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Framing Jane Eyre: The mystery of St. John’s letter

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Dordt College

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  1. The mystery: Introduction
  2. One solution
  3. A parade of Eschatons
  4. The ascetic eschatology of the race
  5. A faint constellation
  6. The importance of the letter
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

In the final pages of Jane Eyre, one encounters a mystery more impenetrable than the madness of Jane Poole. As many have noted, Charlotte Bronte has given us a novel of character, rejecting plot as the driving force in her story. One reads Jane Eyre to watch the slow unfolding of the person she becomes in relation to different people at different times and under different circumstances. As Jacques Barzun points out, many readers have a better understanding of Jane, because of the roundness in which they come to view her character, than of their own friends . For this reason, the ending of Jane Eyre is particularly shocking: why would Charlotte Bronte leave us with something as irrelevant as a letter quoting the last words of the Bible?

Jane has described her own happily-ever-after and now makes the sudden unexpected leap to concluding the story of St. John's missionary endeavors. She describes his work in a great swell of biblically allusive rhetoric, and tells us that he is nearing the end of his life.

[...] must look for a deeper solution to the mystery of the letter. In this essay, I will offer one possible solution. But I will do more than sleuth. I will try to demonstrate that this ending is the final corner of a frame[3] that marks the primary allusivity of the novel. One Solution Jane Eyre is a novel about eschatology. I mean eschatology in a practical sense. The subject a reader most properly comes away chewing on is this: how does narrative construal influence one's attitude and actions during the storm and stress of life? [...]

[...] An artistically taken photograph is allusive in this way, both implying the world beyond its borders and signifying the importance of what it has been chosen to display. Even music is allusive in this way, implying harmonies, implying rhythm. Imagination, of course, is the faculty that fills in the suggestive blank. In literature, many things comprise the frame?among them are the starting and stopping place of the narrative itself; the collective tone or theme of metaphors and images; and the allusive speech, actions, and descriptions of characters, places, and events. [...]

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