How does Charlotte Bronte develop the adult Jane Eyre through the presentation of the child
Bronte presents many of Jane’s characteristics in her adult years through the development of Jane’s childhood. The subtle hints of change in character are developed into more obvious changes throughout the course of her childhood – her abrupt change of environment and the change in affection given are all factors which allow Jane Eyre to develop some characteristics, and above all maintain others. Bronte exploits many techniques to present the child Jane Eyre’s variable demeanour, such as the abruptness of her dialogue, the variation of the sentence structure, and the changing use of vocabulary to convey Jane’s reaction to certain situations.
Jane’s neglect from love and her inquisitive and passionate demeanour are apparent in the first stages of the book, and form the basis of the adult Jane’s character. Charlotte Bronte presents the child as resourceful, fiery and curious, and employs use of dialogue and events to suggest the child’s development of character to that of the adult Jane. Firstly, Jane Eyre is presented as passionate and having a vehement nature, especially when confronting those who show very little kindness or sympathy.
This is especially pronounced when Jane is confronted by John Reed; shortly after being scolded and being struck by an incoming volume, Jane shouts the words “you are like the Roman Emperors, like a slave driver”. This suggests that Jane is willing to fight against the Reeds’ tyranny, and does not easily give in to authority. The words “slave driver” suggests that John is an unjust tyrant, and, at the same time, he is only willing to make a profit in any circumstance. The words “Roman Emperor” further emphasise John’s cruelty, and furthermore compare him to a symbol of greed and lust for power.
This is perhaps dramatic irony – John Reed’s gambling problems lead to his demise, near the end of the book. All of the words Jane uses, as well as her belligerence, in this context, suggest her passionate hatred of dictators. This is perhaps conveyed further on in the book when her fiery nature is changed into her passionate yearning for Rochester. Nevertheless, through Jane’s passionate nature, Bronte presents Jane as being aligned to the higher end of the moral scale, and having developed a sense of right and wrong.
Bronte suggests Jane Eyre’s morals often, and perhaps fully employs this during Jane’s time at Lowood. One such instance is when Jane is discussing Helen’s doctrine of endurance and, in reply, Jane says “I must resist those who punish me unjustly”. This leads the audience to believe that Jane is willing to counter unjust authority, and her passion allows the reader to feel she has an ideal of endurance different to Helen’s. Jane thinks that she should not have to endure pain when she does not deserve it; her discussion of what she would do in several situations further demonstrates this.
Helen, however, thinks in a different way – she believes if she endures pain, and listens to advice, she will learn to correct her faults. On the other hand, Jane is not a pacifist; she believes in the “eye for an eye” doctrine, and is reluctant to be passive, unless treated with respect. This is shown at one point when Jane instinctively argues with Mrs Reed after she has accused Jane of having a deceitful character. However, when Jane Eyre fully develops into an adult, later on in the book, her doctrine has suddenly changed – her intolerance of those who bully her is removed.
She adopts Helen’s ideas, after her death, and tolerates Rochester, and is suddenly no longer “one of life’s fighters”. Thirdly, Jane’s idea of morals and resistance form the basis of why she is so passionate to fight tyrants. Her passion is perhaps at its highest during her confrontation with her Aunt Reed. Here, several times after Mrs Reed civilly replies to each of Jane’s accusations, until Jane builds up a calculated rage and unleashes all her fury onto Aunt Reed through a series of words. After this outburst, Jane says “my blood was still warm; the mood of the revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour”.
This allows the audience to believe that Jane resists any figures who is dishonest about her character, and otherwise treats her, to an extent, unfairly. The image of warm blood tends towards her hatred of dishonesty and tyranny. The blood is warm. This suggests that Jane’s demeanour violently changes when exposed to injustice, and that she is still pulsing with her passionate hatred of Mrs Reed. Furthermore, blood also connotes the image of vitality and life. Jane is now full of “vigour” for the events ahead, and has taken a new outlook on them, at Lowood.
The connotations of “slave” are usually helplessness and misery. The fact that Jane has revolted Aunt Reed’s tyranny demonstrates that she is now free of her injustice. However, the fact that Jane is now a “revolted slave” suggests entirely different connotations. Jane’s victory, like a revolted slave’s, will not last for long; this will only rid her of tyranny for a couple of days; Mr Brocklehurst will now become the dictator. The adult Jane, however, has a different character from the child, but perhaps still maintains a few traits. The passion still remains, but in a different form.
Other than the passionate love for Rochester, she displays great emotion when out on the moor, where she is adamant on dying. Nonetheless, Jane’s passionate nature and emotional disposition fuel her desire for knowledge and to try anything new or otherwise unfamiliar to her. Bronte fully applies this aspect of Jane Eyre’s character when meeting Helen Burns for the first time at Lowood. Here, curiosity is shown to satisfy her liking of reading. Here, after Jane asks Helen to inspect the book “Rasselas”, she thinks “Now, perhaps I can get her to talk”.
This quotation suggests that Jane is curious to do anything new, most notably trying to make a new friend. This is understandable. Her neglect from love from the Reeds is now forcibly changed from suspicion into curiosity. This helps the audience feel the weight of Jane’s plight during her early childhood with the Reeds. By extension, Jane’s thirst for knowledge is demonstrated even further by her willingness to ask Helen some questions. The monosyllabic answers that follow, e. g. “do you live a long way from here? ” even suggest that information is what she wants to acquire above all else.
However, the adult Jane is not distinguished from the child version in this matter. Jane’s thirst for knowledge always stays the same. This is proven when Jane is inquiring into the cackles of Lady Rochester, who is unknown to her. Bronte’s portrayal of Jane as curious suggests a degree of conscientiousness and accuracy, most likely to fully grasp the new skills Jane has been acquainted with. Jane applies her meticulous character and detailed mind frequently; this is to illuminate Jane to the teachers and students of Lowood in a more positive light.
One such example is when Jane observes Helen’s lesson on the veranda, while learning how to sew. She says “I was glad when…. Mrs Smith put into my hands a border of muslin and yarn”. Jane would like to be acquainted with the school a little more, and learning a new skill is satisfying her curiosity. This is perhaps to signify to the reader that the Reeds showed little enthusiasm towards her development, and she is willing to become friends with the students at the school. However, Jane also shows a degree of intelligence and creativity.
This is exaggerated at its most during her conversation with Miss Temple and Helen. The repetition of single words like “never” conveys the abruptness of her dialogue. This shows that Jane’s curiosity and character are dispelled after being exposed to dishonesty, and she loses her fluent communication. However, after being comforted, she does show some intellectual capacity. There is variation of her sentence structures, and a vast vocabulary has started to be used. This shows that above all else, Jane needs compassion and sympathy to become happy.
The adult Jane, however, keeps this aspect of character. Her meticulous nature is shown towards Adele, her student at Thornfield hall. But this time, there is one significant change. Instead of asking for compassion, she gives it, and only passively asks for it; it is not essential to her livelihood, because unlike her childhood, she is no longer under the authority of Mrs Reed. In conclusion, I think Jane Eyre’s passion fuels all her other main traits and forms the basis of all her characteristics, to develop into the adult Jane Eyre.
Her passion guides her to follow her doctrine of endurance, and allows her to be reluctant to be passive. However, above all, Jane’s curiosity is a guideline to how she develops into the adult Jane. It fuels her to try anything unfamiliar or different to her, and above all, moulds her intellectual capacity, determination and passion. Furthermore, Bronte uses all of these aspects to create the flaws and good points of Jane’s demeanour. The abrupt nature of her dialogue, the variation of her sentence structure all convey her character and form the guidelines of how she will develop into an adult.