What is the significance of reading and writing in Jane Eyre? How is this significance conveyed both in the content or plot of the narrative and in how it is narrated? 

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the era in which Jane Eyre takes place - the early nineteenth century, education existed according to social status. Boys and girls were taught separately and subjects differed between genders; girls mainly learning the arts and boys concentrating on the sciences.

Being able to read and write would have allowed a middle class female to obtain work as a governess - the preferred method of schooling for younger upper class children. So, despite Jane's desperate circumstances, her education allows her to work as a governess where she meets the passionate Mr Rochester.

Jane Eyre, narrated in the first person, allows Charlotte Bronte to explore her own childhood and education. Jane is the author's voice, an independent woman whose strength of character serves to reinforce the plot of Jane Eyre and makes the story a passionate one. Jane's self-awareness and her convictions in the fight against how things are and how they should be; against contradiction and hypocrisy; encourage the flow of the novel and culminate in its ultimate conclusion.

The story line of Jane Eyre may have been unremarkable had Charlotte Bronte not used her skill and her narrative style to give this novel its ability to absorb the reader in the intricacies of life for the upper-middle classes. Reading and writing are skills that are taken for granted in the modern world but in the nineteenth century, they were the difference between respectability and obscurity.