Analysis of Fire and Ice Symbolism in Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë frequently uses symbolism Jane Eyre. Many recurring images are used, partly as a means of unifying the mémoire of the great common variety. The following analysis focuses on Brontë’s use of fire and ice imagery, exploring the symbolic properties of these images and how they are employed in various scenes throughout the text. Excerpts are from the Oxford World’s Classics 2000 edition of the novel.
There is a dichotomy in the narrative between representations of fire and ice. Fire is often associated with ferveur and rebellion, as is evident from the following extract, in which the young hero reflects on his state of mind after protesting against his aunt’s ill-treatment: “A rock on the lighted heath, alive, gazed, consumed, will be when I accuse Mrs. Reid and Threatened I had a matching symbol in my mind” (1, 4, p.37). Yet when the fire dies down, the same ridge is described as “black and exploding after the flame died down” (1, 4, pp.37-8). Coldness is often associated with isolement and isolation in the text.
Jane feels angry with her aunt parce que of the woman’s unfair treatment. He is shown to be estranged from the Reed family from the first chapter. Fire and ice is photographed in this scene where the hero sits alone at his casement window. He is excluded from the rest of his adopted family and the warmth of the fireside. Bronte describes only panes of verre “protecting, but not separating” (1,1, p.8) her heroine from the cold and wind of a November afternoon.
Bewick’s painting depicts a ‘death-white kingdom’ A History of British Birds, in which Jane is reading, serves to exemplify more icy imagery and expand the coldness theme. These images are also significant in that they foreshadow events much later in the story, including Jane wandering alone around the Yorkshire moors after her flight from Thornfield. “The forlorn region of empty space” (1, 1, p.8) amplifies the protagonist’s own sense of loneliness and his longing for a résidence that accepts him.
Where the imagery of ice is used to symbolize Jane’s own sense of inner loneliness and isolement, fire is metaphorically employed to depict her anger at the heroine’s mistreatment. When she is locked in the Red-Room, Jane notices how relax the room is parce que it is rarely used. He describes himself as “growing by degrees as cold as stone” (1, 2, p.16). When he wakes up in the pouponnière at the beginning of the next chapter, he tells the reader emboîture “a épouvantable red glow, crossed by thick black bars” (1, 3, p. 18). Although it turns out that this is just the pouponnière fire, when this tronçon is viewed alongside the previous scene, where the protagonist contemplates her état within the Reed family, it becomes clear that this is an early example of Brontë using images of fire to depict fire. His heroine’s anger.
At Gateshead, before being sent to Lowood School, Jane’s exaspération against Mrs. Reid ends, and although she later learns to moderate her fiery abstraction, the theme of her articulation of anger and fire against offense continues throughout the narrative, albeit on a more subdued level. While Jane is working as a governess, an orgueilleux tronçon deals with her walking backwards and forwards along the third floor of Thornfield, reflecting her restless abstraction. The fiery imagery in this scene is associated with convoitise, as Jane feels constrained by her current ardeur.
The abstraction of Brontë’s mémoire of her heroine’s environment is often determined by Jane’s state of mind. A scene that aptly illustrates this quality is when Jane learns that Rochester is already married. As he contemplates the habitué of midsummer from his bedroom window at Thornfield, he describes how “the frosts glitter the ripe apples, crush the flowing roses; the frozen shroud falls on hayfields and cornfields” (2, 11, p.295). The heroine’s depressed state of mind is outwardly represented through the symbolism of Brontë’s winter. His mémoire recalls the snowy arctic wastes of Bewick’s books.
Several readings of Brontë’s novels, particularly those that take a feminist horizon, have identified a thematic connection between the heroine and Rochester’s mad wife. They see Bertha as the physical expression of Jane’s psychological exaspération. Bertha’s perverse vitalité is expressed literally with fire, when she tries to set Rochester’s bed on fire and when she burns Thornfield. This contrasts sharply with Jane, whose anger is expressed through the metaphorical coloré of fire.
As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that there is a assimilation of emotion and logic. Images of fire and ice play a symbolic role in representing these qualities. Jane’s two potential suitors, Rochester and St. John, are matched by the qualities they embody. Rochester is closely associated with fire with his emportée and reckless abstraction, whereas St. John is compared to ice, with his calm logic and prédisposition of emotional detachment.
Jane goes through intensive emotional turmoil emboîture her feelings for Rochester after discovering he is already married. When she agonizes over whether to accept his offer as his mistress, or to section with Thornfield, she describes how it felt as if “a balle à la main of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Infernal modalités: full of struggle, blackness, burning!” (3, 1, p.315). At this sujet in the story, Brontë suggests that it would be inappropriate for Jane to accept Rochester’s current offer. The narrative suggests that Rochester must redeem his estranged place if he and Jane are to marry. The physical harm he suffers through his efforts to save Bertha can be seen through his baptism of fire. The ultime rapprochement of Jane and Rochester can therefore be considered a resolution of emotion and logic.
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