Time structure in Jane Eyre

The chronology of the action

The action of Jane Eyre occupies about twenty years:

  • Jane is aged ten when the novel opens
  • She remains at Lowood School eight years and is therefore aged eighteen when she goes to Thornfield Manor
  • She is there for at least five months before her planned wedding and abrupt departure
  • She arrives at Moor House when she is nearly nineteen
  • She spends about a year with her Rivers cousins before setting out to find Rochester
  • By the time she marries Rochester, Jane is therefore aged about twenty
  • She ends her narration ten years after her marriage.
  • Make a list of events and when they happened to create a broad outline of the novel's chronology
  • Make a note of any other intervals of time that are mentioned in the text.
    • As you read the novel, how conscious were you of time passing?
  • How does a knowledge of Jane's age in each episode help us to understand the structure and themes of the novel?

The gap in the narrative

There is a major time interval in the narrative which occurs between Chapters 9 and 10 (Volume 1, Chapters 9-10) and covers eight years of Jane's life at Lowood.

  • What is the effect on the narrative of the interval in time between Chapters 9 and 10?
  • Why do you think Charlotte Brontë chose not to relate Jane's later career at Lowood School in any detail?

Time and the narrative voice

A second interval of time is recounted in the final chapter, when Jane informs the reader that ten years have passed since her marriage to Rochester, during which time they have had children, Adèle has grown up, Diana and Mary have married, and St John has gone to India. At the time she recounts her story, Jane is about thirty.

  • Why is it important that we should find out at the end of the book the time at which Jane is writing her narrative? See also Jane Eyre: Narrative
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