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Symbolism in Jane Eyre

Symbolism in a novel can address various elements of the storyline. Symbolism is the concept that objects have deeper meanings. It involves using a person, situation, or object to convey a hidden meaning that may not be obvious at first glance. Charlotte Brontë incorporates various symbols in her book Jane Eyre. 

  • Fire – The central symbol in the novel represents Jane’s passion, spirit, oppression, and vitality. The fire symbol makes its first appearance in the Red Room, where Jane is knocked down by fear caused by the fire and Mr. Reed’s ghost. Fire is additionally utilized as a representation of emotion in the book. Mr Rochester possesses a passionate temperament. Upon their first meeting, Jane is immediately drawn to Rochester’s intense and captivating fiery gaze. In a later part of the book, Jane and Mr. Rochester admit their love for each other, and their intense feelings are likened to a bright ‘flame’. Nevertheless, fire can also symbolize devastation, as illustrated in the moment when Bertha burns down Thornfield Hall. The fire represents the negative effects of uncontrolled passion and desire, along with Mr. Rochester’s previous actions. The downfall of Mr Rochester is also caused by the fire when he gets injured while trying to rescue his wife Bertha and Thornfield.
  • Red Room– it is another significant symbol in the novel. It can be seen as a representation of Jane’s triumph over challenges in her quest for liberation, joy, and a place where she belongs. The red room symbolizes the society’s confinement of Jane through constraints based on her class, gender, and independent character. Jane understands that no matter how much effort she puts into doing the right thing and carrying out her responsibilities, she will never be welcomed by the Reed family. She is confined in the red room and unable to get out of it. Her entrapment could represent how women in the Victorian era were confined. The significance of the red room remains consistent as a symbol throughout the entire novel. Whenever Jane links her present circumstances to that initial feeling of being mocked, it resurfaces as a memory. She also thinks about the red room on the night when she decides to leave Thornfield following Rochester’s attempt to persuade her to become his mistress.
  • Bertha Mason – Bertha, the first wife of Mr. Rochester, is depicted as a mad woman confined to a hidden attic room at Thornfield Hall. Bertha is a multifaceted character in Jane Eyre. She hinders Jane’s progress, but she also speeds up Jane’s self-awareness development. The character of Bertha adds suspense and fear to the storyline. Additionally, Bertha acts as a leftover fragment of Rochester’s youthful promiscuity. Some critics interpret her as a commentary on Britain’s fear and psychological repression of other cultures. It symbolizes the Victorian wife who feels trapped, forbidden to leave the house for work, and grows increasingly desperate due to her lack of outlets for frustration. In the story, Bertha’s madness could act as a cautionary tale for Jane about the potential consequences of fully submitting to Rochester. Bertha could be viewed as an expression of Jane’s inner emotions, particularly her anger towards societal and gender restrictions. Jane expresses her affection for Rochester, yet she harbors doubt about marrying him and senses a desire to rebel against the possible confinement it may bring. Jane never displays this fear or anger, but Bertha does. Therefore, Bertha rips the wedding veil, causing the wedding to come to a halt. As Thornfield becomes symbolic of being subordinate and in a state of service for Jane, Bertha sets it on fire. Bertha is therefore conveying the emotions that Jane must control.
  • Nature – Another significant symbol is nature. Nature in the novel is utilized to mirror the personalities, feelings, and atmospheres of the characters. When Jane is joyful and satisfied, the weather is lovely and calm. Yet, when Jane is feeling upset or disturbed, the weather turns stormy and chaotic, mirroring her inner turmoil. Jane’s affection for the outdoors mirrors her craving for autonomy and liberty, whereas Rochester’s inclination towards dark and gloomy atmospheres mirrors his inner turmoil and intricate character. The chestnut tree in Thornfield’s orchard, split in two, serves as a symbol for Jane Rochester’s marriage coming to an end and the unconventional nature of their relationship in the novel’s conclusion. The big tree in a peaceful grove in the garden saw Rochester propose to Jane, and her accept, only to be hit by lightning and destroyed during a storm that same night, indicating the impending failure of their marriage.

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