...[ relieved] the whiteness of her large front


Senior Member
The context comes from Jane Eyre Chapter 5

While the direction was being executed, the lady consulted moved slowly up the room. I suppose I have a considerable organ of veneration, for I retain yet the sense of admiring awe with which my eyes traced her steps. Seen now, in broad daylight, she looked tall, fair, and shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in their irids, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round, relieved the whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of a very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the fashion of those times, when neither smooth bands nor long ringlets were in vogue; her dress, also in the mode of the day, was of purple cloth, relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet; a gold watch (watches were not so common then as now) shone at her girdle.
Hi everyone! I don't quite understand the word "to relieve" here. Does it mean "to bring into relief or prominence;heighten the effect of"?
  • veggie21

    Senior Member
    English England
    I think it just means that it took the emphasis away/distracted attention from the whiteness of her large forehead.


    Senior Member
    English, USA
    There's bas-relief and haut-relief in classic architectural carvings in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It could mean "gave depth to" or "brought into relief". The basic meaning is took away the emphasis, lessen, decrease in modern English. However, note she uses it again to mean "highlight" or "contrast".
    relieved by a sort of Spanish trimming of black velvet
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