Jane Eyre tells the story of a woman progressing on the path towards acceptance. Throughout her journey, Jane comes across many obstacles. Male dominance proves to be the biggest obstacle at each stop of Jane’s journey: Gateshead Hall, Lowood Institution, Thornfield Manor, Moor House, and Ferndean Manor. Through the progression of the story, Jane slowly learns how to understand and control her repression. I will be analyzing Janes stops at Thornfield Manor
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and Moor House for this is where she met the two most important men in her life. The easiest way to compare and contrast Rochester and St. John Rivers is by examining when and under what circumstances these two gentlemen come into contact with Jane.
It is at Thornfield Manor that Jane first encounters Mr. Rochester. While living at Thornfield, Rochester demands undivided attention from the servants, Jane included. He needs to be in control of every aspect of his life, and he needs to feel superior to all of those around him. Jane de cides to accept his control and she concedes to him by calling him sir, even after they begin to have an intimate relationship. At one point, she even goes so far as to excuse herself for thinking. She says, “I was thinking, sir (you will excuse the idea; it was involuntary), I was thinking of Hercules and Samson with their charmers” (p.289). This statement possibly begins to suggest Jane’s un satisfaction with Rochester’s position of complete dominance in their relationship.
To Jane, Rochester embodies the idea of love which she has so long been denied off. As I stated earlier, the whole movie is about Jane’s journey towards acceptance, by herself and by others. It is this journey which persuades her to move on when she finds Rochester’s physical and material love unacceptable. Jane’s next stop on her journey is Moor House. Here, she meets St. John Rivers, her cousin. Unlike Rochester, St. John is portrayed as the ultimate sacrifice, willing to do anything for others, no matter how undesirable the task might be. St. John also expects this sacrifice from Jane, and she must decide whether to accept his proposal. At this point in her journey, Jane understands that her search for herself cannot be accomplished without real love. She denies St. John’s
Marriage proposal by saying, “I have a woman’s heart, but not where you are concerned; for you I only have a comrade’s constancy; a fellow
Soldier’s frankness, fidelity, fraternity . . .nothing more.” (p.433). She knows real love cannot be given to her by St. John and she must continue on her journey. She must continue towards her destiny rendezvous with Rochester Ferndean Manor is the final stop in Jane’s journey. Once again, Rochester appears as the dominant figure, although his air of superiority has become greatly reduced due to the accident. Due to his ailments he is now completely dependent on those around him, a situation which humbles him. A new man results in this change, and in him, Jane finds her real, spiritual and physical love. She says, “\par
All my heart is yours, sir: it belongs to you; and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever” (p.469). Rochester no longer demands people to act inferior around him to boost his ego. He is finally at a point in his life where he demands an equal partner. He does not try to contain Jane; he sets her free. He says, “Miss Eyre, I repeat it, you can leave me” (p.468). She does not leave him though. Rochester embodies the perfect balance between the physical and the spiritual, the natural and graceful, intellectual and physical beauty, and love and servitude. These were feelings that were not present with St. John. Jane is now able to find her true abilities and her balance. Jane makes many stops on her journey for happiness and equality but the two most important stops I feel are with St. John and Rochester. It is through the experiences with these two gentlemen that Jane learns many of her life lessons. Through her experiences with these two gentlemen she is able understand and realize qualities in herself and others. With each experience she has with these gentlemen, she learns how to confront her past repression, which in turn leads to her own growth.
Charlotte Bronte employs symbolism in many interesting ways. Symbolism is used in Jane Eyre to illustrate dangerous realities that Jane herself could not see. Symbolism drags the reader deeper into the story as well as bringing to attention points that otherwise might not be noticed. A moment of particular symbolic importance to me was when lightning strikes the chestnut tree in the orchard on the evening of Jane’s engagement to Rochester. The tree splits into two and bursts into flames. Bronte uses this lightning strike to show the tumultuous nature of the relationship, the troubles and perils that lay ahead for the two. Bronte also uses this image to foreshadow the transformations that will occur in Jane and Rochester. The eventual success of the relationship can be seen as the roots of the tree, solid and unharmed planted deep in the ground. Vivid symbolism of fire serves to create the passionate nature of the work, and drag the reader deeper into the narrative. “Fiery iron” and “blackness and burning” are both used to illustrate Jane’s emotions at this point. Visions of fire also link Jane to Bertha. Both characters are repeatedly involved with fire, especially in regards to Rochester. This can be seen with the physical presence of fire in the case of Bertha or with the fiery passion that Jane has for Rochester. Fire is used to describe many aspects of Rochester’s life.
The early days of his marriage, the bedroom blaze which Jane saves Rochester from, the language that both Rochester and Jane use in describing their emotions towards each other and in the final fire that destroys Thorn field Hall, cripples Rochester, and kills Bertha. The image of fire possibly symbolizes the death and rebirth of both Rochester and Jane. Since the passionate love that Rochester and Jane first held was sinful, it was accompanied by images of fire and burning possibly symbolizing Hell. After Jane leaves Thorn field, and her “burning” desires for Rochester are no longer openly present, the next and final image of fire occurs. In the fire that destroyed Thorn field, Rochester proved his worthiness to Jane by attempting to save Bertha from the blaze. This represents a great turning point in Rochester’s life. He is no longer the self involved tyrant that he used to be. His heroic action indicates that he has quenched his “burning” passions regarding Jane and Bertha. Shortly after the fire, Jane and Rochester reunite and each prove to be reborn, Jane having undergone her own final period of personal and spiritual growth, and Rochester having faced his inner demons. Bronte uses many techniques to bring about emotions in the reader. Her use of metaphors is particularly powerful. Although this is imagery and not symbolism it still makes a strong point about the characters and about Bronte’s writing style. In this example a metaphor is used to compare Jane’s intense happiness and simultaneous confusion with the tossing and uncertain voyage of a ship. Jane slips from joy to insecurity and back, just as one might toss back and forth in a turbulent sea. “I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning dawned, I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and now and then a refreshing gale wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the borne; but I could not reach it, even in fancy, a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back. Sense would resist delirium, judgment would warn passion” ( 133). This passage makes very clear Jane’s love for Rochester and also that the match would be a good one (according to Bronte) was a very important tool for the Victorian writer. Through the use of symbolism a writer is able to convey certain feelings and emotions to the reader. The writer is also able to write about things that possibly are not acceptable to write about in an open manner. Through the use of symbolism we are able to relate and to feel for the protagonist on a deeper level. It is through the use of symbolism that a book can truly come alive for the reader.