An analysis of the symbolism of fire and ice in Jane Eyre


Charlotte Bronte frequently uses symbolism in Jane Eyre . A number of repeated images are used, in part as a way to bring together a story of immense generic variety. The following analysis focuses on the use of fire and ice imagery by Bronte, exploring the symbolic attributes of these images and their use in several scenes of the text. The excerpts come from the Oxford World & # 39; s Classics 2000 novel.

There is a dichotomy in the narrative between the representations of fire and ice. Fire is often associated with passion and rebellion, evident in the following excerpt, where the young protagonist reflects on the state of her mind after violating her aunt's abuse: "A ridge of heath burning, alive, devouring, devouring would have been an emblem of my mind when I accused and threatened Mrs. Reed "(1, 4, p.37) .But when the fire fell, the same ridge is described as "black and bruised after the flames are dead" (1, 4, pp.37-8). Coldness is often associated with isolation and desolation in the text.

Jane stands Angry with her aunt because of her unfair treatment, she has been isolated from the Reed family since the first chapter, and images of fire and ice are invoked in this scene where the protagonist sits alone in front of her casement window. is excluded from the rest of his adoptive family and the warmth of the home. laughs only 'protecting, but not separating' glass panels (1,1, p.8) her heroine of the cold and windy November afternoon

The "white death kingdoms" depicted in the illustrations of Bewick History of British Birds which Jane is reading, serves as an example to illustrate the icy imagery and elaborate on the theme of coldness. These images are also significant in that they foreshadow some events much later in history, including Jane's lonely wanderings around the Yorkshire Heath after her flight from Thornfield. The "desolate regions of lugubrious space" (1, 1, p.8) amplify the protagonist's sense of desolation and his desire for a home that accepts it.

Whereas ice imagery symbolizes Jane's sense of loneliness and desolation, fire is used figuratively to illustrate the heroine's rage at her mistreatment. When she is locked in the red room, Jane observes that the room is cold because her fireplace is rarely used. She describes herself growing up "cold as a stone" (1, 2, p.16). When she wakes up in the nursery at the beginning of the next chapter, she tells "a terrible red glow, crossed with thick black bars" (1, 3, p.18) to the reader. Although it appears that it is only the fire of the nursery, when this section is seen next to the previous scene, where the protagonist was incubating his situation within the Reed family, it becomes apparent that Bronte uses fire images to portray At Gateshead, Jane's rage culminates with her explosion against Mrs. Reed, before being sent to Lowood School, and although she eventually learns to remember her fiery nature , the theme of anger against injustice and its expression through fire, continues throughout the story, albeit at a more moderate level. When Jane works as a housekeeper, an important section connects her back and forth along the third floor of Thornfield, reflecting her restless disposition. In this scene, muted imaging is associated with ambition because Jane feels restricted by her current calling.

The nature of Bronte's descriptions of her heroine's environment is often determined by Jane's emotional states. A scene that exemplifies this quality comes after Jane learns that Rochester is already married. While contemplating the midsummer perspective from her bedroom window in Thornfield, she recounts how "the ice froze the ripe apples, the galleries crushed the blowing roses, on the hayfield and on the field. corn a frozen shroud "(2, 11 p.295). The state of mind shot of heroin is represented externally by the winter symbolism of Bronte. Her Descriptions Recall Arctic Bewick's Snowy Debris

Several readings of Bronte's novel, particularly those that have adopted a feminist perspective, have identified a thematic link between the heroine and the mad woman of Rochester . They consider that Bertha is the physical manifestation of Jane's psychological rage. The disturbed violence of Bertha is literally expressed by fire, both when she tries to set fire to Rochester's bed, and when she burns Thornfield. This contrasts sharply with Jane, whose rage is expressed through figurative representations of fire.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that there is a juxtaposition of passion and reason. The images of fire and ice play a symbolic role in the representation of these qualities. Jane's two potential contenders, Rochester and St. John, are juxtaposed in the qualities that they embody. Rochester is closely aligned with fire, with his passionate and reckless nature, while St. John is equated with ice, with his disposition of cool reasoning and emotional detachment.

Jane undergoes intense mental agitation regarding her feelings for Rochester after she has discovered that he is already married. When she questions about accepting her mistress offer, or about Thornfield's departure, she describes how he feels like "a fiery iron hand grabbed my vital organs. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! " (3, 1, p.315). At this point in history, Bronte hints that it would be inappropriate for Jane to accept Rochester's current proposal. The narrative suggests that Rochester must redeem his dissolute position if he and Jane are to marry. The physical damage that he suffered as a result of his attempts to save Bertha could be considered to have him undergoing a baptism of fire. The final union of Jane and Rochester could therefore be considered a resolution of passion and reason.


Source by Ben H Wright

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