Literary Devices in Jane Eyre

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  • 0:02 Literary Devices Explained
  • 0:31 The First-Person Narrative
  • 1:02 The Bildungsroman
  • 1:40 Imagery in Jane Eyre
  • 2:22 Symbolism in Jane Eyre
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clayton Tarr

Clayton has taught college English and has a PhD in literature.

In this lesson, we'll examine some of the many literary devices that Charlotte Bronte employs in 'Jane Eyre,' and we'll further explore the novel's form, its imagery, and its symbolism.

Literary Devices Explained

An author uses literary devices to develop the narrative, the setting, and the characters, among other things. Literary devices give literature life, making it complex, dynamic, interesting, and even frustrating. There are many types of literary devices, and we'll examine some of them. But just think of them like spices in the ingredient list of a recipe; they are the elements that add flavor to what you are reading.

The First-Person Narrative

In Jane Eyre, we access the story through the perspective of Jane herself. Thus, the novel employs first-person narration, as opposed to third-person, which is often presented through an omniscient narrator. No one in Jane Eyre is omniscient, meaning that no one has supernatural or 'god-like' qualities to access private scenes and inner emotions. Since Jane tells her own story, the narrative remains highly subjective. We must consider, throughout, what she may have changed or left out.

The Bildungsroman

Jane Eyre follows the path of Jane's growth from a child to an adult. It charts her successes and failures throughout this process. Because of this, the novel is what is known as a bildungsroman, which translates to 'growth narrative.' Many nineteenth-century novels employed this strategy, including Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. The bildungsroman allows readers to have wide access to a character's life so that the character is fully formed by the end. Readers identify with the protagonist, or hero, through this literary device because they can see parallels to their own lives.

Imagery in Jane Eyre

Authors use imagery to make scenes or events come to life through descriptive language. When Jane is locked in the ''red room'' at Gateshead Hall, Bronte uses vivid language to paint a picture of the scene. ''A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle in the centre.'' The description of the room keeps going to note many other objects in it that possess a red hue, but Bronte describes the bed as something grand and awe-inspiring, which gives an ominous and foreboding feeling to the scene. Once we learn that the patriarch of the house had died there, we can see just how scary the room is to Jane.

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