“Jane Eyre” is very much the story of a young girl’s quest to be loved, and a search for equality in a greatly unjust reality.
Throughout the opening chapters Jane shows a fire and ice persona: there are sharp contrasts between her emotions at certain points in the novel, which seem to show a state of frustration on behalf of Jane at her oppressors.
At the beginning of the novel Jane shows an icy mood, in which she looks upon the world in a purely objective sense – she is indifferent to emotions and impulses; rather she is observant and just aware of the world around her. Which Charlotte Bronte shows in the weather by means of pathetic fallacy:
…the cold winter wind had brought with it
clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating…
At this point Jane is pacified reading a book, “Bewick’s History of British Birds”, however following abuse from John Reed she loses control of herself and her outward disposition suddenly becomes “passionate” – as Ms. Abbot eloquently describes:
…I received him in frantic sort. I don’t very
well know what I did with my hands, but he
called out “Rat! Rat!” and bellowed out
“,Did anybody ever see such a picture of passion?”
Jane’s integrity is tested in these early chapters, and due to the retrospective nature of the narration, it seems as if this will continue to be an important theme in the rest of the novel. For this reason Jane must learn to balance the frequently conflicting aspects of her own persona in order to find a sense of tranquility and contentment.
I feel tha...
t Bronte tries to show a balancing act in the narration, at times the reader feels that the young Ms. Eyre brings the hardship which she endures upon herself, although overall we are meant to feel for Jane, at times Bronte seems to be almost defending Mrs. Reed.
If they did not love me, in fact, as little as I
did love them. They were not bound to
regard with affection a thing that could not
sympathize with one amongst them; a
heterogeneous thing. In capacity, in propensities…
Here, because the narrative is in the first person [viewed as from Jane] Jane seems to have a certain amount of understanding for the cruel treatment she receives. Although this feeling is vastly overshadowed:
This reproach of my dependence had become
a vague sing-song in my ear; very painful and
crushing, but only half intelligible.
This is one way in which Charlotte Bronte stops and feeling of empathy with Mrs. Reed in her situation with Jane; by making Jane clearly the victim, in contrast to protagonist, Bronte firmly asserts Jane as the oppressed heroin in the story.
This is most apparent to the reader during chapter two, whereupon Jane imagines “dead men” [in this case her Uncle, who died in the Red Room] “revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the oppressed.”
One reason for Jane’s situation in the Reed family household is her inability to integrate with the Reeds.
I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was
like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony
with Mrs. Reed of her children, or her chosen
Jane however, is frustrated that she cannot figure out wha
it is that she does, and is doing; e.g.:-
why could I never please? Why was it useless
to try to win anybody’s favour?
Jane seems terrified by the Red Room, the most obvious reason being the death of her uncle; ” I resisted all the way.” This shows that Jane does not want to go there and will do anything within her power not to go there, as she acts out of character, by kicking and screaming. This makes us, the reader, sympathize for Jane as it seems as if she is being tortured and punished for a mild offence.
This room signifies the first Gothic element of the story, although Jane Eyre is a dominantly romantic novel [however this is not shown in the opening chapters, as Jane is only 10 years old], it also has a strong Gothic tone. All of these elements: a dark and foreboding room where a family member died, the color red, ghosts and phantoms, and the romantic gothic scene of rain on the moors – are Gothic and seemingly predict future Gothic locales and themes in the plot.
The use of Gothic components is Jane Eyre is perhaps due to the Victorian society in which Charlotte Bronte lived in. Gothicism influenced 19th century arts, poetics, architecture, and many aspects of design. This, perchance, is one reason why Bronte chose to include many Gothic constituents in the novel.
Jane also states that this action was “..a new thing for me.”. For the first time Jane is asserting her rights as a person, and she is further punished for this act of rebellion. Jane’s efforts to gain equality in her world only seem to deepen the punishment and resentment which she receives.
Although Jane seems to be quite mature for her tender age of 10/11 she still loses her rationality at times, such as her outburst at John Reed which leads to her confinement in the Red Room. This indicates to the reader that Jane will inevitably allow her situation to worsen… with foreseeable consequences: she will be sent to the “poor house”.
The Red Room could be symbolic for many aspects of Jane and her surroundings; not least of which fear, oppression, and isolation:-
The colour red is, by itself, associated with danger and fear. Bronte seems to exaggerate the overall redness of the room; I think that the room is red more in Jane Eyre’s imagination than in reality. Mahogany is a very red wood, and Victorian dï¿½cor often used red extravagantly, however the idea that a room would be so vividly red is absurd.
Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in
this chamber he breather his last; here he lay
in state; hence his coffin was borne by the
undertaker’s men; and, since that day, a sense
if dreary consecration had guarded it from
The death of her uncle in the red room seems to create an aura of death and darkness for those who dwell in it. This atmosphere is amplified by the mirrors present in the room, perhaps reflecting the deep red shades, projecting an image of red into Jane’s highly active imagination.
One reason for Jane’s confinement in the red
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