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In Jane Eyre, is she speaking as a child, feeling and thinking only what she did then, or is she speaking as an adult looking back, filtering the child's rage and anguish through the calm reason and understanding of an adult?
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I would argue that both perspectives are accurate at different points in the novel. For example, she uses both viewpoints when discussing her time at the Reed household. Her childhood anguish is clear in the scene where John Reed attacks her after he finds her reading. Her shame and anger at the injustice of not even being able to spend time by herself with a book is clearly what she felt at the time. It is not filtered through her adult wisdom, not tempered by the years between the incident and her reporting it. We feel the incredible pain, both physical and emotional, that young Jane experiences in those moments. She doesn't try to rationalize or break down her response; she simply tells her audience what happened.
Later however, when she yells at Mrs. Reed, she explains her outburst in adult terms. She is literally shaking with rage at what Mrs. Reed told Mr. Brocklehurst, and she makes sure her "benefactress" knows exactly how she feels. Afterwards, she explains her feelings:
Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty. Not without cause was this sentiment. Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even twisting her face as if she would cry.
Although Jane recognizes how she feels at the moment, it is not until she is an adult, reliving the experience that she can tell exactly what that moment meant to her. In this case, it is the awakening of her soul, a sense of freedom that she never knew. She describes as an "invisible bond" bursting, an escape from the restrictions of the Reed household. Yet it is only years later that she can identify the true magnitude that this incident holds for her.
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