brontë studies, Vol. 37 No. 3, September 2012, 174–89
‘Give me my name’: Naming and Identity In and Around Jane Eyre
The article discusses the importance of names, naming and identity in connection with Jane Eyre. A focus on the framing provided by the title page is the basis for insights into the importance ‘names and naming’ has for our interpretation of the novel, leading to discussion of how these elements are innovatively handled in a mid-nineteenth-century context. Such an apprehension of what a name is (or is perceived to be) becomes key to our understanding of Jane’s and the novel’s sense of self and identity.
keywords Jane Eyre, identity, names, onomastics
A reader of Jane Eyre probably knows that Charlotte Brontë initially published the novel under a pseudonym, and, if not, will learn of this in an introduction to the novel or through the presentation of a title-page facsimile.1 The reader will think little more of it, eager no doubt to press on with the selfcontained story. But it may be worth pausing a while to consider what is going on in the seemingly innocuous information, ‘JANE EYRE. An Autobiography. Edited by CURRER BELL’, for this presentation is highly significant for a contextual appreciation of Charlotte Brontë’s first published novel. There has already been some work on the names of characters within the novel, looking at possible symbolism (e.g. ‘Eyre’, ‘rivers’, ‘reed’), literary allusions (‘Edward Fairfax’ and ‘Rochester’), biblical allusions (‘St John’) and the ordinariness of the name ‘Jane’.2 A focus on the framing provided by the title page with respect to name will offer further insights into the importance ‘names and naming’ have for the author, and insights into how ‘names and naming’ are being carefully handled in this mid-nineteenth-century context. Following on from this, we can see how such an apprehension of what a name is (or is perceived to be) is instrumental in some of the key ideas in the novel....