Figurative Language in Jane Eyre

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë is the complicated love story of Jane and Rochester. In this lesson, we will learn how the author uses figurative language to describe Jane's emotional state throughout her journey.

Colorful Language

Do you belief in destiny? Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is a novel about a young orphan girl who is left in the care of an abusive aunt and is soon sent off to a boarding school. Once an adult, she goes to work at Thornfield where she falls in love with her employer, Rochester. Just as they are about to get married, Jane finds out that Rochester is already married to a mentally ill woman named Bertha, whom he keeps hidden in another part of the house. Although Jane struggles with her decision, she leaves Thornfield until Jane and Rochester are able to be together again.

Brontë uses figurative language to describe the people, places, and events of the story in a way that reflects Jane's feelings about the things that are happening around her. Let's look at some examples of figurative language from this novel.

Charlotte Bronte, author
Charlotte Bronte

Terms and Examples

Figurative language is the use of carefully selected words and phrases that provide descriptions that go beyond literal translations. In this section, we will look at some examples of figurative language that are used in Jane Eyre.

Simile

A simile compares two things using the words 'like' or 'as' in order to create a vivid description. After Jane's parents and her Uncle Reed die, Jane is left in the custody of a cruel and abusive aunt. Jane describes the time she tried to defend herself: 'Mrs. Reed was rather a stout woman; but, on hearing this strange and audacious declaration, she ran nimbly up the stair, swept me like a whirlwind into the nursery, and crushing me down on the edge of my crib, dared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that place, or utter one syllable during the remainder of the day' (Chapter 4). Jane describes the way Mrs. Reed moves her to the next room using the simile 'swept me like a whirlwind.'

Allusions

Allusions are references to history or literature that an author makes in passing, encouraging readers to create meaning from the mention. In Jane Eyre, there are several Biblical references. For example, when Jane goes to her new school, she describes the scene as Miss Miller, the teacher, directs the class. 'Discipline prevailed: in five minutes the confused throng was resolved into order, and comparative silence quelled the Babel clamour of tongues' (Chapter 5). In the book of Genesis in the Holy Bible, the Tower of Babel is a story that explains the origin of all of the different languages. When men attempted to build a structure that could reach heaven, God confused their language and scattered them over the Earth to prevent them from working together. In this example, the allusion to Babel describes the degree of confusion Jane feels at her new school.

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia involves an author using words that sound like the noise they emulate. For example, when Rochester returns from a party, he is accompanied by a party of his own. Jane is miserable as she narrates, 'I saw them smile, laugh--it was nothing; the light of the candles had as much soul in it as their smile; the tinkle of the bell as much significance as their laugh' (Chapter 17). The word 'tinkle' is an example of onomatopoeia because it is a sound effect.

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