Explore Bronte's use of symbolism in Jane Eyre

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Olivia Cooper

Explore Bronte’s use of symbolism

Jane Eyre is a romantic novel in which gothic imagery and the genre of romanticism play significant roles that continue right through Bronte’s bildungsroman novel. Throughout the novel, Jane Eyre, Bronte embeds symbolism to assist conveying the story through giving certain aspects deeper context. This is seen when Bronte uses symbolism to aid the reader’s perception on certain aspects of the novel, for instance representing Jane and Rochester’s love through manipulating the object, the Chestnut tree, converting it to become symbolic of their adoration. The Red Room and Bertha are also other aspects where symbolism is significantly portrayed.

Eyre escapes through the imaginative world of interpreting stories told in the ‘Berwick’s History of British Birds’. Bronte uses this to symbolise how Jane herself yearned to fly away. Despite Jane’s strong will, her traumatic experiences at Gateshead had left her with fear of “enslavement”. Jane is continuously referred to as a bird throughout the novel which assists the readers view on Jane’s subjugation. This is quite ironic as during the Victorian era (when Jane Eyre was published) as Parakeets were a common pet amongst the upper class. As the upper class are physically symbolic of the Reed family, while the bird is symbolic of Jane. The red room merely symbolises a cage in which Jane is subjected too. Bronte has deliberately selected Jane’s name “Eyre” to provide an expectancy of Jane’s possible rebellious side, “Eyre” similar to ‘Air’ allows us to interpret Jane’s character to be free from care, rather liberated and un-restrained.

The “red” of the room connotes the violence and struggles Eyre must overcome to find her freedom. Symbolically, Bronte illustrates how Jane is constantly confined in every walk of life ranging from love to violence. The walls within the red-room are coloured “fawn”, which can also be perceived as a young deer, which is fantastical imagery; Jane is suggested by Bronte to be hallucinating during her hysteria. This produces the effect of quite a fantasy-like scenario as Jane is symbolically the fawn entrapped within the red room as Jane is excluded from the sense of ‘belonging’ and the sense of independence. The red-room symbolises how Jane, or moreover, women in general, are oppressed in society due to their rebellious nature. As during the Victorian Era, it was believed that women were extremely likely to develop hysteria and mental illness as this stigma stuck with the female gender through this period; this is seen later on within Bertha Mason. The imprisonment to the red room exemplifies her insuperior position of the family and women’s position is the male dominated civilisation during the Victorian period as Eyre refers to herself as a “servant”, a second class citizen. It can be debated that the red-room is symbolic of a womb, and Aunt Reed is infantilizing Jane and compelling her back into the womb to be born again with a new attitude. The red-room is a space in which the purity and innocence of childhood, the white connotation of the “snowy Marseilles counterpane” and the “easy-chair” which was “also white”, meet the intense and bitter emotions that come with unpleasant life experience – rage, terror, and anxiety, the red connotation of the “crimson cloth” and “fire”.  Jane is "seeing red" at this moment. Alternatively, one can think about the red-room experience as part of the indescribable trauma of suffering; Jane loses consciousness because she can scarcely deal with the ordeal, and she can never quite verbalize what the problem is, besides the possibility of Mr Reed’s ghost.

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Another aspect of symbolism, the chestnut tree, is vital in order to symbolise the love Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester have for each other. The day after Rochester proposes to Jane under "the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard," that same tree gets "struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split away". One interpretation believes that the chestnut tree is symbolic of Jane and Rochester’s love as it is deep rooted and entwined in with nature, they are honest with each other. Their love is natural and kept hidden away from society’s influence. It ...

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