlotte Bronte frequently employs natural imagery to illustrate dangerous and malicious realities that Jane herself does not see. At times, this imagery functions as straightforward as symbolism (e. g. Chestnut Tree). When lightning nearly entirely destroys the chestnut tree in the orchard on the evening on her engagement to Rochester, Bronte’s disapproval of their proposed union as one becomes clear. However, Bronte is also using this imagery to disguise and hide the transformations that will eventually occur between Jane and Rochester, seeing as the tree has not been divided by the roots – their eventual union will occur.
The emphasis on an ‘unquiet’ sea informs the reader that Jane could probably be in danger, and the nature of this danger refers to the vulnerable position she was in with her reputation. As during the historical context of the 1940’s, Jane’s position was extremely unstable as Rochester’s romantic advancements endanger her reputation. She has no proper family network to fall back on as support, and not even beauty as a resource ‘I will show you a heroine as plain and as small as myself’. Using symbolism throughout the novel the moon in Jane Eyre is used as a metaphor for change.
The moon is described of or seen many times throughout the novel, when Jane’s life is about to make a change. When Jane leaves Gateshead ‘by the light of a half-moon just setting’ (Ch. 5 p. 49), and also when she first meets Rochester ‘on the hill top above me sat the rising moon’ (Ch. 12 p. 132). Food is used throughout the novel to represent want. One example of this is when Jane is at Lowood School. Her food is scarce, and the older students usually take some from her plate to begin with.
The burnt porridge is given as an example; however the hunger Jane feels is not only from her physical desire for food, but also for personal growth as well. When she is finally accepted by the school, and begins to accomplish things for herself, she no longer focuses on her hunger as she is filling herself up with achievements, ‘That night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the Barmecide supper, of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk, with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings. I feasted instead on the spectacle of ideal drawings, which I saw in the dark – all the work of my own hands. (Chapter 8). Similar to this is that of when Jane is welcomed to the Moor House. She has barely eaten and begs for food, and physically weak due to her hunger. When she arrives at the house and is welcomed there, Jane becomes much more satisfied with the friendship she finds that the food she is offered. She had been hungry for companionship and finds it with Diana and Mary. Fire in Jane Eyre depicts the view of passion as an uncontrollable, almost violent force. After the wedding, when Jane suddenly finds out about Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s wife, Rochester requests her pledge of fidelity in return for his.
Jane is apprehensive about answering and describes her thoughts ‘a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved’ (pg. 278). This powerful image represents Jane and Rochester’s passion, and how Jane almost succumbs to the powerful force. The image of fire conveys the potentially destructive force in passion. Through different moods, different symbols the reader can be captivated throughout the novel by the narrative techniques employed by Charlotte Bronte.
Through first person narration we develop a closer relationship with the narrator, although we as the readers drift further apart from the other characters and our interpretations of them are not as broad as other points of view would have allowed them to be. With the use of natural imagery in metaphors, we see the double meanings of many symbols throughout the novel that suggest and predict the outcome of human nature, which introduces the gothic imagery and elements employed into the novel as well.
Through these techniques we develop more of an understanding of the text, and Jane and Rochester’s relationship as well as Jane’s personal growth. Through the use of fantasy (Blue Beard’s Castle) and symbolism (chestnut tree) gothic elements are employed into the novel frequently and emphasize the Romantic gothic elements prevalent within the novel. These narrative techniques are used to increase the flow of the narrative and its consistency in the description of the world surrounding Jane.