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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

            The primary and most basic narrative feature of Jane Eyre, published firstly as an autobiography, is the novel's first person narration, given by the eponymous character. Obviously, in presenting this narrator as a woman, Bronte creates from the outset a sense of defiance of Victorian societal convention, but in telling the story through one character, Bronte is also able to give a reality and vitality to the story, as well as to manipulate the time-frame of the narration, and control and direct the reader's impression and understanding of other characters.
             Sandra Gilbert sees Jane Eyre as "a distinctively female Bildungsroman", in which Jane "struggles from the imprisonment of childhood toward an almost unthinkable goal of mature freedom". Although this representation of the novel is true as far as the main body of the narrative is concerned, the issue is complicated by the intervention of the mature Jane in the sentiments of the child she is describing, in sentence such as "such dread as children only can feel. Yes, we do see Jane mature through the novel, but the fact that the whole story is being told by a narrator who speaks to us disrupts the progress of a pure Bildungsroman, by introducing the mature Jane early on in the novel, rather than only at the end, after the "struggle " has been overcome. In this way the time-frame of the narration - that is the point in time from which Jane is telling us the story - is made uncertain throughout the novel. Is Jane reminiscing, and looking back over a life already lived, or is the reader privy to her immediate experiences, as the events unfold around her? Only at the very end of the novel are we given any definite indication of the timeframe the story. .
             At the very beginning of the chapter entitled 'conclusion', Jane delivers what is perhaps the most famous line of the whole novel. "Reader, I married him," she says, pinning down for certain the time from which Jane is speaking - her 'present' (that we reach at the end of the book) - as some time after the events took place.

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