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Jane Eyre - Language

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at language. Language in Jane Eyre draws on emotion, ideas of justice, nature, law, education and religion. Descriptions of people are detailed in terms of their physical appearance and behaviour; these portrayals are explicitly linked to inner character. The natural environment is depicted through language which is lyrical and evocative. Jane’s powerful emotions are effectively conveyed through Charlotte Brontë’s mastery of the affective vocabulary, that is to say, language related to feelings.

Analysing language in a text

Texts are understood primarily through the language with which they are written and read. Authors choose individual words with precision.

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By paying close attention to individual words and phrases, you will begin to understand the symbolic meanings and associations that lie beyond the obvious literal meanings. Authors create imagery, such as metaphor, simile and personification, and other literary effects, through the thoughtful use of language. An author’s skill in deploying language allows the effective creation of setting, characterisation and dialogue.

You can increase your understanding of a text enormously by paying very close attention to the detail contained in its language. Spend time lingering over the words and imagery used, considering the potential for multiple meanings rather than immediately settling for the surface meaning. Ask yourself what each individual choice of words, or combinations of words, might suggest. Notice the ideas that come to mind as you read. The time and care which you devote to the language will be repaid by an improved ability to analyse literature.

Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect the reader’s interpretation of Jane Eyre.

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  1. "My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings: something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down — I uttered a wild, involuntary cry." What effect is created by the use of language in this sentence?
    "Thick", "hot", "filled", "rushing" and "something seemed near me": these words are chosen to create an overwhelming sense of panic
  2. "It seemed, sir, a woman, tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back. I know not what dress she had on: it was white and straight, but whether gown, sheet, or shroud, I cannot tell." What effect does the word "shroud" have here?
    The white gown can be a wedding dress or a burial shroud, encapsulating Jane's conflicting emotions at the thought of marrying Rochester
  3. "While disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its frequent visitor; while there was gloom and fear within its walls; while its rooms and passages steamed with hospital smells: the drug and the pastille striving vainly to overcome the effluvia of mortality; that bright May shone unclouded over the bold hills and beautiful woodland out of doors." What has been personified in these lines?
    Death and disease have become inhabitants of the school. Medicine ("the drug and pastille") has also been personified: it is "striving vainly"
  4. "As for me, I daily wished more to please him: but to do so, I felt daily more and more that I must disown half my nature, stifle half my faculties, wrest my tastes from their original bent, force myself to the adoption of pursuits for which I had no natural vocation." Which use of language does NOT convey the unnatural direction Jane is taking at this point in the novel?
    Jane feels strongly that her nature rebels against her determination to please her cousin
  5. In this passage describing the sounds made by the hidden Bertha, which phrase does not liken her to an animal or make her seem less than human?
    Bertha is referred to as an "it" which snarls like a dog and lives in a den
  6. "I touched the heath: it was dry, and yet warm with the heat of the summer day. I looked at the sky; it was pure: a kindly star twinkled just above the chasm ridge. The dew fell, but with propitious softness; no breeze whispered." The use of language creates which impression here?
    The next sentence is: "Nature seemed to me benign and good: I thought she loved me, outcast as I was"
  7. "He looked at me before he proceeded: indeed, he seemed leisurely to read my face, as if its features and lines were characters on a page." This sentence contains an example of which literary device?
    Jane's face is a page on which her features are the letters and St John can read what is written there
  8. "There was stretched Sarah Reed's once robust and active frame, rigid and still: her eye of flint was covered with its cold lid; her brow and strong traits wore yet the impress of her inexorable soul." Which language choices give an impression of the hardness of Mrs Reed's character?
    Mrs Reed is inflexible to the last; even upon her deathbed she is unable to show any kindness to her niece
  9. "That wind would then have saddened my heart; this obscure chaos would have disturbed my peace. As it was, I derived from both a strange excitement, and reckless and feverish, I wished the wind to howl more wildly, the gloom to deepen to darkness, and the confusion to rise to clamour." Which language choices refer strictly to Jane's own emotions?
    Jane's inner emotional state, which she describes as a reckless and feverish excitement, is reflected in the wild chaos of the weather outdoors
  10. "'But to-night I am resolved to be at ease; to dismiss what importunes, and recall what pleases. It would please me now to draw you out: to learn more of you — therefore speak —' Instead of speaking, I smiled: and not a very complacent or submissive smile either."
    Which language choices suggest that Jane has no intention of responding to Rochester's order?
    To be complacent or submissive would mean to do as Rochester has ordered

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