In the format of a non-traditional critique, Writing that Scene examines the fundamentals of what it takes to capably convey a scene to one’s readers. The opinion expressed is my own, and other readers’ opinions may and will differ.

If you are interested in sharing a scene of your own for a future post, click on the Writing that Scene Submission link. Or, you can suggest a scene from another writer’s work for us to analyze here.

 

Author: Charlotte Brontë

Scene location: Middle of the book

Genre: Romance

Jane Eyre: (Original Scene Text)

“You, Jane. I must have you for my own—entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly.”

“Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to read your countenance; turn!”

“There: you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled, scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer.”

His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes.

“Oh, Jane, you torture me!” he exclaimed. “With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!”

“How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion—they cannot torture.”

“Gratitude!” he ejaculated; and added wildly—“Jane, accept me quickly. Say, Edward—give me my name—Edward—I will marry you.”

“Are you in earnest?—Do you truly love me?—Do you sincerely wish me to e your wife?”

“I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it.”

“Then, sir, I will marry you.”

“Edward—my little wife!”

“Dear Edward!”

“Come to me—come to me entirely now,” said he: and added, in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, “Make my happiness—I will make yours.”

“God pardon me!” he subjoined ere long; “And man meddle not with me: I have her, and will hold her.”

“There is no one to meddle sir. I have no kindred to interfere.”

“No—that is the best of it,” he said. And if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage: but, sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting—called to the paradise of union—I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in so abundant a flow. Again and again he said, “Are you happy, Jane?” And again and again I answered, “Yes.” After which he murmured, “It will atone—it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves? It will expiate at God’s tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world’s judgment—I wash my hands thereof. For mans’ opinion—I defy it.”

 

Author’s Point of View: Unknown to the reader at this point, Edward Rochester is proposing to Jane while currently married. He is trying to keep this fact from her, though, because at the time, divorce was not an option.

Jane Eyre (my comments in blue)

[“You, Jane. I must have you for my own—entirely my own. Will you be mine? Say yes, quickly.” I like how you hint at his rush. He seems to want her to agree quickly and not give her time to think, as though thought would help her realize the true situation he’s in.]

“Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to read your countenance; turn!”

“There: you will find it scarcely more legible than a crumpled, scratched page. Read on: only make haste, for I suffer.”

[His face was very much agitated and very much flushed, and there were strong workings in the features, and strange gleams in the eyes. I like how little description you put in this passage. He just proposed to her, and she is examining his face, but instead of minute descriptions of who is standing where, and how, we only have this one sentence. Very effective.]

[“Oh, Jane, you torture me!” he exclaimed. “With that searching and yet faithful and generous look, you torture me!” Nice way to slip in the uneasiness he feels at proposing to her.]

“How can I do that? If you are true, and your offer real, my only feelings to you must be gratitude and devotion—they cannot torture.”

[“Gratitude!” he ejaculated; and added wildly—“Jane, accept me quickly. Say, Edward—give me my name—Edward—I will marry you.”

“Are you in earnest?—Do you truly love me?—Do you sincerely wish me to e your wife?” This section seemed a little heavy on em dashes. They do set off each sentence, as a separate thought, but there are a lot of them. You might want to rethink how to word this passage, and others, wherever they appear frequently. They work best when used sparingly, for effect…but that may just be my opinion.]

“I do; and if an oath is necessary to satisfy you, I swear it.”

“Then, sir, I will marry you.”

[“Edward—my little wife!” I found this a tiny bit confusing, since Edward is talking. Then I realized he was harping back to the desire to hear her speak his given name. Using single quotes around his name might help? I understand the significance, though, since, at the time, using a given name was a sign of extreme familiarity.]

“Dear Edward!”

[“Come to me—come to me entirely now,” said he: and added, in his deepest tone, speaking in my ear as his cheek was laid on mine, “Make my happiness—I will make yours.” Again, effective use of physical description. We know that she has moved closer to him, but only a few words are used to convey this.]

[“God pardon me!” he subjoined ere long; “And man meddle not with me: I have her, and will hold her.” You might consider changing the “subjoined” to a simple “said.” When you wrote this, a variety of verbal tags were common, but now, most writers rely on “said.”]

“There is no one to meddle sir. I have no kindred to interfere.”

[“No—that is the best of it,” he said. I would consider using a period, or a comma, instead of the em dash here, to help set up the em dashes you have later in this passage. You could also use a semicolon, but you have a lot of those already, and there is nothing wrong with using periods or commas, when they fit. They can actually allow the reader to gloss over the punctuation and focus on the words.] And if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage: but, sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting—called to the paradise of union—I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in so abundant a flow. Effective use of a colon; most people only use them as a precursor for lists, but here, you use it as a segue from one thought to another, where a comma would not have enough weight, given the commas and em dashes that follow. Very nice!]

[Again and again he said, “Are you happy, Jane?” And again and again I answered, “Yes.” Perfect spot to summarize. I can picture the happy couple enjoying their proximity and happiness, saying the same things over and over, without reading any dull dialogue.] [After which he murmured, “It will atone—it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves? It will expiate at God’s tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world’s judgment—I wash my hands thereof. For man’s opinion—I defy it.” Great setup of the problems to come. She is oblivious to what his comments mean, but they are there for the reader to wonder at. Good foreshadowing! And I like the almost-scriptural reference: friendless, cold, and comfortless compare to Christ’s words in Matthew 25, distilled to their root meanings as though he has heard sermons on the topic. You can sense his trying to defend his actions.]

You’re welcome (and encouraged) to share your own comments, keeping a tone of constructive criticism in mind so we can all learn from this project together. Thanks!

Comments Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren
Photo: Fog 雾 by 55Laney69, used per Creative Commons

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