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Settings and stages of life in Charlotte Brontes Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a coming of age novel called a Bildungsroman, in which the main character encounters numerous challenges before she grows and understands her place in society. The narrative of Jane Eyre tracks Jane’s transition from childhood to maturity. Jane navigated through her early fears, residing in various places and encountering different life situations along the way. Five distinct places impact Jane’s life stages; each place is named to represent the specific period of growth she experiences while residing there. Throughout the book, Jane sees her residence as a temporary stop and often values liberty. 
The story of Jane Eyre starts at Gateshead. Regarding Bildungsroman, Gateshead symbolizes the beginning of Jane’s journey. The concepts of ‘gate’ and ‘head’ can both refer to the concept of “start.” A gate symbolizes a doorway to an expansive realm; Jane’s current life at Gateshead reflects her intense yearning to break free from the unkindness of her relatives. Jane views her home in Gateshead as a place to run away from due to her family’s mistreatment, leading to a childhood marked by abuse and neglect. The early phases have the greatest impact on Jane’s life. Gateshead shows her that a person’s wealth is the only significant characteristic. Jane believes that poverty is equal to humiliation for her, to the point where she would choose to remain with the Reeds rather than live with her impoverished family members. At this moment in her life, Jane is narrow-minded, and the term ‘gate’ symbolizes the barrier separating Jane from the external world. The internal anger she harbors for the Reeds is represented by the red room in the house. 

Following her escape from Gateshead, Jane makes her journey to Lowood school. With high levels of hope and excitement, she walks into the school. However, she is confronted with disappointment. She discovers herself in difficult and challenging times at Lowood. Jane is tormented by previous mistreatment, making it difficult for her. Lowood is a location where she receives teachings on both education and religion. She resides in that place for a period of eight years and works as an educator for two years. Readers observe her transition from Lowood to Mr. Rochester’s home as she matures into a young woman.

Thornfield house is where Jane lives and it holds great significance to her. The meaning of the name can vary, but linking ‘thorn’ and ‘field’ may bring to mind a field of roses. Roses, though seemingly fragile and lovely at a distance, can inflict pain with their thorns upon closer inspection. Jane sees Thornfield and her life with Rochester as a perfect dream, resembling a rose field. However, as things progress, she discovers that just like a field of roses, Mr. Rochester harbors hidden secrets that hurt her deeply. She forms strong bonds with many of the residents in the house and Jane grows into an adult during her time there. Adele’s teacher is respected and earns a high salary for her work. Thornfield symbolizes a thorn-filled field that Jane cannot break free from. It ensnares her in that place, cutting her off from the outside world once more. Nonetheless, it is also where she experiences genuine love. She starts to discover joy and a lifestyle that she could share with Rochester and Adele. Yet, this alters when she finds out that Rochester is already wed. He declines being his lover and departing from the location.

Jane encounters numerous challenges while she wanders away from Thornfield. Jane feels hungry and alone.. but when she loses faith, she encounters her relatives Diana, Mary, and St. John at Moor House. Upon reuniting with her family, she learns that her uncle John Eyre has bestowed a large inheritance upon her. Following a period of emotional distress experienced at Thornfield, Jane sought solace at Moor House to regain her balance. With a significant inheritance, she has attained financial security.

Jane ultimately finds her final resting place at Ferndean Manor, where she stays with Mr. Rochester following the destruction of Thornfield. It is interesting to note that Ferndean serves as a sanctuary and safe haven for Jane in the end. Rochester and Jane embark on a fresh start to build a new life as a couple. Thornfield and Ferndean are opposite each other as locations where Jane and Rochester reunite. Ferndean was transformed into the new Thornfield following its destruction by fire. After the disappearance of thorns, ferns have emerged as the new plants. Another symbolic representation of ‘fern’ is seen post forest fires, as ferns are typically the initial plant to grow following the destruction. Following the fire that destroys Thornfield and erases all traces of its previous existence, Mr. Rochester starts anew at Ferndean Manor.

Place, location plays a major role in Jane Eyre. Settings play a dual role in the story, both causing and comforting Jane during difficult times. They serve as the source of anxiety and a prison holding Jane captive, yet also as the pathway to freedom. 

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