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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

Drawing Portraits

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Jane draws four crucial portraits over the course of the novel: one of herself, one of what she imagines Blanche Ingram will look like, one of Rochester, and one of Rosamond Oliver. The first two she draws at the same time so that she can compare them and remind herself how plain and pathetic she is. The one of Rochester she draws almost unconsciously while back at Gateshead caring for the dying Mrs. Reed. (After all, if you don’t have a snapshot of your sweetie on your cell phone, then sketching his portrait is probably the best you can do.) Rosamond Oliver’s picture she tries to use to get St. John to admit his feelings for that woman. Jane’s ability to capture likenesses of herself and those around her reminds us of her flair for narrative description and for penetrating analyses of the people she knows. In the plot of the novel, Jane may be sketching actual portraits – but in the text of the novel, she sketches those portraits, too, just in a more active sense. Jane’s artistic skill reminds us of her storytelling abilities and of the careful crafting that goes into her tale – perhaps a craft that’s sometimes rather crafty and even a bit misleading.

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