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Jane Eyre Commentaire Ej


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  • 1. Jeckert Emilie CAPES JANE EYRE COMMENTARY OUTLINE Chapter IV, pages 29-31: “Mrs Reed and I were left alone”…“she abruptly quitted the apartment”. INTRODUCTION Charlotte Brontë’s eponymous novel Jane Eyre, published in 1848, stands out among all the fictional autobiographies of the Victorian era. The story of heroin of poor extraction trying to earn a living as a governess and finding happiness by falling in love with a gentleman, if typical of a Dickensian Bildungsroman, nevertheless presents specificities. Jane Eyre’s juvenilia in particular sets the stage for an unusual treatment of the plight of the heroin. Her early childhood at Gateshead, the house of her aunt Mrs Reed, exemplifies the unique character of the narration. A solitary child isolated from the family circle, Jane, having just met Mr Brocklehurst and learned about her imminent departure to Lowood, the school in which her aunt wants to send her to be rid of her, confronts Mrs Reed to defined herself against the accusations of deceit which have just been proffered against her. In the passage under study, the retrospective narrator transcribes the conversation between Jane and Mrs Reed as well as Jane’s turmoil of emotions. The duel-like confrontation between the antagonistic characters marks a turning point in the story, as it symbolizes the reversal of roles between the two characters and the starting point of Jane’s rebellion against social conventions. In such context, the impact of words becomes tremendous: they are a way for Jane to assert her individuality and win the power struggle with Mrs Reed. However, words and rhetoric in Jane Eyre serve a double purpose, for at the level of the retrospective narrative, they are used to manipulate the reader and influence him into adopting Jane’s point of view. Both the older Jane acting as a narrator and the young Jane being a character of the story seem unreliable to the reader, and Jane’s point of view and use of words becomes questionable. How does the thematic of speech and words allow a reversal of roles in the passage, but also reveal the unreliability of Jane Eyre’s narration? The evolution of the relationship between
  • 2. Jane and Mrs Reed is visible in the shifting of the balance of power, of which descriptive words are the mirror. The change of nouns and pronouns, the evolutions of physical movements and of the gaze illustrate the reversal of roles and the increasing domination of Jane, culminating in her symbolic victory over Mrs Reed. Moreover, words not only describe the reversal of roles, but also become instruments of it, used as weapons whose effects and purposes play a decisive part in the power struggle between the two protagonists. However, if words are a way for Jane to triumph over her foil, they are also double edged, and allow the reader to perceive the ambiguous quality of Jane’s dual discourse, as a character and as a homodiegetic narrator. In this light, Jane’s biased description of the scene, the questionability of her passionate reactions and her conception of the themes of truth and deceit, which are the core of the confrontation, come under scrutiny. I) Words as the mirror of the evolution of the balance of power 1) The duel and the reversal of roles : nouns and pronouns The confrontation between Jane and Mrs Reed immediately appears as a duel, with the narrator setting the stage by immediately opposing the two protagonists. The parallelism of “Mrs Reed and I” (l.1) marks the beginning of a duel-like meeting. This impression is reinforced by the use of the adjective “alone” (l.1), emphasizing the notion of a face-to-face of two antagonists. The narrator stresses the isolation of the two characters, preparing the fight with words which is about to take place. The oxymoronic construction constantly opposing “she” (l.1) to the “I” (l.2) representing Jane helps reinforcing the intensity of the power struggle. Straight from the beginning, the association of antithetic terms singles out Mrs Reed and Jane as complementary, antagonistic foils. The construction of the passage emphasizes the evolution of the duel, from the initially silent confrontation to the Jane’s outburst and Mrs Reed’s final withdrawal. The gradation towards Jane’s final victory is illustrated by the progressive reversal of roles in the narration: the place and frequency of the use of the pronouns epitomizes the gradual taking over of Jane. At the beginning of the passage, although both characters are presented in a parallel structure, “Mrs Reed” (l.1) is the one who dominates over the “I” (l.1). This slight advantage on the part of Mrs Reed is reinforced by the opposition between “she” and “I” (l.2), again presenting Mrs Reed first. Similarly, the narrator acknowledges the apparent dominance of Mrs Reed: the
  • 3. extensive physical description and the anaphoric use of the pronouns “she” (lines 3, 5, 9, 12) and “her” (lines 6, 7, 8, 9, 11) are consistent with her initial superiority. She represents an “authority” (line 11) underlined in the physical and psychological description that Jane the narrator makes of her. The “I” only comes in second position, becoming prominent in the second paragraph as the narrator moves from a description of her surrounding and of her foil to a description of her own psyche. This passage from outside to inside paves the way for the modification in the balance of power which is about to take place. The iterative use of the “I” (from line 14 to 21) now reduces “Mrs Reed” (l.18) to a more passive role. The pronoun “her” becomes less visible as the “I” dominates the dialogue between the two characters, transforming the confrontation into an accusatory monologue in which Jane’s “I” and “me” (lines 45, 46, 52 to 57) deprives Mrs Reed of all power by addressing her only as “you”, a subordinate, passive position illustrating the modification of the balance of power. Jane moves from subordinate to equal, a shift illustrated by Mrs Reed’s use of her full name “Jane Eyre” (l. 48), paralleled in Jane’s repetition of the structure: “How dare I, Mrs Reed? How dare I” (l.49). The double utterance of the rhetorical question marks Jane’s growing power and her assertion of her own identity. Jane also stresses her individuality and rejection of Mrs Reed by her use of the formal “Mrs”, opposed to the analeptic reference to the family relation illustrated by “Aunt Reed” (l.55). Jane utterly rejects her blood relation with Mrs Reed, whom she treats as a stranger and an antagonist by vowing to “never call [her] aunt again” (l.44). Mrs Reed’s addressing her as “Jane” (l.67 and 70) marks the reversal of role, Mrs Reed now being the one trying to win her niece’s affections. At the end of the passage, Jane effectively takes up the position of power; with Mrs Reed leaving the room while Jane is left alone of “winner of the field”. The “coup d’état” effected by Jane is particularly blatant in the use of nouns and pronouns and the evolution of the use that is made of them. If Mrs Reed initially dominates, Jane quickly becomes her equal before finally taking over her, a victory acknowledged by Mrs Reed flight from the room and her use of the pronoun “her” (l.82) to designate Jane paralleling the way Jane addressed Mrs Reed at the beginning. This pattern of evolution in the relationship between the two characters is also visible in the movements they make. 2) Movements and actions The confrontation between Mrs Reed and Jane is also marked by the evolution of their positions. The beginning of the passage emphasizes Mrs Reed’s superiority: she is sitting, as
  • 4. she has been during the whole conversation with Mr Brocklehurst, who has departed, in an “arm-chair” (l.14) by the fireside, a position symbolizing her control of the household. Jane is “sitting on a low stool” (l.14), a position that illustrates both her physical inferiority and social inferiority, as this seat would be that of a servant or a domestic rather than the one a gentleman’s daughter. Moreover, the uneven antithesis between the two characters is further illustrated by the opposition between activity and passivity. If Mrs Reed “was sewing” (l.2), Jane “was watching her”. Mrs Reed is active and therefore dominant; while Jane’s passive behaviour epitomizes her powerlessness in front of her foil. The fact that Mrs Reed is sewing, fulfilling her duties as a woman and a mother, further isolates Jane, who does not fill any space in the household or fulfil the duties that are hers as a young girl. The narrator also underlines the contrast between the two characters by stating that she is “a few yards” (l.14) from Mrs Reed’s seat. The inequality between the two characters is therefore made clear, making the reversal of roles taking place in the passage even more striking. As the silent confrontation evolves into a voiced one, Mrs Reed’s activity turns into passivity when she stops sewing: “her fingers at the same time suspended their nimble movements” (l.23). Paralleling the change in her behaviour, Jane moves from passivity to activity by getting up, a movement symbolizing her rebellion and her rejection of conventions: “I got up, I went to the door, I came back again; I walked to the window, across the room, then close up to her” (l.26-28). Jane purposefully disobeys, as we shall see later, Mrs Reed’s order to leave the room. The accumulation of actions and moves mirrors her inner turmoil and stands out against Mrs Reed’s immobility. The starting up of a dialogue during which Jane stands up while Mrs Reed is seated symbolizes the change in the balance of power and the rebellion of Jane. The lexis of passivity is now attributed to Mrs Reed, whose “hands still lay on her work inactive” (l.36). Her defeat is symbolized by her handling of her work. A pattern of gradation illustrates her powerlessness: her work, initially interrupted, is then abandoned and “slip[s] from her knee” (l.64). Her initial activity is replaced by a helplessness and distress materialized by her movements: “she was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even twisting her face as if she would cry” (l.64-66). If Jane’s behaviour is the one of an adult, Mrs Reed recalls that of a distressed child and climaxes in her “gathering up her work” and “abruptly quitt[ing] the apartment” (l.83). Mrs Reed’s flight with her work, the symbol of her dominant position in the household, leaves Jane free to occupy the vacant position of power.
  • 5. 3) Observation and the importance of the gaze The idea of observation of power struggle through the gaze pervades the whole passage. Jane is first defined by her inquisitiveness and the weight of her gaze. While Mrs Reed remains active and self-absorbed, Jane “watch[es] her) (l.2) and describes what she sees, a description, as we shall see later, heavy with implications and bias. The lexis of observation is associated with Jane throughout the scene, in verbs such as “examined”, “perused” (l.14-15), and epitomizes Jane’s passive-aggressive behaviour. She uses her gaze to attack Mrs Reed, and the beginning of the power struggle is symbolized by “Mrs Reed look[ing] up from her work, her eye sett[ing on Jane’s] “(l.22). Jane’s aggression is confirmed by Mrs Reed’s reaction: “my look or something else must have struck her as offensive” (l.25). In the confrontation of the two characters, the eye becomes a weapon and a way to assert one’s power, a characteristic also prevalent in the relationship between Rochester (whose “very fine eyes” are praised by the narrator) and Jane. If Jane uses her gaze to attack Mrs Reed, the latter is equally defined by the power of her eye. The narrator attracts attention to the “eye devoid of ruth” (l.8), thus introducing the lexis of coldness and hostility characterizing her foil’s gaze. Through her gaze, or “her eye of ice” (l.37), Mrs Reed is dehumanized, a stylistic device used in a similar way in the description of the power struggle with St John Rivers, whose coldness is put forward. The oxymoronic structures opposing Jane’s “passion” (l.20) to Mrs Reed’s coldness further antagonizes the two characters. Mrs Reed’s dehumanization is strengthened by the reversed structure “that eye of hers” (l.41), in which the focus is put on the eye and not the person, reducing Mrs Reed to a lifeless aggressor. The lexis of vision therefore emphasizes the opposition between the two characters, and particularly dehumanizes Mrs Reed. However, one cannot but notice that Jane is the one first using her gaze to provoke her foil: her eye is the expression of her passive resistance; just as Mrs Reed’s finally betrays her defeat: “she looked frightened” (l.64). The reversal of roles therefore become double edged, for it is now Jane that frightens and bullies Mrs Reed, a change which, as we shall see later, turns Jane into a narrator not only unreliable but unfair. The power struggle between Mrs Reed and Jane turns at the advantage of the latter. The evolution of the balance of power illustrates Jane’s assertion of her identity and domination, through the use of nouns and pronouns, but also by the way in which the characters move and act. Eventually, it is the power of observation that allows Jane to physically triumph over her foil. Nevertheless, the centre of the confrontation is a dialogue. Even more than the eyes,
  • 6. words are used as weapons, and effectively illustrate the reversal of roles. As we shall see now, words are the cornerstone of Jane’s victory over Mrs Reed. II) Words as weapons 1) Words as wounding weapons Words appear not only as instruments of eloquence or conviction, but as genuine weapons used by both characters to try and gin the ascendance over the other. If “silence” (l.1) characterizes the beginning of the passage, the rest of the scene is increasingly marked by the importance of the words uttered by the protagonists. They are perceived in two different ways by the narrators: on the one hand, in terms of the impact they have on the characters, be it Jane or Mrs Reed. On the other hand, in terms of the purpose the characters want to achieve by uttering them. Words first appear from the point of view of the victim, as deadly weapons. The lexis of violence associated with words transpires in Jane’s analepsis, in which she evokes “the tract containing the sudden death of the Liar” (l.15-16), a moral book given her by Mr Brocklehurst aiming at edifying young readers and prevent them from lying. Jane associates this “appropriate warning” (l. 17) with the lexis of pain and violence; she parallels it with the words “Mrs Reed had said concerning [her] to Mr Brocklehurst” (l.18) and defines it as “recent, raw and stinging” (l.19). The ternary rhythm thus created reinforces the strength of the emotions felt by Jane in reaction to the words she has heard. Words are therefore seen as painful weapons. The narrator further reinforces this impression by instigating an effect of synaesthesia in which the words heard affect Jane as if she had been hurt: “I felt every word as acutely as I hear it plainly” (l.20). The violence of the effect of the words is therefore increased, leading to a “passion of resentment” (l.21) which shall be studied further on. Similarly, Mrs Reed’s words in the dialogue following stir deep emotions in Jane: “that eye of her, that voice of hers stirred every antipathy I had” (l.41. Uttering or hearing words causes reactions as antithetical as “ungovernable excitement” (l.42) and “the strangest sense of freedom” (l.61) in Jane, reflecting the fragmented, passionate personality which we shall study later on. For Mrs Reed, Jane’s words also stir violent emotions and lead her to treat Jane as ‘an opponent of adult age” (l.39), acknowledging her equality, reinforced by the use of her full name “Jane Eyre” (l.48). However, due to the nature of the focalisation, her reactions are
  • 7. more visible on a physical level: she looks “frightened” (l.64) and gradually “suspend[s]” (l.23) her work before letting it “slip from her knee” (l.64), “twisting her face as if she would cry” (l.65-66) and leaving the apartment. Physical reactions are also visible in Jane’s reaction as she starts” shaking from head to foot” (l.42). The effect of synaesthesia produced by the power of words testifies for the importance of their effect on the two protagonists of the scene and will lead to the reversal of roles taking place in the passage. Of words cause physical and mental reactions, both characters and especially Jane also know how to use them to wound their opponent. 2) Words as weapons to attack If Jane presents herself as a victim of Mrs Reed’s verbal violence, she also turns the wounding power of words to her advantage. The violence of her attacks shows through the very structure of the passage; rather than a dialogue, the scene is more of an aggressive monologue in which Jane verbally attacks her foil, Mrs Reed. The lexis of war is used by Jane in preparation of her speech. The narrator feels “trodden on severely” (l.29) She summons “strength to dart retaliation at [her] antagonist” (l.30) and “launche[s] her energies” (l.31) as she would a weapon. Similarly, the use of the adjective “blunt” (l.31) to characterize a sentence assimilates it to a weapon, providing another example of the association of rhetoric and speech with the lexis of violence. Jane’s monologue further deepens this impression of violence: the lexis of hatred creates a gradation increasing the aggressiveness of the assertion: from “I should say I loved you” (l.32), Jane moves to “I do not love you” (l.33) and “I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world” (l.33): the shift from an affirmative to a negative sentence, as well as the hyperbolic negative comparative transforms Jane’s words into harmful weapons. This gradation in violence is carried on with each tirade: the anaphoric use of negations such as in “no” (lines 43, 50), “not” (lines 51, 72, 77, 80) and the final use of the verb “I hate” (l. 81) largely surpass Mrs Reed’s displays of verbal aggressiveness, limited in the passage to the use of short imperative sentences that Jane describes as a “mandate” : “go out of the room, return to the nursery (l. 24). If they appear as an attempt to infantilize Jane and deprive her of the individuality she craves for, similar o her assertion that “children must be corrected for their faults” (l.75), they are beyond the violence of Jane’s assertions, and the final use of the imperative, this time by Jane ( “send me to school”, l.80) illustrates the reversal of role and the shift from Mrs Reed’s violence of Jane’s.
  • 8. Words appear not only as weapons, but also as curses and oaths, notably through Jane’s use of modal verbs. The anaphoric use of “will”, repeated three times between lines 43 and 46, as well as of “shall” (line 51) gives a prophetic character to Jane’s words, but in a negative way, turning her words into curses; The violence of words takes another shape and gains in strength. The use of expressive punctuation and of italics for “you” (line 59) creates a gradation which, along with the repetition of the pronoun, gives a curse-like quality to Jane’s outburst. The increasing violence pervading Jane’s words turns them into knife-like oaths and curses. Words become not only the mirror of the reversal of roles in the passage, but also lethal weapons allowing Jane to defeat Mrs Reed. However, her liberal use of verbal violence in the passage causes the reader to question her reliability and the very use she makes of language. III) Words and the narrator: Jane’s unreliability 1) Jane’s description of Mrs Reed In keeping with the role of a homodiegetic, first person narrator, Jane’s point of view pervades and colours the whole story. This omnipresence, leads the reader to take Jane’s assertions with a pinch of salt. The very structure of the passage emphasizes the dominance of Jane: the retrospective narrator constantly alternates descriptions of her surroundings with descriptions of her thoughts: this constant shift from outside to inside blurs the perceptions of the reader, leaving him with Jane’s point of view only and influencing him. This ambiguity in the narration is particularly visible in the description made of Mrs Reed, in which the narrator plays a game with the reader. The constant opposition and alternation of positive and negative traits, designed to give the reader an impression of unbiased memory, masks a well constructed, purposefully negative depiction. The use of the modal “might be six or seven and thirty” (l.2), figuring uncertainty, belies the precise description following it. The description of Mrs Reed’s physiognomy, in which negative adverbs and adjectives are associated with the features, gives a generally negative impression of her. The accumulation of terms such as “robust frame” (l.3), “square-shouldered” (l.4), “somewhat large face” (l.4), “not tall”, “stout”, “the under jaw being much developed” (l.5), “her chin large and prominent” (l.6) sketches a rather masculine image; like Bertha Mason at Thornfield, Mrs Reed, Jane’s foil, presents masculine characteristics contrasting with Jane’s frailty. Her “dark and opaque skin” (l.8), contrasting with “flaxen hair” and “light eyebrows” (l.7) puts her in further contrast with
  • 9. the stereotype of feminine beauty. Although Jane does not meet the requirements either, the narrator nevertheless insists on presenting Mrs Reed as her perfect opposite. The description of Mrs Reed idiosyncrasies on a psychological level is again an accumulation of antithetic terms giving, on the whole, a negative idea of Mrs Reed’s character: although an “exact, clever manager” (l.10), her “control” and “authority” are “defied” and “laughed to scorn” (l.12), in spite of her “presence and port” (l.13). The association of negative and positive aspects is designed so as to belittle the positive aspects while putting forward negative ones. The comparison of her constitution with “a bell” (l.9) even gives an impression of dehumanisation contributing to the general negativity of the depiction. Despite the apparent impartiality, the narrator therefore betrays her bias. On the contrary, the retrospective narrator reliving her story emphasizes her own victimization in her reminiscence of the conversation between Mr Brocklehust and Mrs Reed: the evocation of “what had just passed” (l.17), the anaphoric use of the structure “what”, supported by “the whole” (l.18), creates a ternary structure emphasizing the intensity of Jane’s sufferings and therefore justifying her imminent outburst. As we shall see, however, Jane’ tirades are to be treated with as much care as her descriptions. The confusion of the reader because of the duality of the narration also finds its roots in the blurry distinction between Jane as a protagonist and Jane as a retrospective narrator. Although a young girl, Jane is addressed by Mrs Reed ‘rather in the tone in which a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is ordinary used to a child” (l.39-41). This sentence illustrates the ambiguity of the narration, in which the memory of Jane as a character and the interpretation of an adult Jane blend and intertwine. The ambiguity of Jane as a retrospective first person narrator and a homodiegetic one also appears in the antithetic fits of emotion she is prone to throughout the whole passage. 2) Jane’s passionate behaviour Like Rochester later will, Mrs Reed underlines the fiery quality of Jane’s character: “you are passionate, Jane, that you must allow” (l.78). Jane’s disturbing unreliability is betrayed by her fits of passion. From the “passion of resentment” (l.21) to “antipathy” (l. 41), Jane displays a variety and a versatility of emotions making the violence of her reactions questionable. Jane’s cursing of Mrs Reed and her attacks on her and her children stand in sharp contrast with Mrs Reed’s concern: “Would you like to drink some water” (l.68), “Is there anything you wish for, Jane? I assure you, I would like to be your friend” (l.70-71). The reversal of roles is marked
  • 10. by the Jane’s passage from passivity to action but also to aggressiveness and the coldness she initially reproaches Mrs Reed: “you have no pity” (l.51). The pitilessness now becomes Jane’s: the iterative use of negations, short imperative sentences leaves the reader with the impression that Jane behaves as ruthlessly as Mrs Reed and her “eye devoid of ruth” (l.8). The dehumanisation now affects Jane instead of her aunt, who looks “frightened” (l.64) and “as if she would cry” (l.65-66) , whereas Jane’s “savage, high voice” (l.77) contrasts with Mrs Reed’s “sotto voce” murmur (l.82). The lexis of violence associated with Jane’s displays of emotion turn Jane into a preternatural creature. Another, even more disturbing reaction is Jane’s “sense of freedom, of triumph” (l.61) and “unhoped-for liberty” (l.63) after having violently accused Mrs Reed of being a liar. The oxymoronic opposition of joy and violence illustrates the complexity and even unnaturalness of Jane’s emotions as well as the reversal of role, Jane now acing as coldly as Mrs Reed. The retrospective narrator’s words, as well as Jane’s speeches as a character, end up making a negative impression on the reader. The violent behaviour displayed by Jane is inconsistent with the attitude of a young child, and Jane refuses to be treated as such: her iterative rhetorical questions, in which she reuses Mrs Reed’s words (“How dare I, Mrs Reed? How dare I?” l.49), as well as her rejection of her aunt’s assertion that “[children] don’t understand thee things” (l.75) or of “the nursery” (l.24 and 79) betrays a violent refusal to behave according to the norm and to respect the social order. Similarly, her rebellion against the punishment of the red-room (lines 51-57), designed at arising the sympathy of the reader in a pathetic analepsis, is followed by attacks and curses strengthening the negative impression that Jane’s behaviour and words are not that of a child. This discrepancy between the character and the reader’s expectations create an uneasiness allowing him or her to doubt the reliability of the narration. This questionability also appears through the idea of speech, and especially the themes of truth and lies which are at the centrefold of Jane’s argumentation. 3) Truth and lies: the importance of speech Jane’s monologues and tirades seem like enterprises of persuasion as much as a rebellion against Mrs Reed; the iterative use of the modal “must” (l.29), emphasized by the italics, makes Jane’s attack appear as valid and unavoidable. Similarly, the “ungovernable excitement” (l.42) puts Jane in a position of irresponsibility aimed, as the pathetic analepsises in the passage alluding to “the red-room” (l.53) at amending her in the eye of the reader for the violence of her words and reactions. The importance of the lexis of speech pervades the
  • 11. whole passage. Jane opposes “what Mrs Reed had said” (l.19), “the whole tenor of their conversation” (l.19), to her own necessity to “speak”, (l.29), a word made all the more important by the italics and the placement at the beginning of the sentence. Jane’s enterprise of persuasion serves a double purpose paralleling the duality of the narration: while Jane as a character wants to prove her point to Mrs Reed, the retrospective narrator aims at convincing the reader of her truthfulness. The ambiguity of the idea of speech and words comes in all its complexity in the idea of truth and lies. Jane’s outburst is articulated around the idea of truthfulness and deceit. Recently victim of an unfair accusation, Jane rebels against this accusation of deceit from M. Brocklehurst and Mrs Reed. Her whole argumentation is centred on the idea of honesty. The lexis of deceit present in “the sudden death of the Liar” (l.16), “this book about the liar” (l.34), “you are deceitful” (l.58-59), “a deceitful disposition” (l.72) is opposed to the one of truthfulness. The accumulation of assertions and of verbs such as “I declare” (l.32) are meant to increase the impression that what Jane says “is the truth” (l.49). However, the idea of truthfulness seems a shifty one: from Mrs Reed’s questions (“what more have you to say” (l.37), and “how dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?” (l.48)) to her assertion that Jane is “under a mistake” (l.67), Jane’s words appear as disputable. The outburst “Deceit is not my fault!” (l.77) points at her other weakness, passion, which has already been proven to be unreliable. Similarly, the lexis of tales: Jane’s prophetic assertion that she “will tell anybody who ask[s her questions this exact tale” (l.57) crease an oxymoron between the adjective “exact” and the noun “tale”, implying fantasy and invention. Therefore, Jane’s notion of truth and lies appears as subjective and leads the reader to question her vision of Mrs Reed. Jane also uses the idea of speech and storytelling as a threat against Mrs Reed: “I’ll let everybody at Lowood know what you are, and what you have done” (l.73-74). The reliability of Jane’s assertion is therefore weakened, and her concept of truth, link with the lexis of rumour and gossip, is again questioned. The themes of truth and deceit puts Jane’s point of view under scrutiny. Her passionate and sometimes irrational behaviour, as well as her questionable descriptions, further illustrates the ambiguous quality of narration and rhetoric in the passage. CONCLUSION Jane’s decisive confrontation with Mrs Reed marks a turning point in the novel and allows her, through her verbal rebellion, to assert her individuality and attain a form of psychological
  • 12. freedom through her utterance of the truth. Nevertheless, if symbolically important for Jane’s evolution towards self-achievement, it also uncovers dark aspects of her character and leads the reading to question the ambiguity of narration, not only in this passage, but in the whole novel. Jane’s capacity to manipulate words, both as a character and as a homodiegetic, retrospective narrator, unveils the ambiguous quality of the narrative perspective in Jane Eyre. The theme of truth and deceit, of such capital importance in the passage, is shown under a new light through the study of this passage. Jane’s description of events and perception of them is, as it is in every first-person narrative, biased. If she describes most of the other characters as deceitful in various ways, such as Mrs Reed in this passage, but also Rochester’s concealment of his wife, Blanche’s disguise of her mercenary motives when she tries to seduce Rochester, or St John’s hiding of his love for Rosamonde, Jane herself always professes, as a narrator and as a character, her honesty and her exclusive quest for truth. In view of such passages, however, Jane’s biased rhetoric comes under scrutiny, and leads the reader to pay close attention to the ambiguity of Jane’s character. The genre of the fictional autobiography raises even more so than other genres the issue of honesty and reliability, and Jane Eyre’s skilful manipulation of words as a homodiegetic narrator is a perfect example of this ambiguity.