Comparing the Quest for Self in Jane Eyre and Villete Essay

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Quest for Self in Jane Eyre and Villete

"Why is Villette so disagreeable? Because the writer's mind

contains nothing but hunger, rebellion and rage." Matthew Arnold, 1853.

Matthew Arnold was certainly forthcoming about the defects of both Charlotte Bronte's mind and of her novel. Indeed he was not alone in his reaction to her; Anne Mozley in The Christian Remembrancer ;in April 1853 wrote in reaction to Bronte's other great work of "rebellion", Jane Eyre, that she had to make "a protest against the outrages on decorum, the moral perversity, the toleration, nay, indifference to vice which deform her picture of a desolate woman" (my italics). Mozley even went far enough to label Jane Eyre a "dangerous
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Without language the self is mutilated and silenced and, as Tanner notes in his introduction to Villette, "to be wordless is to be powerless". By having Jane and Lucy narrate their own stories Bronte allows them to create self, to free themselves from the repression of silence and to be powerful. The implications of this are obvious if the same principal were to be applied to other novels - how different would Great Expectations be if Estella rather than Pip narrated the action or if Thackeray's narrator in Vanity Fair were to be replaced with Becky Sharp? This, however, is not to deny that both Lucy and Jane are flawed narrators. Jane's story is essentially an intellectually detached adult's view but this does not stop the "undeveloped [and] imperfect" child view manifesting itself in her story. Jane is also profoundly middle class - she is convinced that everything foreign is intrinsically unhealthy and immoral as shown in her desire to make Adele "English" and in her fear of the Indian climate. If Jane expresses some features of an unreliable narrator then Lucy is seriously flawed. Initially she appears precise, lucid and detached. However in her description of the events between Paulina and her father her tone is not in keeping with the pathos of the situation. If the red room at
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