The creation of character

Description and self-description

The narrator's description

In a first-person narrative, characters external to the narrator are largely seen from one point of view. Occasionally, other characters may make comments to the narrator – Mrs Fairfax, for instance, offers some tantalising remarks about Rochester before he returns to Thornfield. Generally, though, we have to rely on Jane's descriptions for our impressions of the other characters.

  • Make notes on how Jane describes
    • Miss Temple
    • Blanche Ingram
  • In what ways do the detail and tone of her descriptions help us to understand Jane's opinions of Miss Temple and Blanche Ingram and the role they play in her life?


The other principal means by which characters may be represented lies in what they say about themselves, their self-descriptions. This is often a way of directing or controlling the perceptions of others, perhaps as acts of self-justification or in order to pre-empt or deflect any potential criticism.

When this occurs, narrative interest often lies in the gap between the way in which they represent themselves and how the narrative voice sees them. However, as at other points in the novel, the reader may be required to accept the fictional convention that the narrator is reporting the character's words and actions fully and truthfully.

In Jane Eyre, the main example of such self-description is Rochester. On more than one occasion he is given quite lengthy speeches in which he tells Jane about his past life and behaviour.

  • Choose any one of the speeches in which Rochester tells Jane about his past life and make detailed notes
    • How does he represent himself to Jane?
    • Create a table showing to what extent his self-description correspond with the ways in which Jane perceives him
  • Look now at the other speech(es) in which Rochester tells Jane about his past life and try to decide how consistent an account he gives of himself.Provide evidence to demonstrate in what ways, if at all, these speeches modify Jane's

    feelings about Rochester.


Dialogue is another means by which characters are created in fiction. Differences in the ways in which people talk – their vocabulary, the rhythms of the speech and the topics to which they most often refer – are signs both of the values by which they live and also say a great deal about their personalities.

  • Mr Brocklehurst appears twice in the novel: in Chapters 4 and 7 (Volume 1, Chapters 4 and 7). Re-read these chapters and make notes on the way in which he speaks
    • What does this tell us about him?


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