Perspectivising Love and Marriage in Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre" and Elisabeth Gaskell's "North and South"

Bachelor Thesis, 2019

41 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. Tools and Techniques for the Analyses
2.1. Tools for the Analysis of Narration and Focalization
2.2. Techniques for the Representation of Speech and Thought

3. Perspectivising Love and Marriage in Jane Eyre
3.1. Narration and Focalization in Jane Eyre
3.2. Speech and Thought in Jane Eyre

4. Perspectivising Love and Marriage in North andSouth
4.1. Narration and Focalization in North andSouth
4.2. Speech and Thought in North and South

5. Conclusion

6. Works Cited

1. Introduction

The representation of love and marriage in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South does not seem to be fundamentally different when looking at the story level, the content level of what is narrated (cf. Fabian 172), alone. The female and male characters of both novels struggle in achieving a marriage bond at first due to the class relation between the both of them, but after the heroines inherited a sum of money they return to the heroes’ aids. Of course this is just a brief summary of the novels’ plots to show the similarities both share in their plot structure. This paper, however, will look at the discourse level of both novels thus looking at the presentation level of how the story is narrated (cf. Fabian 172) in order to measure whether or not the novels by Brontë and Gaskell are as similar as a plain summary suggests.

For this purpose this paper will perspectivise love and marriage in Gaskell’s North and South and Brontë’s Jane Eyre, meaning it will analyse the narration, the focalization, the representation of speech, and the representation of thought presented in both novels. The analyses of these categories will, of course, focus on the relevant love couples of both narratives, Margaret Hale and John Thornton in North and South and Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre.

The first chapters will present the tools and techniques that will be used later for the analyses of both novels, presenting first the tools for the analysis of narration and focalization and after that the techniques for the representation of speech and thought. The following chapters will use these tools for the analysis of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, focussing initially on the narration and focalization in the novel before turning to the representation of speech and thought. The chapters after that will be concerned with Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South similarly; it will at first analyse the narration and focalization prior to the analysis of the representation of speech and thought. The last chapter will recapitulate the findings of the analyses of both novels in order to evaluate if both can be said to shape the same type of love and marriage, like a brief look on the story level suggests, or if there are differences that can be observed on the discourse level.

2. Tools and Techniques for the Analyses

The following chapters will outline the tools and techniques that will be used for the analyses of the novels, Jane Eyre and North and South. The first chapter will present the tools that will be used for analysing narration and focalization in the novels, the following will do that for the tools that will be used for the analyses of the representation of speech and thought.

2.1. Tools for the Analyses of Narration and Focalization

This chapter will make use of Gerard Genette's distinction between the narrator and focalizer of a story. The term narration refers to the account of events (cf. Nünning 190) and the narrator of a story is “[...] the fictive textual speaker who functions as narrating subject [...]” (Nünning 191). The term focalization “[...] refers to the representation of the perception of the fictional world; it includes internal processes such as thinking, feeling and remembering, in addition to sensory perception” (Nünning 188). Therefore the focalizer of a story is the “[...] centre of orientation, from whose perspective the narrated world is perceived [...]” (Nünning 188). It will outline the tools that will be used for analysing narration and focalization, starting first with the tools for analysing narration and after that turning to the tools for the analysis of focalization.

According to Genette the analysis of the narrator of a story can most importantly be distinguished by two binary oppositions. First, the narrator can be “[...] located on the level of the narrative transmission [...]” (Nünning 119) and therefore being extradiegetic or he is located on the story level as a narrating character (cf. Nünning 119) and is thus marked as an intradiegetic narrator. The second opposition is between a homodiegetic and a heterodiegetic narrator. A homodiegetic narrator “[...] appears as a character within his own story [...]” (Nünning 119) whereas a heterodiegetic narrator “[...] is located outside the world he or she describes, and does not appear as a character; [...]” (Nünning 188). Further differentiation can be made between an overt and a covert narrator. An overt narrator offers evaluations of the characters' actions and feelings as well as he addresses the fictive readers directly (cf. Nünning 191) by implication the covert narrator does not do that and offers the narrative without intervening commentaries. A covert narrator is not presented as an individual speaker, inhabits basic narrative functions (cf. Nünning 185f.), and the covert narrator can recede “[...] so far into the background that the traces of narrative transmission are barely noticeable” (Nünning 113). Furthermore, the narrative situation can be said to be autodiegetic or figural. An autodiegetic narrator is also the main character that narrates his or her own life story (cf. Nünning 184). Moreover are the narrating and experiencing I “[...] separated by temporal, and [...] moral, distance, [...]” (Nünning 111) and the narrator has to give plausible evidence for the knowledge of events he or she did not witness or for the insight into other characters (cf. Nünning 112). A figural narrative situation, as illustrated by Nünning, depicts “[...] a covert and heterodiegetic narrator [that] recounts the events restricting himself to a factual representation or using internal focalization, thus creating the impression of immediacy” (187)1.

Summarising the previous outline of the tools for the analysis of narration in a novel, it should be noted that there are three oppositions to describe a narrator in a narrative. First the opposition of extradiegetic and intradiegetic, second the opposition of homodiegetic and heterodiegetic, and third the opposition of overt and covert. In addition to that, there are specific types of the narrative situation that include as well the focalization: the autodiegetic narrative situation and the figural narrative situation. After having established this terminology, the tools for the analysis of focalization will be presented in the following.

Similar to the analysis of the narrator, the analysis of the focalizer of a story can be established at first through a binary opposition. First of all the focalization of a narrative can be internal or external. External focalization, which will be mentioned here only for the sake of the opposition, occurs when the heterodiegetic narrator functions as focalizer (cf. Nünning 187). Internal focalization, on the other hand, occurs when a character functions as focalizer (cf. Nünning 189). Further on, the internal focalization can be fixed, meaning “[...] the fictional events are perceived consistently from the perspective of one specific character throughout the narrative [...]” (Nünning 122), or it can be variable, meaning it presents different scenes through different perspectives (cf. Meyer 64). There is as well the possibility of multiple focalization, which presents several perspectives of the same event (cf. Meyer 64), or zero focalization, but as it is of no use for the analysis it should only be mentioned here shortly to not give the impression that there are only the two types that are relevant for the further analyses in this paper.

In conclusion of the relevant tools for analysing the focalization of a narrative, it should be noted that the internal focalization of a story can be fixed on one character or it can be variable and present different scenes through different perceptions.

2.2. Techniques for the Representation of Speech and Thought

The following chapter will now present the techniques that can be used to present speech and thought in a narrative. It will in thus focus only on the techniques that can also be found in the subsequent analyses of the novels this paper is concerned with. The outline will start with the techniques for representing speech acts and will then turn to the representation of thought.

To represent speech acts in the narrative the narrator has three options. He can firstly present it simply through dialogue or direct speech, he can present it through indirect speech or he can use reported speech. All three techniques depict different measures of narrator mediation and thereby present differing levels of immediacy. The dialogue or direct speech is “[...] understood to replicate exactly what the quoted character is supposed to have said [...]” (Hühn 435). It creates a high level of immediacy and shows no sign of narrator mediation within the framed utterances. Narrator mediation in direct speech is only visible through a framing verb of speech that might or might not be used to present the dialogue (cf. Hühn 435). With indirect speech, the narrator's mediation is more visible as the utterances are “[...] grammatically subordinated to the framing utterance, with person, tense, [...] adjusted to conform to those of the frame” (Hühn 435), however, it still creates a sense of immediacy even if it is less than the sense the reader gets with direct speech. Reported speech again has an even higher level of mediation. It can be understood according to the report in a narrative. The report tells a factual and temporally compressed account of events given by the narrator (cf. Nünning 192). Concluding hence, reported speech is a mere report of utterances with a high level of narrator mediation and no sense of immediacy. “[...] [T]he narrator is much more evidently in control” (Hühn 435) in the two latter types of presenting speech acts compared to instances of direct speech nevertheless this control is even more visible in reported speech than it is in indirect speech.

Another technique to present a speech act is the soliquoly, but as this is an utterance of thoughts, feelings or other interior perceptions, it can also be seen as presenting thought. So this technique is on the threshold between representing speech and representing thought. “We speak of a ‘soliloquy’ when a character is alone [...] while speaking, or is regardless of any hearers” (Nünning 87). This term corresponds to the German term “Selbstgespräch” (cf. Nünning 87) so it can be recognised best by markers that show the speaking character is talking to him- or herself.

The more common ways of presenting thought in a narrative are psycho-narration; indirect thought, free indirect thought, direct thought and free direct thought (cf. Meyer 65) which can be seen to function according to the three categories that were presented before: reported, indirect, and direct.

Psycho-narration “[...] describes a mode of representing internal processes characterised by a relatively high degree of compression and a high level of narrator participation” (Nünning 125), normally it uses third person markers and the past-tense but Nünning points out that there are hybrid and cross-over types (cf. 124 f.). This technique can also be seen as a mere report of the thought act (cf. Meyer 65), showing thus a high level of narrator mediation without any sense of immediacy. It thus corresponds to the category of reported speech or thought. The technique of indirect thought functions analogues to indirect speech but instead of using an introductory verb that marks a speech act, it uses a verb that marks a thought act. Other than that the same markers can be seen in indirect thought with the same effect of immediacy and the same level of narrator mediation. Less narrator mediation and a higher sense of immediacy shows free indirect thought. It shows as well the markers of an indirect utterance it lacks, however, the use of an introductory or framing verb that marks a thought act (cf. Meyer 65). Thus it has a higher sense of immediacy due to the fact that the signs of narrator mediation are fewer. With free indirect thought the narrator “[...] attempts to convey the illusion of offering an immediate insight into the perceptions and internal processes of a character [...] by using loose syntax and including questions, exclamations and other signals of subjectivity” (Nünning 125). The use of direct thought creates an allusion of immediacy that is otherwise somewhat complicated. In a line of thought that is presented through direct thought, no mediation by the narrator is visualized, not even the shift of tense. It is marked by the introductory of a verb of speech or thought and inverted commas (cf. Hühn 434f.) analogues to the presentation of direct speech. Thus direct thought shows a low level of narrator mediation and creates a high sense of immediacy. The last technique to present a thought act is that of free direct thought. Similar to free indirect thought, free direct thought lacks an introductory or framing verb. Furthermore, it lacks any sign of narrator mediation and is presented directly through the perception of the character (cf. Meyer 65). This technique respectively complements the techniques with the lowest level of narrator mediation and the highest sense of immediacy.

Summarizing the previous outline it can be recorded that all techniques of presenting speech or thought can be measured by their level of narrator mediation and sense of immediacy. Analogues to the reported speech, indirect speech and direct speech in presenting speech acts function the techniques of psycho­narration, indirect thought and direct thought plus two intermediate techniques free indirect thought and free direct thought.

3. Perspectivising Love and Marriage in Jane Eyre

The next chapters will now use the techniques that were outlined in the previous chapters to analyse and in that perspectivise love and marriage in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. The analysis will, as it was mentioned before, focus on the respective love couple Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. Therefore only speech acts that affect those two characters will be taken into account. The following chapter will first analyse the narration and focalization of Jane Eyre and the subsequent chapter will then deal with the representation of speech and thought. Both chapters will simultaneously use the findings according to the techniques to make a statement about the depicted love and marriage in Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

3.1. Narration and Focalization in Jane Eyre

This chapter will look at the narrator and focalizer of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and will put the findings on that into connection with the love and marriage depicted in the novel.

Jane Eyre is governed by an autodiegetic narrator, who is as it was stated before extradiegetic, homodiegetic, overt and narrates his or her own life story. That the narrator is extradiegetic and overt can be exemplified by the many comments the autodiegetic narrator, who will also be called narrator Jane throughout the analysis of Brontë’s novel, gives:

I could not answer the ceaseless inward question - why I thus suffered; now, at the distance of - I will not say how many years, I see it clearly (Brontë 29) [...] (oh, romantic reader, forgive me for telling the plain truth!) [...] (Brontë 118)

These quotes exemplify how the narrator addresses the fictive reader of his narrative and also the temporal distance the narrator has towards the actions in the story. The moral distance of the narrator towards the narrated world can also be seen in comments of narrator Jane concerning the behaviour of character Jane as a child like it is exemplified in the following quotation:

A child cannot quarrel with its elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled play, as I had given mine; without experiencing afterwards the pang of remorse and the chill of reaction. (Brontë 50)

This quotation shows that “[a]s narrator, Jane establishes totalizing norms governing her world by employing analytical and explanatory procedures that have an effect in story-space, regulating character-Jane’s behaviour” (Gibson 210). It also shows what Case calls plotting, which “[...] is an act of authority: the narrator poses as the one to assign the shape, and hence the meaning, we were to derive from the story” (13) and this is what feminine narrators of the 19th century normally lack: the ability to shape a story (cf. Case 4). But the autodiegetic narrator of Jane Eyre, meaning narrator Jane, “[...] repeatedly steps into her story to remind us there is someone writing, and that someone is in control of the narrative” (Gibson 204). Therefore narrator Jane is an uncharacteristic feminine narrator for the 19th century, as she acts as an autodiegetic narrator who is in control of the whole story. Her role as a female narrator in control of her story, however, is legitimised towards the end of the novel. There she tells Rochester: “[...] I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress” (Brontë 420). Washington sees in that a sign that character Jane cannot be Rochester's mistress if she is her own and this can be transferred to narrator Jane. If character Jane is not in need to depend on a male character, narrator Jane is not in need to depend on a male narrator either. So Washington's statement could be expanded like this: “If [character] Jane is her own mistress, she will not be Rochester's” and therefore narrator Jane cannot be subject to a male master narrator.

Furthermore, Jane's role as narrator of the story is legitimised by “[...] Jane's very existence [...] as the narrator of [Rochester's] world” (Case 105) because “[...] he remains dependent on Jane's verbal constructions to experience the world, and is hence unable to reclaim [...] authority [...]” (Case 105f.). This enables Jane with the power to shape her story and legitimises as well her power over him on the story level as well as on the discourse level.

The occurrence of the first person singular pronoun ‘I', like it was used in the examples that were mentioned before, or the first person plural pronoun ‘we', as in this sentence: “We had been wandering, [...]” (Brontë 21), also mark the narrator of Jane Eyre as part of the story and therefore as homodiegetic.

The last criterion of an autodiegetic narrator is that the narrator is telling his or her own life story. This can be seen best in the following example: “Hitherto I have recorded in detail the events of my insignificant existence: [...]” (Brontë 92). Hence narrator Jane exemplifies an autodiegetic narrator in all aspects the term includes and because of that the focalizer of narrator Jane can only be character Jane at different stages of her life. The story starts with Jane the child as focalizer, it then shifts to Jane as a young adult and it ends with Jane as a married woman and mother:

I returned to my book - Bewick's “History of British Bird”: the letter- press thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank. (Brontë 22)

There was such deep remorse in his eye, such true pity in his tone, such manly energy in his manner; and, besides, there was such unchanged love in his whole look and mien - I forgave him all: yet not in words, not outwardly; only at my heart's core. (Brontë 294)

One morning at the end of the two years, as I was writing a letter to his dictation, he came and bent over me, and said - [...] (Brontë 435)

At the end, however, “Jane essentially narrates herself out of story space to the place from which she has been narrating all along, [...]” (Gibson 204) when on the last pages she shifts from past to present tense and merges the focalizer character Jane with the autodiegetic narrator Jane: “My Edward and I, then, are happy: and the more so, because those we most love are happy likewise” (Brontë 436).

So it should be noted that narrator Jane meets all criteria for an autodiegetic narrator and that three stages of character Jane growing up function as focalizers to the story. Being an autodiegetic narrator, narrator Jane is thus also restricted to the limits an autodiegetic narrator has towards the insight into other characters and the recount of events she did not personally witness. That's why Mr. Rochester functions as an intradiegetic narrator to tell his own life story. After the failed marriage Mr. Rochester tells the story of his marriage to Bertha Mason, the circumstances that led to the failed marriage, and also tells his thoughts and feelings (cf. Brontë 299ff.). He shows as well moral and temporal distance to his story by commenting on the events, like: “[...] gross, grovelling, mole-eyed blockhead that I was!” (Brontë 300), and because he tells his story the focalizer of Rochester's narrative is Rochester, too. But where narrator Jane gets a whole novel of more than 400 pages to display her life story, Mr. Rochester's narrative only lasts about ten. Therefore Rochester tells his story temporally compressed and thus his life story stays only a report (cf. Nünning 192): “Her relatives encouraged me; competitors piqued me; she allured me: a marriage was achieved almost before I knew where I was” (Brontë 300).

In Nünning's definition of the intradiegetic narrator, he states that it is a speaker who narrates on a hierarchically lower level to the extradiegetic narrator (cf. 189). A lower level, if not necessarily hierarchical, can also be seen in Jane Eyre's and Edward Rochester’s marriage. Their union, in the end, is regarded by Stoneman as being equal in economic, physical and emotional standing because of Jane’s inheritance and Rochester’s disability (cf. 200) and she is supported by other theorists, like Varadi, in considering the final union of Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre as being equal (cf. 110). But Rochester also inhabits the role of a dependant in that relationship (cf. Diederich §26). Edward Rochester needs Jane to act as his eyes and hands due to his disability which gives Jane some dominion over him (cf. Waxman 258) and because of that, the relation between the autodiegetic narrator Jane and the intradiegetic narrator Rochester does portray perfectly the dependent role Edward Rochester inhabits towards Jane Eyre in their marriage. Before telling his story and stepping into the role as intradiegetic narrator, Rochester has to ask Jane if she would listen to the story (cf. Brontë 299). It thus shows that as intradiegetic narrator Rochester is granted the power over telling his life story but this power is granted by the extradiegetic narrator, meaning narrator Jane. Therefore it displays the power Jane also has over Rochester in their marriage. Narrator Jane chooses to present Rochester’s life story in his words using him as an intradiegetic narrator the same as character Jane chooses to act as Rochester’s hand and sight. This relation leaves Rochester vulnerable to Jane’s mercy and exemplifies a tendency for the relationship to tip over to Jane’s advantage. It thus marks Gilbert’s suggestion of both characters being without “[...] fear of one exploiting the other” (369) as at least questionable. Furthermore, the relation between autodiegetic narrator Jane and intradiegetic narrator Rochester can be seen as exemplifying an inverted role of narrators in the 19th century as analysed by Case. She discovered that “[...] a feminine narrator typically provides only the raw material of narrative which is usually shaped and given meaning by a male ‘master-narrator’ within the text [...]” (13). In Jane Eyre, it is an autodiegetic female narrator that governs the narrative and frames the account of events the intradiegetic male narrator gives.

In conclusion of this chapter, it should be noted that the relation between the autodiegetic narrator Jane and the intradiegetic narrator Rochester image exactly the relationship the characters Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester have in the story. In their marriage, Jane has at least partially the upper hand because Rochester is dependent on her due to his disability. Therefore it can be argued that their union is not as much equal as many theorists suggest.

3.2. Speech and Thought in Jane Eyre

After having established in the previous chapter the narration and focalization of Brontë's Jane Eyre and their context to perspectivising love and marriage in the novel, the following chapter will now turn to the representation of speech and thought and their contexts to perspectivising love and marriage in Jane Eyre. It will analyse how speech acts and thought acts of the main characters, Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester, are presented and how they relate to the perspective on love and marriage Brontë's novel displays. The analysis will start with the representation of thought and will then turn to the representation of speech.

As it was established in the chapter before Brontë's novel is governed by an autodiegetic narrator. The whole fictional world is narrated through character Jane's eyes; therefore the reader mostly gains a direct access to her thoughts and feelings. Hence the representation of thought in Jane Eyre will be concerned with Jane's interior world to a large extent.

The reader gets his first glance into Jane Eyre's thoughts and feelings in the second paragraph of the novel:

I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgina Reed. (Brontë 22)

The autodiegetic narrator presents Jane's feelings in this example through psycho­narration. Because Brontë's narrator is autodiegetic the third person markers were replaced by the first person T. But the narrator mediation is still visible as this passage uses complex syntax with many subordinated clauses a child, which character Jane was at the time, could not possibly utter or think. Therefore the narrator, the older Jane, mediated character Jane's childlike thoughts with the moral and temporal distance she has.

Less narrator mediation can be seen only a few pages later: “What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon! How all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection! Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought!” (Brontë 29). This example shows the narrator's use of free indirect thought. However, the narrator's mediation is still visible as she uses again a language that is not likely that of a child of character Jane's age at the time. As Jane grows older and finishes her education in Lowood School the effect of too much narrator mediation on part of the language disappears:

I did not like re-entering Thornfield. To pass its threshold was to return to stagnation: to cross the silent hall, to ascend the darksome staircase, to seek my own lonely little room and then to meet tranquil Mrs. Fairfax, and spend the long winter evening with her, and with her only, was to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened by my walk, [...] (Brontë 124)

Here the illusion of direct insight into character Jane's mind through free indirect thought is no longer somewhat alienated by the sophisticated language uncharacteristic for a child. As an educated person hired to be a governess, character Jane's language now merges with narrator Jane's choice of words. But the mediation of the older Jane as the narrator is still visible.

After the failed marriage with Rochester character Jane's thoughts imply an even more direct insight into her mind: [...] where was the Jane Eyre of yesterday! - where was her life! - where her prospects! Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman - almost bride - was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate. [...] I looked at my love: that feeling which was my master's - which he had created; it shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle; sickness and anguish had seized it; it could not seek Mr. Rochester's arms - it could not derive warmth from his breast. Oh, never more could it turn to him; for faith was blighted - confidence destroyed! (Brontë 291)


1 Nünning explains a term that was influenced by Stanzel with the terminology of Genette. In this analysis, it will be used to shorten the reference to that specific kind of narrator.

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Perspectivising Love and Marriage in Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre" and Elisabeth Gaskell's "North and South"
University of Wuppertal
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perspectivising, love, marriage, charlotte, brontë’s, jane, eyre, elisabeth, gaskell´s, north, south
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Anonymous, 2019, Perspectivising Love and Marriage in Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre" and Elisabeth Gaskell's "North and South", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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