As we have seen, the word ‘walk’ does not cover such a range of meanings as ‘wander’; but Brontë still recurs to the word insistently. One striking example is in chapter 27 when, in the wake of the failed wedding, Jane insists that she and Rochester must part:
He turned away; he threw himself on his face on the sofa. “Oh, Jane! my hope – my love – my life!” broke in anguish from his lips. Then came a deep, strong sob.
I had already gained the door: but, reader, I walked back – walked back as determinedly as I had retreated. I knelt down by him; I turned his face from the cushion to me; I kissed his cheek; I smoothed his hair with my hand.
In Greek, the usual word for walk (περπατάω) would sound odd in this context; so the three Greek translations studied by Eleni Philippou have each found different ways of phrasing ‘I walked back – walked back’:
Όμως γυρνούσα πίσω, αναγνώστη, γυρνούσα πίσω (But I was coming back, reader, I was coming back) tr. Ninila Papagiannē, 1949
Αλλά ξαναγύρισα, ξαναγύρισα (But I returned again, I returned again) tr. Dimitris Kikizas, 1997
Όμως, καλέ μου αναγνώστη, γύρισα πίσω – γύρισα πίσω (But, my good reader, I turned back – I turned back) tr. Maria Exarchou, 2011
These alternatives show us something about the Greek language and the choices of the three translators; but they also alert us to similar English alternatives – shadow texts – which Brontë did not use. Not ‘I turned back’; not ‘I returned’; but ‘I walked back’, a choice of words which connects this action, this merely momentary change of direction, to the other decisive walks throughout the novel.
Next: explore the interplay of ‘walk’ and ‘wander’ in Chinese and Italian.
Text by Matthew Reynolds