Charlotte Brontï¿½ wrote Jane Eyre in 1847. Throughout this novel, Bronte criticizes and challenges some views and believes that she experienced herself within the injustice of Victorian society.
In this essay, I will be focusing on Chapter 26 to discuss the elements Brontï¿½ uses such as building up tension throughout the wedding until the discovery of Bertha. Secondly, I will be analyzing the context of the novel, discussing the writing techniques Brontï¿½ uses to create an appealing novel for a 19th-century audience.
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From the beginning of the novel, we are invited to share Jane’s thoughts and feeling through the use of 1st personal narrative. This allows us to share her fears and excitement. The gothic elements in the novel such as the “demonic laugh” create a sense of dread. This is heightened by the pathetic fallacy of “the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard had been struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split away” which symbolizes the happy union of Jane and Rochester and that is split in two. Therefore at the beginning of chapter 26, we are already afraid that something is going to ruin the marriage.
At the start of chapter 26, Brontï¿½ presents Jane’s and Mr. Rochester’s wedding as unconventional. She does this initially by creating the sense of speed that Rochester imposes on Jane. The writer uses words such as “hurried” “tarry” and hastened” which creates suspicion as to the cause. This is in contrast to the expectations of a conventional wedding where the couples take time planning their big day.
Then, Bronte continues to develop that apprehension by describing Jane, the heroine and narrator of the novel. She describes Jane’s reflection while wearing her wedding dress as “the image of a stranger” allowing Bronte to indicate that the marriage and her role in it are somehow unnatural and wrong. This is emphasised also by the repetition that invites contrast with a normal wedding “there were no groomsmen, bridesmaids, no relatives to wait for or marshal: none but Mr. Rochester and I”
Brontï¿½ continues to challenge the stereotype of a “conventional wedding” by describing the setting outside the church. In the quote “a ruddy morning sky” she uses Pathetic Fallacy to describe Jane’s deeply emotional and spiritual connotations of the colour red creates not only a scene of a beautiful sunrise but also of passion and danger. Also, Brontï¿½ adds “a rook wheeling round the steeple” to emphasize that the wedding won’t go as planned because rooks are considered as bad omens. As readers, we notice Brontï¿½’s frequent use of bad omens to give the impression of terrible events that will happen as the novel progresses and these all add to the gothic feel of the novel.
As the ceremony begins Bronte has deliberately not given the rest of the vows and allows the clergyman to take “a step further forward” before he went on, which indicates the importance of the next event. He continues to say “that if either of you know any impediment…” Given the haste and unnatural quality of the events, the reader is already tense when “a distinct and voice said- …I declare the existence of an impediment” provides the clear answer to the reader’s speculations making this a successful climax to the tension built during the long pause where after that sentence it was never “broken by a reply; not, even in a hundred years.”
Subsequently, Rochester is presented as weak against God’s law. In the quote, “Mr. Rochester moved slightly as if an earthquake had rolled under his feet” the use of metaphor to express Rochester’s reaction to the earthquake as he “moved slightly” shows Rochester’s attempt at control. However, his hopes and plans have been destroyed by those few words symbolized in the presence of an earthquake. To call attention to his power, Rochester uses the imperative “Proceed” to continue the failed wedding hoping the clergyman would follow his order.
After the ceremony is suspended, Brontï¿½ turns Rochester from a bridegroom into a “colourless rock.” She describes his eye using imagery of fire as both “spark and flint” to illustrate Rochester’s emotions. In contrast to Rochester’s inner emotions, Brontï¿½ uses a simile to compare Rochester externally as a “quarried marble.” He is emotionless, strong and cold from the outside, but inside his world is of fire which symbolizes his passion and rage as a threat. This is further emphasized as Brontï¿½ uses the repetition of the word “without” and the alliterative in the quote “without speaking, without smiling, without seeming” heightens Rochester’s lack of any signs of warmth towards Jane at a time when she needs comforting making this line effective.
However, Rochester’s body language contrasts with his emotions indicated by his “hot and strong grasp.” This suggests the heat of the fire has penetrated through the deep icy walls of his rock-like body and further suggests his difficulty in keeping in control. But, the verb “riveted” stresses his determination to keep his possession of Jane when he is likely to lose her. But, he also denies almost her rights as an individual treating her as an object.
Jane does not utter a word throughout the short ceremony as she is “calm and collected” and “in no danger of swooning.” which further emphasise Jane’s courage in adversity contrasting with the stereotypes of the fragile Victorian Lady.
Bronte emphasises Jane’s strength again when the wedding party moves to the attic where we meet Bertha, the first Mrs Rochester or “the madwoman in the attic” is an intriguing subject. She is an elusive figure who never speaks and is only seen twice throughout the novel; yet she dominates it. Her presence is felt effectively from the moment Jane enters Thornfield: “It was a curious laugh; distinct, formal, mirthless.”
Her actions convey her violent behaviour such as attacking Rochester twice and her brother. She also tears Jane’s wedding veil the night and her final act is burning down Thornfield Hall. Bertha’s actions do seem to convey that she is aware of what is going on at Thornfield, which makes us wonder what kind of insanity she is suffering from. There is an implicit jealousy of Jane in her actions, or at least her position as a recipient of Rochester’s love. She manifests great anger towards her husband because he has kept her shut away for so long. The description of Bertha where we witness her for the first time is from Jane’s point of view and seen terrified of her describing her as a “strange wild animal” with “grizzled hair, wild as mane” and she stands “on all fours” suggesting animal-like behaviour that provokes to the reader to see Bertha as a threat and an obstacle to Jane’s and Rochester’s happiness rather than a real woman. While we may feel some pity for Bertha, the reader feels horror that Rochester is not allowed to find any happiness with a loving woman. Bronte uses images of madness to describe Bertha, such as “a figure ran backwards and forwards” to give the audience the impression of Rochester’s bitterness and resentment of Bertha.
Bertha Mason is on first impression opposite of both Jane and the stereotypes of a Victorian woman. Although there are differences, when looking deeper Jane has some similarities with Bertha concerning both their past. Both were locked up previously for being “awkward or insane” and both were treated as outcasts by society for not conforming. However, there are some aspects of racial prejudice towards Bertha even when Rochester talks of how beautiful she was a young girl. Since she is from the West Indies which was once a British colony could imply that Britain feared and psychologically “locked away” the other cultures it encountered. Others could argue that Bertha symbolizes the “trapped” Victorian wife, who is expected never to work outside the house as women had inferior status to men. Furthermore, Bertha’s insanity could serve as warning for Jane’s future if she was to marry Rochester.
At the end of Chapter 26, the reader sympathizes more intensely for Jane. She is saddened and confused about what actions should she take or angry for being rushed and dragged into a wedding where if she had taken time and thought it would have resulted in a happy ending. Brontï¿½ once more uses “Pathetic Fallacy” to show Jane’s cold and disheartened mood in the quotes, “hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud” although it’s “June”.
Here Bronte uses icy imagery which is in contrast to the fire imagery used to describe Rochester’s emotions. The world around her has symbolically become icy, frozen and cold to sympathize with Jane’s dead hopes and therefore she returns to God for comfort. This makes the next part of the novel inevitable, and also explains the moral purposes of Brontï¿½, and the need for Rochester to suffer.
This novel is often interpreted as a political book because it explores the idea of woman [Jane] alone, in charge of her own life and decisions. Jane could easily be described as a “feminist.” She rejects the man she loves until such time as she can be his equal. She would rather be alone and independent than with Rochester on his terms.
To conclude, I think that Jane Eyre is an interesting book that will appeal to readers both now and in the 19th century as some of the injustices are still occurring today. Bronte used many techniques in this book to build up tension throughout the ceremony. For example, she uses the method of ‘Pathetic Fallacy’ as well as many symbols of bad omens to create suspense. She also uses aspects from the history of her time like class boundaries, equality very effectively to make the reader aware of the hardships of being a woman in a patriarchal society. Another way in which Bronte creates tension is by using the shifts in power between Jane and Rochester making this chapter an effective climax to the novel.
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