Sympathy For The Character In Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

2594 words - 10 pages

In Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’, Jane instantly manages to make the reader empathise with her character. The way in which Brontë evokes this sympathy is by using a number of different methods: characterisation, the way in which the hierarchy of the characters is displayed, both physically and metaphorically; intricate choice of language, for example romanticising certain parts of the book to show intimacy between the characters and the reader; setting is also used to create sympathy for example the use of pathetic fallacy, is manipulated in conjunction with Jane’s mood or significance; narrative voices and the use of first person views throughout the entire book, create a negative semantic field, making the reader empathise with Jane.

The predominantly negative language used by Brontë, was designed to create sympathy for Jane. This negative semantic field shows the reader how Jane’s prospects are aligned with her environment. With the entire book written in an autobiographical form, the story has a truthful tone and Jane is then portrayed as a very austere character and the retrospective style enables the reader to relate to Jane’s experiences with the benefit of hindsight. Some language, for example, has a negative semantic field and has been romanticized by Brontë like the “half comprehended notions that float dim through children’s brains”. This quote invites real intimacy between the characters thoughts and the reader’s opinion of Jane. It reminds us that, even though Jane appears to be so mature, due to the retrospective approach of Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’, she still sees herself as very much a child and at this stage is optimistic to become older. This quality in Jane’s character evokes sympathy as Jane is seen here to be very frightened of her situation and is very reserved.

In the first chapter, Brontë uses the presence of a dominant male to create this sympathy. The clear dominance of the character John Reed in chapter 1 cannot be ignored. Brontë’s portrayal of John is characterised by her skilful choice of language, in conjunction with the narrative, structure and the characterisation of both John and Jane. John’s obvious, overbearing demeanour over Jane provokes sympathy in the reader. Jane is portrayed physically, as well as metaphorically, as much smaller than John. Jane is seen as vulnerable due to John’s dominance as a character in the beginning of the book. She describes John Reed as having “a dingy and unwholesome skin.” Here Jane is talking about John’s appearance as a teenager. Although this description of him appears to just be describing his physical appearance, “unwholesome skin” could be interpreted as a person whose appearance comes solely from the outside and who has a hollow inside, which we do see John to have later on in the book. Jane’s vulnerability is really shown when she says “I trembled at the idea of being dragged forth by the said Jack.” In this scene the use of both language and structure evoke not...

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