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Childhood In Great Expectations And Jane Eyre

2424 words - 10 pages

Compare the presentation of childhood in Great Expectations and
Jane Eyre

Both "Jane Eyre" and "Great Expectation" adopt a typically Victorian
outlook on childhood, which can seem quite alien set against modern
values. However in both books, and particularly in "Jane Eyre", there
is an effort to create a convincing expression of childhood through
strong emphasis of the child's point of view above all others.

In both books there is a interesting use of hindsight within the first
person narration; not only does the narrator describe their childhood
with perfect clarity of detail "before the long hour and a half of
prayers and Bible-reading was over, I felt ready to perish with cold.
Breakfast time came at last, and this morning the porridge was not
burnt" but also with a very mature and refined description of events
that, at the time, the child would most likely not have been capable
of. In "Jane Eyre" this maturity of description is visible both
through the intricacy of the language "reader though I look
comfortably accommodated, I am not very tranquil in my mind" and
through the complexity of the ideas used "I was in discord in
Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with
Mrs Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage." However, Dickens
mostly attempts a slightly more realistically childlike and basic
narrative in "Great Expectations" than does Bronte in "Jane Eyre".
Linguistically, Dickens achieves this with a very structured
childlike, blow-by-blow listing of events "He turned it about in his
mouth much longer than usual, pondering over it a good deal, and after
all gulped it down like a pill. He was about to" but frequently he
changes the tone to one that is far more elevated "It was a rimy
morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my
little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and
using the window for a pocket-handkerchief." And often what is written
is directly intended for the audience of the period or an adult joke,
"a money box into which all my earnings were dropped. I have an
impression that they were to be contributed eventually towards the
liquidation of the National Debt". In this way Dickens could be
considered a little less 'true' to his characters than Brontë is, as
he regular interposes his own personality into his main character's
thoughts and dialogue "I saw speckled-legged spiders with blotchy
bodies running home, and running out from it, as if some circumstance
of the greatest public importance had just transpired in the spider
community."

However, all this is not to say that the authors were wrong to use
such techniques in their books; perfect recollection of the past is
accepted convention of first person narration, and it is not
unrealistic that an adult recalling their childhood would speak about
it from an adult perspective. Yet it is worthy of note that where
modern authors may draw attention...

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