by Charlotte Brontë
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Transparent, Affectionate, Subtle
Because there is so much autobiographical material in Jane Eyre, it’s often difficult to separate Charlotte Brontë’s authorial tone from the narrative style of her protagonist. Often the author’s voice and attitude seem to get caught up in the story, making it more like a memoir than a novel. We’re calling this a "transparent" tone, where we seem to be looking straight through the author’s personality at the first-person narrator. When something of Brontë’s own personality starts to come through, it’s usually in dialogue, when another character is talking to Jane. Mr. Rochester and Diana Rivers, for example, seem to be two of the characters who occasionally express the author’s attitude toward Jane herself. For example, when Jane says that one reason she wouldn’t be a good wife for St. John is that she’s much more plain-looking than he is, Diana replies, "Plain! You? Not at all. You are much too pretty, as well as too good, to be grilled alive in Calcutta." These aren’t the words of a sister hoping to help her brother convince a woman to marry him; they’re the author’s affirmation that Jane is beautiful and should have a greater sense of self-worth. Diana’s and Rochester’s affection for Jane and their awareness of the passionate, fun-loving woman behind the repressed Lowood graduate provide a subtle commentary on Jane’s own narrative that seems to channel Charlotte Brontë’s own feelings.