'The Settings in Jane Eyre represent stages in the development of Jane's character'

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‘The settings in Jane Eyre represent stages in the development of Jane’s character’

How far do you agree with this claim? Discuss how Bronte uses setting in the novel and the impact it creates both on Jane and the reader.

Bronte is a great believer in pathetic fallacy and throughout the novel we can see how the settings and the weather represent Jane’s feelings and character. Even the names of the places she stays at can show this, for example, at Lowood she is at a low point in her life. The setting is also particularly important during the three proposals Jane receives and it represents how her life would be were she to accept, for example Rochester’s first proposal takes place in a tempting orchard under a passionate sunset showing us that she would lead a passionate life of sin with Rochester were she to accept. However though the setting tells the reader a lot about what is happening in the book I don’t feel that it shows Jane’s developing character.

However it is impossible to deny that we learn a lot through the settings that Bronte creates in Jane Eyre. The names themselves can show us a lot of what Jane’s life and reaction will be to the place. Gateshead for example conveys the idea that Jane is shut in and trapped whilst also at the beginning, head, of life. One could even interpret it as representing the Gates of Hell and this is enhanced by the punishment that Jane receives and the red imagery that is used, ‘red moreen’ ‘crimson’. Lowood also suggests a low and dank period of her life, whilst Thornfield suggests something that at first appears open and sunny but with the idea of hidden thorns. One cannot help being reminded through the thorns of roses and this conveys the idea of love and represents the physical pain that Rochester’s love causes her. When we hear the name Marsh End or Moor House the reader can immediately tell that this is going to be a happier period in Jane’s life as it conveys the idea that it is the end of the muddy and messy period and the beginning of something better where she gains something. Finally Ferndean suggests a soft and mystical place. Ferns are associated with magic and woodland, they are also ever-green implying strength and resilience and the idea that Jane and Rochester’s love can survive all winters. Furthermore the idea of an enclosed wood is enhanced through dean (as in a dene) and this reinforces the idea of the supernatural and Jane’s being a fairy. It is also a very rural sounding name and gives the idea of peace and tranquillity.

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These initial first impressions are obviously very important to Bronte and she enforces them throughout each period of Jane’s life through specific imagery, such as the ice imagery used at Lowood ‘ewers to ice’ and the ice imagery used to describe St John. The names could also suggest which parts of life Bronte felt to be best and worst for Jane it is clear that Moor House is where Bronte feels she is in the best position because of her family and fortune as well as her independence. This may also be influenced by the fact that Bronte lived on the ...

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