Examine Charlotte Bronte's art of characterisation in Jane Eyre.

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charlotte Bronte is a skillful creator of characters, don’t you think? Let’s look at Jane Eyre herself, for example. Not only is Jane the central character, but her character is also skillfully used to illustrate the author’s own viewpoints regarding gender issues during the Victorian period. Jane is a very atypical Victorian woman – she earns her own living, she is outspoken, she is strong willed, and when she flees Thornfield, she secures another position with the Rivers family. Mr. Rochester is one of the most romantic characters in literature. Jane and Rochester are the two main characters in the novel and the only truly developed ones, yet the minor characters are all temporary foils to these two main characters – also very clever. For example, St. John Rivers is handsome and intelligent, but cold and sterile – totally opposite from the passionate, dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. The negative qualities of many of the minor women characters all help illustrate the remarkable qualities that Jane possesses. Jane’s aunt, Mrs. Reed, lacks love and compassion and Jane has both of these. Although Blanche Ingram is a beautiful and well-heeled young woman of good breeding, Mr. Rochester prefers Jane because she is level-headed, honest and not a vacuous money-grubbing woman only interested in him because he is rich. Bronte’s creation of Bertha Mason is brilliant – her character is not developed, but every time Bertha shows up, there is some horrific example of gothic fiction that takes place – her eery laugh that reverberates throughout Thornfield, her mysterious roaming of the halls, her hovering over Jane in her bedroom, her destruction of Jane’s wedding veil, and finally setting Thornfield on fire.

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