Place, Setting, And Landscape In Jane Eyre Essay, Research Paper
There are many symbolic and psychological functions of place, setting, and landscape in Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte uses descriptions throughout the novel to exaggerate the effect of an event. Bronte also uses setting (less frequently however) to foreshadow a situation, or the nature of a situation.
From the commencement of the story, the reader is introduced to the climate. A cold, winter day, full of clouds and rain is described. Physical abuse by John Reed and the family’s rejection of Jane soon follows. Bronte uses the weather to mirror the mood of Jane’s surroundings, which are depressing and gloomy.
An event which traumatises Jane psychologically and emotionally is her imprisonment in the Red Room. As the room is seldom visited, it has an icy cold nature. After she calms down, there is coldness in Jane’s mood as well. She admits, “…my courage sank. My habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my decaying ire.”(p. 10) Jane’s emotions parallel the imagery of the Red Room. The room is furnished with red curtains, a red carpet, white pillows, and a white easy-chair. White signifies absence of passion and fire, purity, and sexlessness, while red signifies passion, lust, and energy. These colours are symbolic of Jane’s temperament, as she transforms from being hysterical to quiet and calm. She feels a sense of alienation and self-estrangement as she looks at herself in the mirror.
Upon her departure from Gateshead, Jane looks forward to the new experience of school. However, the rain, wind, and darkness, which are present upon her arrival, give an indication that the school may not be as pleasant as Jane had anticipated. Lowood Institution is made up of many compartments, passages, large and irregular buildings, and has a dreary silence. The garden is convent-like and is surrounded by high walls. The clothing which the students wear have the drabness and uniformity of an institution. These characteristics and the teacher’s disciplinary techniques contribute to the prison-like atmosphere, which is present at Lowood. The students are closely watched and many feel like inmates.
Bronte paints the coming of spring with “days of blue sky, placid sunshine… flowers [peeping] out amongst the leaves… [and a] scent of spice and apples” (p. 70-71). The ambience at Lowood correspondingly becomes lighter and less-disciplined. Nevertheless, a disease-stricken school brings some misfortunes to Jane’s friend, Helen. Helen’s departure from the world, however, imitates the cheerful setting which surrounds her. Helen is at peace and is not afraid of dying. She assures Jane that she is happy, that she has faith, and that she is going to God (p. 76).
A contrasting scene of death occurs at Gateshead. As Mrs. Reed lies on her deathbed, she requests the presence of Jane in order to repent her sins. Her ultimate goal is a selfish one: to improve her own health. While she denies Jane affection and blames Jane for her own mistakes, “the rain beat strongly against the panes, [and] the wind blew tempestuously” (p. 235). Bronte uses an opposing climate in this scene to illustrate the wickedness of Mrs. Reed’s character and that her death can be characterised as having a spiteful and agitated nature.
Thornfield is portrayed as an old manorhouse, quite large in size, with long, dark corridors and spacious rooms. It has a cold and lifeless feeling as one walks through it (p. 93). This solemn place strongly insinuates the presence of a family secret or hidden information. The rarely visited rooms, the lack of light, and the few occupants make for the perfect mystery. The Thornfield secret is later exposed as Bertha, the mad woman locked in the attic.
Bronte displays a good use of landscape as an emblem for Jane’s feelings. On a cold day, Jane travels on a silent and lonely road to Hay. She is content to walk among the fields, watch a few birds, and enjoy the light from the moon (p. 106-107). As Jane walks along a lonely road, she too feels alone in the world. She despises the only family members she knows of,…
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