Helen and Miss temple are appealing to Jane because she discovers something in both of them to which she feels she should aspire. Upon overhearing a conversation between the two women, Jane writes, "They conversed of things I had never heard of: of nations and times past; of countries far away; of secrets of nature discovered or guessed at. They spoke of books: how many they had read! What stores of knowledge they possessed!" (76). This passage emphasizes the importance that Jane places not only on knowledge but the sharing of that knowledge. The eloquence of their conversation set a standard to which Jane would measure for the rest of her days. What we must note from these observations thus far is that while Jane is the narrator of this story, she has no qualms sharing the limelight with those of which she is fond. In fact, it is through their discourse that we learn more about our heroine.
The more encounters and friendships she established, the more we learn about Jane. During her stay at Thornfield, Jane feels dejected and her sole recourse for any amount of companionship is with Mrs. Farifax. Jane is pleased to know her but becomes painfully aware that she cannot provide Jane with the intellectual stimulation she needs or desires. She writes, "There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching a character, of observing and describing salient points, either in persons or things: the good lady evidently belonged to this class" (112). Mrs. Fairfax does not have a knack for enlightening conversation but Jane was drawn to her despite this fact.
We see a meeting of the minds with Jane's relationship with the Rivers sisters. Jane carries a great amount of respect for them because they can relate to one another. They shared the same interests and Jane could "converse with them as much as they wished" (385). In addition, we are told, "There was a reviving pleasure in this intercourse, of a kind now tasted by me for the first time - the pleasure arising from perfect congeniality of tastes, sentiments, and principles" (385). When she describes how similar the women were, she writes, "Thought fitted thought; opinion fitted opinion - we coincided, in short, perfectly" (386). They learned from one another with Diana teaching Jane German and the sisters watching Jane draw. Jane describes their time together as "Mutually entertained" (386) with the days passing "like hours, and the weeks like days" (386). The sisters "could always talk; and their discourse, witty, pithy, original, had such charms for me, that I preferred listening to, and sharing in it, to doing anything else" (436) and their spirits were like "life-giving elixir" (436). Here we an admiration that is similar to that of Miss Temple and Helen in that Jane holds these women in the highest regard and truly cherishes the time she spends with them. This time, as we must know by this point, must include a certain level of intellectual stimulation.
Perhaps the character that deserves the most attention in regard to their importance in Jane's life is Rochester. It is with Rochester that Jane feels truly connected and eternally bound. She holds him with the highest esteem regardless of his mistakes and shortcomings and this is significant to realize because their relationship is founded upon their discourse as human beings. More than anything else, the two appreciate one another for what they provide intellectually. Jane understands the importance of this when she writes, "I knew the pleasure of vexing and soothing him by turns; it was one I chiefly delighted in... I could still meet him in argument without fear or uneasy restraint; this suited both him and me" (169-70). This passage encapsulates the foundation of their relationship - Jane has no difficulty approaching Rochester and this is the very quality that attracts him to her. This is only reinforced at the end of the novel when Jane writes, "We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character -- perfect concord is the result" (499). This passage reiterates the notion that their relationship was founded upon and rests securely on the art of conversation.
Kaplan claims that Jane indicates the status of the relationship from Rochester's own mouth. She states the couple is "so bound up in seductive discourse, in the seductiveness of discourse, that it is hardly hyperbolic for Rochester to proclaim that everything that matters to him in the world is 'concentrated in my Jane's tongue to my ear'" (Kaplan). Here we see that Jane, the narrator, establishes Rochester as the listener and Jane as the speaker in this novel. Conversation is stimulating for both parties. Kaplan also maintains that conversation is Rochester's "cure and his redemption" (Kaplan). "Rochester's restorative 'right to get pleasure out of life,'... drives the discursive dynamics between himself and Jane" (Kaplan). Kaplan also states that evidence for Bronte framing the gothic novel is crouched within the context of some form of communication or conversation. An example of this "discursive exchange" (Kaplan) can be seen when Jane is "saved from sacrificing herself to St. John's missionary ideals" (Kaplan), with a moment of "transcendent dialogue with Rochester" (Kaplan) in which calls out to her and she responds by telling him that she is coming and asks him to wait for her.
Here we see how the connection Jane has with Rochester is one that transcends space and time and the only way that it makes sense on the context of the novel and in the couple's relationship is through a series of words that come to be the motivating factor that sets Jane upon another ethereal path.
Jane needs kind conversation in order to survive and this is why she and Rochester are bound together. However, we should take careful note that Rochester is not the reason for Jane's craving. Knies observes, "The real triumph of Jane Eyre, as almost every commentator on the book has noted, is, of course, the character of Jane" (Knies 548). We cannot know the characteristics of this person without knowing the most intimate aspects of her deepest longings. Bronte established early that these yearnings included a connection with other human beings on an intellectual level. From early in her life when she confided in Mr. Lloyd simply to have a confidant to the woman that enjoyed stimulating conversation with her beloved Rochester, Jane develops into a woman that thrives on conversation for stimulation. When she observes that she is "blest beyond what language can express" (Bronte 499), she is indicating that true love is beyond expression and beyond her first love - words. The narrative form of the novel allows us to not only get to know Jane and the individuals she encounters but also the ways in which Jane develops into an educated, intelligent woman. Those individuals that influenced her along the way become important players because they help Jane evolve. The narrator certainly enjoys her task but she also delights in allowing those for whom she feels an affinity to emerge and express themselves. In allowing them to present themselves, she is expressing her veneration for their eloquence in narration.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Scholastic Books. 1962.
Kaplan, Carla. "Girl Talk: 'Jane Eyre' and the Romance of Women's Narration." Novel: A Forum on Fiction. 1996. Information Retrieved November 24, 2008. JSTOR Resource Database. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1345845
Knies, Earl. a. "The "I" of Jane Eyre." College English. 1966. National Council of Teachers…