Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre emerges with a unique voice in the Victorian period for the work posits itself as a sentimental novel; however, it deliberately becomes unable to fulfill the genre, and then, it creates an altogether divergent novel that demonstrates its superiority by adding depth of structure in narration and character portrayal. Joan D. Peters’ essay, Finding a Voice: Towards a Woman’s Discourse of Dialogue in the Narration of Jane Eyre positions Gerard Genette’s theory of convergence, which is that the movement of the fiction towards a confluence of protagonist and narrator, is limited as the argument does not fully flesh out the parodies that Charlotte Bronte incorporates into her work. I will argue that in the novel the perceived narrative discourse as well as inner voice necessarily convey to its audience a restriction in design; however, this limitation in narratology does not diminish a literary work, rather the struggle between the narrative discourse and the inner voice expands the genre. Through the examination of characters which are centrally focused on the physical restraint of expression over passion, for instance when Helen Burns calmly accepts her punishment and Jane verbally lashing out at Mrs. Reed, are deprived of any seminal moment, and, therefore reduces them. Bronte subverts the narrator’s voice in the Millcote scene as well as the scene discussing Bertha with Jane and Rochester, to demonstrate that these moments are rupturing the traditional type of fiction in order to assert a superior form. Finally, I will analyze how the inner voice and narrative discourse converge in the final scene of Jane and Rochester discussing the past, in order to create a more fluid, intelligent, natural emotional Jane Eyre.
Helen Burns is characterized as long-suffering, in contrast with Jane Eyre who is passionate and at times incapable of containing her emotions, which demonstrates the sentimental style of the novel form, that creates a parodist rebellion, by which Jane needs to elevate herself in order to develop into a substantial character who has an eloquent inner voice and narrative control. Bronte portrays Jane as passionate to a fault at Gateshead for she is incapable of containing her emotions, and as a result, this leads to her momentary frenzied state. “How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back – roughly and violently thrust me back – into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day, though I was in agony, though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’ And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me – knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions this exact tale…You are bad, hardhearted. You are deceitful!” (44)
Jane is all emotion as she speaks with Mrs. Reed. She has no ability to restrain her emotions as she focuses on how she was physically assaulted and violently pleaded for mercy, in order to articulate a reasonable argument that may be handled by Mrs. Reed in a more refined fashion. Eyre demonstrates that the ‘bathetic sentimental novel’ is a type of narrative form which necessarily reduces the voice to rage without the fluidity of intelligence. In these words, she is incapable of restraining raging anger to make a point; she is consumed by the anger and misses the argument she desires to engage with Mrs. Reed. Peters declares Bronte is parodying the conventional form to demonstrate the fallacy of it being a form of high art. Bronte shifts to Helen Burns to continue revealing the limits of the sentimental novel. When Helen and Jane are discussing the refinement of character, Helen is conveyed as mild-mannered and devoid of emotion juxtaposed with Jane who is inept at voicing an astute...
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