Use of structure in Jane Eyre

When analysing structure, we should be thinking about how Brontë has ordered her text and put it together. There are two aspects we should be thinking about here:

  • Text level - this is how the text is constructed as a whole, thinking about the opening, middle and ending of Jane Eyre. Within this, you can look at how a character or a theme progresses and develops in the narrative.
  • Sentence level - this is how the text is constructed at a sentence level: sentence types, lengths and the ordering of events.

Text level

Jane Eyre is a novel, a form that was common in the Victorian period. It includes 38 chapters in total, however the novel is also structured by the places where Jane lives and by how each location relates to her development into adulthood. The placenames are symbolic and illustrate something about Jane's life at that place, for example, her happiness and her struggles.

  • Gateshead Hall is the name of her Aunt Reed's home. Her childhood is spent at Gateshead and ends with the Red Room episode after which her aunt finds Jane a place at Lowood School. The name is symbolic as it is her 'gateway' into another life, into the journey of her adulthood.
  • Lowood School is where Jane is sent by her aunt. Here she boards and lives at the school, later becoming a school mistress. As Jane's best friend Helen Burns, dies here and she is consistently bullied by others, it is a 'low' point in Jane's life. This is echoed in the name 'Lowood.'
  • Thornfield is where Jane becomes a governess for Adele under the instruction of Edward Rochester. Here, Jane falls in love with Rochester, plans to marry him and unfortunately discovers he is already married to the 'madwoman in the attic', Bertha. The 'thorn' is symbolic, as it illustrates how difficult Jane's life is at Thornfield.
  • Moor House is the name of the Rivers' home. It is here that Jane finds a home where other doors have been shut and she comes to realise she has family. The use of the 'moor' also has links with nature, symbolising how wild and free Jane becomes, forging her own identity and future.
  • Ferndean Manor is Rochester's manor and later becomes Jane's home with their children. It symbolises that Jane can't go back to her old life at Thornfield and a new life has to start.

Sentence Level

When analysing structure, you can also analyse it at a sentence level - thinking about how an author has created a sentence and to what purpose.

Below is a quotation from Chapter 28. In this chapter, Jane decides she should leave Thornfield as she cannot live with Rochester as his mistress.

'I have no relative but the universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose.'

  • Repetition of I highlights the first person and emphasises how keen Jane is to leave Thornfield. She speaks of becoming more attuned with Mother Nature.
  • The capital N on 'Nature' highlights how important nature is to Jane, emphasising how wild she has become and the freedom she has.
  • The use of the : (colon) links the two statements together, emphasising how Jane has nobody but the wilderness and how she wishes to be that way.