Beginning with the serving of coffee Bronte shifts her narrative into the present tense. Why does she do this, and what is the effect on the reader?Chapter 17
Bronte switches to the present tense to communicate Jane's heightened state of awareness and sensation around Mr. Rochester, after she tried to convince herself of the fact that they'll never be together. Prior to this moment, we've read about how attracted Jane is to Rochester, how strong a connection she feels to him, how much she treasures and values his differences. Yet Bronte ends this moment with Jane concluding that she must abandon the hope of them ever being together.
The present tense in this passage gives the reader a sense of almost being in the room, enriching the words with a vividness and energy, that it's as if we're in the drawing room as well, looking around at all the characters.