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Jane Eyre

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In the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Brontë repeatedly uses the imagery of Earthly elements, fire and ice, to present an opposition between two points identified as extremes in the natural world. In the novel, icy and watery imagery illustrate oppressive forces that symbolize emotional desolation for Jane, while on the other hand; fiery imagery represents romantic passion and spirit within Jane, as well as Mr. Rochester. With progression of the novel, imagery of the elements begin to symbolize varying relationships, which reflect upon the characters of Jane, Mr. Rochester, St. John Rivers, and Bertha Mason. Knowing that both elements cannot naturally exist simultaneously on Earth, this metaphorical opposition highlights a need for Jane to gain equilibrium between the two. Similarly, as a naturally occurring fire can rage unexpectedly and call the need for extinguishing, fiery romantic desire also requires the need for control and composure. By using fire and ice both as symbols of physically destructive forces and mentally renewing agents, Brontë constructively illustrates how Jane has learned to balance her desire for passion and need for restraint in order to ultimately achieve personal selfhood and contentedness. Jane embodies a passionate and spirited young girl and will not allow inequality to occur in her presence. These characteristics of Jane’s personality are first seen through her onset of behaviors at Gateshead Hall, for example, in her fight with Mrs. Reed. Mrs. Reed responds to Jane’s outburst by commenting, “You are passionate, Jane, that you must allow,” (Brontë 50) and Jane does not deny this. Jane learns the exhilaration of fighting back and liberating her inner emotions against Mrs. Reed by explaining that she “felt elate” and experienced “fierce pleasure.” The passionate emotions that Jane illustrates in this scene are highlighted in the metaphor that surrounds her throughout this novel. Jane states that “a ridge of lighted heath, alive, glancing [and] devouring” (Brontë 51) had consumed her during this outburst – all terms that also lie synonymous to characteristics of a raging fire. However, this same passage also illustrates the dangers of passion as Jane explains how she began to feel after her outburst. She reflects on her actions and comes to realize “the madness of her conduct, and the dreariness of her hated position” had overridden her once prominent fiery state of emotion. The ridge that Jane once stood upon in front of Mrs. Reed now represented her subsequent condition and existed as “black and blasted, after the flames [were] dead” (Brontë 51). As evident by her post-argument sentiment, Jane comes to a realization that in order to achieve maturity and gain respect, she must compose her emotions. Jane continues to struggle with emotional restraint when she becomes acquainted with Mr. Rochester, a man who poses a threat to Jane by constantly trying to ignite her internal desires in order to gain her hand in marriage. Rochester is, to some extent, enticing Jane to release the fire pent up within her, which introduces the danger of causing Jane to compromise her integrity. Rochester continually recognizes Jane’s passion, calling her a “soul made of fire” (Brontë 389) and commenting that he has “seen what a fire spirit [she] can be” (Brontë 392). As a result of this newfound recognition, Jane becomes overwhelmed with emotions and begins to idolize Rochester, stating that he felt now more as “[her] relation, rather than [her] master” (Brontë 217). Consequently, Jane admits she had began to “[forget] all his faults, for which [she] had once kept a sharp look-out” (Brontë 278). Jane becomes blinded by her romantic emotions and remains ignorant to the fact that Rochester has not been honest with her throughout their relationship thus far. It takes the crisis of the cancellation of their marriage, owing to the recognition of the existence of his first wife Bertha Mason, to force Jane to evaluate her inferior position as Rochester’s mistress.
Significantly, when Rochester attempts to persuade Jane to stay with him despite the existence of his first marriage, he is continually depicted using fiery images. Rochester tells Jane he feels “bound to [her] with a strong attachment… kindling in pure, powerful flame, fusing [them together] in one” (Brontë 472). Fiery imagery continues as Jane describes Rochester, “He seemed to devour me with his flaming glance: physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless” (Brontë 476). Rochester’s desire to marry Jane in this scene, despite the fact he was legally married to another woman, illustrates his unfair rationale that he will automatically be freed of any responsibility to his first wife, Bertha Mason. Rochester’s selfishness and inability to gain restraint in this situation starkly contrasts Jane’s ability to fully grasp composure. Jane states, “If I were so far to forget myself and all the teaching that had ever been instilled into me…to become the successor of these [previous mistresses], [Rochester] would one day regard me with the same [inferior] feeling” (Brontë 467). Upon this crucial realization, Jane knows that if she were to marry Rochester in that moment, she would lose the only thing that remains hers: strength of character and identity. The flaming emotions and use of fiery imagery support the symbolism of fire as an agent of renewal for Jane, as she recognizes her need for restraint from Rochester’s attempt at arousing the fervid passion shared between them.
Brontë unites many metaphorical uses of fire with a literal interpretation of the image through the characterization of Bertha Mason. Throughout the novel, Jane hardly manifests her fear or anger and Bertha serves as a character that physically illustrates Jane’s subconscious fiery emotions. The series of conflagrations started by Bertha help to unravel Rochester’s character. In Rochester’s various reactions to the fires, he begins to progress towards realizing responsibility that is necessary for proving he can make the changes necessary to have a relationship based on equality with Jane. The first fire set ablaze by Bertha, which Jane rescues Rochester from, serves as a signal to Rochester about the problems in his flirtatious and dishonest behavior towards Jane. However, Rochester continues to pursue Jane without any regard for his responsibility or her integrity and Jane soon realizes that their relationship did not exist as “real affection, [but] had been only fitful passion” (Brontë 443). Bertha’s second destructive fire coincidentally happens when Thornfield had become a place that represented servitude and submission for Jane. Upon the realization of the presence of Rochester’s wife in the attic of Thornfield Manor, Jane becomes humiliated stating, “How blind had been my eyes! How weak my conduct!” In this moment, Jane’s composure was compromised and she possessed “no strength, longing to be dead” (Brontë 443).
On the other hand, Bertha’s second destructive fire becomes the force that psychologically renews Rochester by the end of the novel. In his attempts to save his lunatic wife from the consuming blazes of Thornfield, Rochester becomes injured by losing a hand and becoming blind. These heroic attempts clearly indicate that Rochester finally acknowledged his wife and has accepted responsibility for her, even though his heart desired Jane. While resting at Ferndean, Rochester himself suggests that he has changed by speaking in terms of “If I were what I once was” (Brontë 657). In turn, Rochester has turned the destructive fire of his home into a purifying one; as the fire, more importantly, served to destroy the servitude-based relationship of Jane and Rochester and allowed the creation of a relationship based on equality.
Fire may serve as the strongest metaphor throughout the novel, but it is always contrasted with water, and water’s extreme: ice. Knowing that both fire and ice cannot exist simultaneously in the same medium hints to the fact that Jane must find a balance between the two in order to live with content. Jane feels drawn to water and ice, as seen in the three watercolor paintings she completed during her stay at Lowood. All three of the paintings – which come from Jane’s imagination and are consequently revealing of her mindset at the time – either depict water, or ice. Jane’s first painting shows “clouds low and livid, rolling over a swollen sea” and illustrates a “half submurged mast,” while her third painting illustrates “an iceberg piercing a polar winter sky.” The second painting also utilizes water imagery by depicting a woman as “through the suffusion of vapour” (Brontë 185). Just like fire, water poses a danger to Jane of overcoming her, and she must protect herself from overreacting to the potential disappointment that could result from her passion.
While at Thornfield, water imagery mirrors Jane’s movement from the awakening of her desire to be with Rochester to the realization of her naivety. In order to extinguish the first fire set by Bertha Mason in hopes to to consume Rochester, Jane uses buckets of water, and in doing so, causes stirrings in she and Rochester’s secret relationship. At this point, Jane describes herself as being “tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy” (Brontë 224). The water imagery in this passage illustrates the oppressive bounds of “judgment [that] warn passion,” as Jane begins to realize her foolishness for becoming emotionally attached to Rochester (Brontë 225). Another instance of this imagery is revealed after Jane’s learning of Rochester’s first, and still present, marriage to Bertha Mason. The sustained use of water images depict Jane’s despair, as she describes herself a “cold, solitary girl again,” (Brontë 442) and began to feel as if “eddying darkness seemed to swim round me…I seemed to have laid down in the dried-up bed of a great river” (Brontë 443). Jane’s use of strong imagery here illustrates the harsh consequences of allowing herself to be completely swept up in her love for Rochester. Jane now feels that instead of only being “tossed” in a sea of remorse about her and Rochester’s relationship, she is now fully consumed in these waters, stating, “the waters came into my soul, I sank deep in mire: I felt no standing; I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me” (Brontë 444). In this instance, Jane’s restraint from Rochester’s company is key to her coming of realization that she must “flee temptation” (Brontë 478) in order to achieve personal selfhood and a balance between restraint and desire.
In stark contrast, St. John embodies a character that represents the opposite extreme from Rochester. Where Rochester represents a man of fiery passion, St. John is one of ice; “I am cold, no fervour infects me,” as he admits (Brontë 576). St. John is continually described with images of water and earth – cold elements that stand contrary to fire. With him, Jane feels “forced to keep the fire of [her] nature continually low” (Brontë 613). For example, Jane states that St. John had “acquired a certain influence over [her] that took away [her] liberty of mind” and prohibited her to “talk to laugh freely when he was by.” Jane further states that she had fallen “under a freezing spell” when she was in St. John’s company (Brontë 598). The consistent use of cold imagery suggests Jane’s emotional distance from St. John, which removes any possible notions of marriage. To Jane, St. John represents the danger of giving in to the attractiveness of marriage, and as a result, she would deny her true self worth. The continual use of water imagery highlights the temptation of self-denial for Jane: “I was tempted to cease struggling with him –to rush down the torrent of his will into the gulf of his existence, and there lose my own.” But, as Jane states, “to have yielded then would have been an error of principle; to have yielded now would have been an error of judgment” (Brontë 630). Marriage to St. John would extinguish Jane’s fire, alike to how water extinguishes fire.
Throughout the novel, Brontë utilizes fire and water imagery in order to present various character values and emphasize Jane’s need to determine a balance between the extremes. Jane does not possess much beyond her strength of character and integrity (as continually stated by Rochester); thus, she must preserve her unique sense of self. By encountering both extremes of fire and water through vivid imagery, Jane learns to unify these two elements in order to arrive at the content state she experiences at Ferndean. The warmth of the small fire lit in the living room of Rochester’s new home serves as the final use of fire at the end of the novel. Upon reuniting with Rochester at Ferndean, Jane confirms her success in unifying the two elements she once struggled with by stating she “became more cheerful” and felt composed of “fresh courage” (Brontë 657). Jane proves her contentedness at the end of the novel when she gains control between her flaming desire for passion and cooling need for restraint. Brontë not only employs the imbalance of two extreme elements for melodramatic effect, but also does this in pursuit of preserving Jane’s selfhood and spirit.

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Jane Eyre

...Stephanie Huang  Ms. Kwan  English 4U1  14 October 2011    “Jane Eyre”​  – Essay (Rough)    Individualism is the process of finding one’s own identity. ​ Jane Eyre​  is a well renowned  novel written by Charlotte Bront​​ ё about a plain young woman who goes through life in a very  interesting way. Taking place in England during the Victorian Era, Bront​​ ё touches upon the life  of one who refuses to fill in the social norms set for women. Being very headstrong and  intelligent, the heroine faces love trials, especially with one, Mr. Rochester, who becomes her  employer. Throughout the novel, Jane struggles to develop her own identity, but is always being  repressed by some force.  The theme of identity development is demonstrated in ​ Jane Eyre​  in  many ways. The novel demonstrates three people who help shape the identity Jane longs for and  enhances her as a person, or represses her ideologies. Jane’s search for her identity is mainly  influenced by the characters Mrs. Reed, Helen Burns, and Mr. Rochester. All the aforementioned  characters show a large impact on Jane’s views of the world and of love, helping shape who she  is and how she thinks.  Firstly, Jane Eyre’s identity search is heavily influenced by her aunt, Mrs. Reed. Jane was  adopted by her Uncle Reed when her parents passed away when she was very little, but after his  death, she was left to his wife. Mrs. Reed always mistreats Jane. Jane would be falsely accused  or punished h......

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