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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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“Jane Eyre”, by Charlotte Bronte was written in the 1840’s and published in 1847. This book follows Jane’s life story from childhood to adulthood. In part it is an autobiography of Charlotte Bronte because her sister died at a school similar to Lowood.

Charlotte Bronte uses this long, complicated novel in order to criticise several aspects of Victorian society. In the Red Room episode we learn much about the character of Jane Eyre. This episode is added to give the reader a better comprehension of the severity of Mrs Reed’s treatment of Jane. It furthers the novel by making Jane’s life at Gateshead to be intolerable for Jane. The book is written in first person narrative so Jane’s feeling and emotion are easily noticed. Also because Charlotte Bronte uses pathetic fallacy Jane’s feelings are revealed in the weather.

Jane has an exceptionally strong character and is not afraid to stand up for herself. In Victorian times children were meant to be “seen and not heard” but this doesn’t seem to matter to Jane. She is fiercely independent and does not get intimidated. Jane is incredibly intelligent and imaginative, her reading of “Bewick’s History of British Birds” shows this. Whilst reading it her mind drifts into her visualization of the book. Her Aunt is unfairly harsh to Jane yet soft on the other children, she treats Jane as “the scapegoat of the nursery”.

Later on in her life Jane tries to understand her Aunt severity: … interloper not of her race, and unconnected with her” This shows great empathy of a person she hated all her life, the same person who did not want Jane as a “responsibility” Mrs Reed’s treatment of Jane excludes Jane from the family. For Jane her happiest moments are when she is alone reading her books. John Reed bullies Jane. She is very afraid of him as it is implied that he has hurt her before. Jane is “physically inferior” at ten years old whilst John is big and over-weight for his age. Although Jane “trembled” in his presence Jane always defies John despite her obvious trepidation.

Bronte uses alliteration at a key moment in this incident: “he struck suddenly and strongly” John escapes any type of discipline because he is the only male of the house and views himself as the “master”. It is because of this that he is idolised by Mrs Reed. John also describes Jane as an animal several times but in reality he is far more like an animal. When she is hit she ceases her phobia of John and becomes angry, a “picture of passion”. This demonstrates her courage despite the class system of her household. Regardless of her strength of character and strong will she gets nowhere and is dispatched to the red room.

In Jane’s struggle from being placed in the red room even the servants seem against her. They remind her of her obligation to Mrs Reed but she stubbornly refuses to acknowledge it. Despite their attempts at chastening her, determination and willpower shine through in Jane’s battle to escape. Jane’s continual questioning of the servants is to no avail as she is counter attacked with threats of hell and of being sent to a poorhouse. Poorhouses were residential institutions to which people were required to go if they could not support themselves.

They were started as a method of providing a less expensive (to the taxpayers) alternative to what we would now days call “welfare” – what was called “outdoor relief” in those days. People requested help from the community Overseer of the Poor (sometimes also called a Poor Master) – an elected town official. If the need was great or likely to be long-term, they were sent to the poorhouse instead of being given relief while they continued to live independently. Sometimes they were sent there even if they had not requested help from the Overseer of the Poor.

That was usually done when they were found guilty of begging in public, etc. Within the novel there is a large amount of fire and water imagery which relates to the mood of the protagonists. There are many references to this, for example the devastating effect of water: “ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly” Later though fire is comforting within Mrs Temple’s room and water save Mr Rochester’s life. Fire imagery has a strong metaphorical significance, representing passion, sexual desire, and emotion felt by Jane. The red room is described to be filled of fiery red colours.

Again she is reminded how she is different. Jane’s soliloquy resumes her questioning of her “unjust” treatment with a list of three rhetorical questions: “Why was I always suffering…? ” The red room disconcerts Jane because it is where her father had become deceased. She is superstitious and is extremely worried about ghosts. She is terrified that her father may be at unrest since Mrs Reed’s promises were not kept. Torn between her need for comfort and her panic about a possible apparition she screams out for help. The reaction for her “benefactress” is unsurprising: I abhor artifice, particularly in children” Bessie though shows limited affection.

She is placed in the novel to have somebody who cares for Jane, this also proves Jane is not an unpleasant child. This affection is severely regulated by the strictness of Mrs Reed. The chapter ends with “unconsciousness closing the scene”. It seems ironic that Charlotte Bronte describes it as an act given that Mrs Reed hates any form of deceit. Charlotte Bronte criticises the treatment of children by siding the reader with Jane and giving the imagery that Mrs Reed as raucous, vindictive and unreasonable.

There are also criticisms of class oppression faced in the Victorian era. Finally there is condemnation of how religion is used to petrify children. With Jane’s meeting with Mr Brocklehurst she is finally discarded and removed from the life she loathed so much. She eventually declares her views of Mrs Reed and states she will never return but later she contradicts this statement when Mrs Reed is on her deathbed. In Jane’s comments to Mr Brocklehurst she display she has no respect for him and cared very little to what he might think despite the fact of his superior class ranking.

This episode begins by revealing more about Georgina’s character. To Georgina Jane is nothing but a servant. Georgina is well dressed and had many objects in her possession yet Jane has nothing despite Mrs Reed’s promises. Georgina’s treatment of Jane clearly demonstrates that even children are aware of class differences. When Jane is gazing out of the widow from which she first gets a glimpse of Mr Brocklehurst her behaviour to the widow is prison like. Jane was obviously very lonely at Gateshead as it never “brought visitors in which I (Jane) was interested”.

Her nourishing the bird provides another sign that Jane was a benevolent child. Bessie stricter side is show when she rushes to prepare Jane for Mr Brocklehurst: “Troublesome, careless child! ” Jane was “intimidated and trembling” when she was called towards the rooms she had been avoiding so rigorously for three months. Jane’s obduracy is repeated by her continual use of the words “unjust punishment”. When Jane inwardly says, “Who could want me? ” the reader gets a distinct vision of Jane’s solitary life at Gateshead. As Jane opens the door to first meet Mr Brocklehurst she requires two hands to turn the door-handle.

This demonstrates her physical inferiority. She is then met with a “grim face” repeatedly described as being cold, “black pillar”, and also with alliteration “stony stranger”. Bronte has used these emotive words to give the imagery of Mr Brocklehurst as being cold and heartless. Mr Brocklehurst speaking about her and not to her almost as though she is not human once more shows this. Mrs Reed condemns Jane instead of supporting her, as a person would expect a mother like figure to do. In Victorian times there was a set of catechism questions to which children were expected to know the answers.

Jane though shows her rebellious side by reframing from using the orthodox answers. Mr Brocklehurst tells the truth about how children die daily. These comments are insensitive, design to frighten and are reminiscent of bully tactics. Jane’s intellect is again exposed by her knowledge at age ten of precise books of the Bible. Mr Brocklehurst is not particularly clever. His son younger than Jane even out wits him having the knowledge he will receive double the reward if he deceives his father. There is an irony when Mr Brocklehurst accuses Jane of having a heart of stone, as he is the one who possesses the heart of stone.

Jane is labelled as having “a tendency to deceit” ironic as she is completely truthful. Mrs Reed wanted to cull any hope Jane had in the next era in her life. She sought to make life difficult for Jane in Lowood as a form of selfish retribution for whatever crime she believed Jane to have committed. Jane is repeatedly reminded of her prospects many times by Mrs Reed to try and haunt her aspirations. Mr Brocklehurst is a hypocrite because he says, “humility is a Christian grace” but brings he own daughters to the charity school dressed in finely made clothes.

Finally Mrs Reed admits openly she no longer wants Jane: “I feel anxious to be relieved of a responsibility” Mrs Reed sends Jane to a charity school despite the riches she possesses. This is the final step she takes to breaking her promise to Jane’s father. Jane, though, is far from submissive and after a time of contemplation she rebels against her “hard-hearted” aunt. Here Jane emotions and innermost hatred of Mrs Reed is revealed. Normally in Victorian times this behaviour would be treated severely but Mrs Reed seems to retreat slightly in an attempt to calm Jane.

Perhaps she did this possibly to alleviate her guilt but more likely to lessen her sins on Jane. Jane is exulted and liberated when she expresses herself to Mrs reed. Jane then announces she will sever all bonds or links she had with Gateshead and speak the truth if anyone asks her how she was treated. Criticism is evident in this episode. Class is drawn to the attention of the reader when even a young child is aware of Jane’s obligations to Mrs Reed and treats her as a servant. There was a class system present even within a household and even amongst children.

Mr Brocklehurst becomes the centre of condemnation in numerous ways. His use of power of Jane and the fear he installs in her are cruel yet he claims to be Christian. Mr Reed is the opposite of a Christian and uses it to his own benefit. Mr Brocklehurst obviously is not interested in schooling or children so it is likely he helps at a charity school to be looked on as charitable by his peers. Men like him who think of themselves highly with no sensitivity are clearly criticised by Charlotte Bronte. Children of Jane’s age are not able to understand the psalms but are forced to read and memorise them.

At this point in the novel Jane is in love with Mr Rochester but has told no one. Mr Rochester is spending more and more time away from Thornfield and has begun to see Miss Ingram, a young heiress of Mr Rochester’s class. It is believed by most that Mr Rochester and Miss Ingram will soon marry. During this time for his own amusement Mr Rochester dresses as a gypsy woman and tells the fortunes of the young unmarried woman in the house. In the course of his conversation with Jane he attempts to discover Jane’s true feelings about him.

Mr Rochester during Jane’s stay at Thornfield attempts to discover Jane’s feelings for him on more than one occasion. Jane does not lie to him and this makes him more secure around Jane, soon he returns this love. It is at this point in the story that Mr Mason, a stranger to the house arrives. Mr Rochester is deeply shaken by the arrival of Mr Mason: “apparently a spasm caught his breath” The news of Mr Mason’s arrival shocks Mr Rochester, this is shown by the way he repeats “Mason! -The West Indies! ” and then he repeats to Jane “I’ve got a blow”. Both are repeated to emphasise their points.

Something is obviously gravely wrong. Jane offers her help. This is very unusual for a servant to do so. Mr Rochester “chafed” Jane’s hand which is a great sign of affection and how close they had become. Mr Rochester shows signs of love for Jane despite the great barrier of their classes: “I wish I were in a quiet island only with you” This is a very romantic setting that Mr Rochester is wishing for. Jane replies “I pledge my life to you”. This is similar to pledges made in weddings vows and demonstrates she in very much in love with Mr Rochester.

Jane is again referred to be as something mythological as she has been throughout the novel: “Ministrant spirit” Mr Rochester reveals that he is worried that Mr Mason has told some kind of secret but is relieve by the fact he is “laughing and talking”. Jane then divulges to Mr Rochester that she is prepared to loose all the respect of society and would stay by Mr Rochester. She only cares about the opinion of Mr Rochester. At the close of chapter nineteen the reader is reminded of the first fire by the way Jane lies awake in her bed.

It seem that something ill will imminently result because of the parallel in the situations. The chapter ends though with Mr Rochester’s merrier mood putting Jane’s “heart at ease”. “Good God! What a cry” suddenly awakes the reader from the description of the night. It is a short paragraph designed to stand out. Then the use of alliteration and a list of three again emphasises “a savage, a sharp, a shrilly sound”. Jane’s immediately comes to the aid of Mr Rochester who is trying to calm the panic of the guests. Everyone is immensely frightened but Jane is more concerned about coming to the aid of Mr Rochester.

When Mr Rochester does come to get Jane’s help he is unsurprised Jane is waiting for him. Jane is fearful of the “fateful third storey” as she is still unaware of what is up there. Jane at this time is still innocent as she is unconscious of whether the sight of blood will affect her. The following emotions of Jane are a mixture of fear and trust. Whilst holding hands and passing through a secret door Mr Rochester and Jane hear a “snarling, snatching sound”. Alliteration is used here to bring out the fear and anticipation felt by Jane. Mr Rochester has an enormous need to keep this a secret yet he trusts Jane.

Jane returns this trust by allowing him to have her locked in a room with a complete stranger who is “almost soaked in blood”. The description of this room is similar to the description of the Red Room. Grace Pool is metaphorically imagined as a “wild beast or fiend” by Jane. This is but one of many emotive words making Grace Pool a force of evil. Jane shows she is not completely submissive to Mr Rochester by questioning the mystery of Thornfield house but to little avail. Jane starts to make connection to the beginning of the meetings with Mr Mason which shows Jane’s intelligence.

Then she becomes worried what will happen of Mr Mason dies and is aware that she will be faced with the decision whether she will be able to keep the secret or not. The in depth description of Mrs Rochester biting Mr Mason and the cut that followed make the reader become puzzled. The reader is bewildered by the fact Mr Rochester decides to keep the responsibility. Mr Mason proclaims Mrs Rochester said that she would “drain my heart”. This is powerful and emotive making Mrs Rochester seem to be like a vampire. Mr Rochester has an “expression of disgust, horror, hatred” towards his wife.

He is anxious to keep the secret he has held hitherto and desires to keep it for longer: “I have striven long to avoid exposure, and I should not like it to come at last. ” Mr Mason despite his injury wants Mrs Rochester to be treated well. Mr Rochester then to Jane calls his own house a dungeon. It imprisons him. The reader is becoming aware why he spends as little time as possible here. The portrayal of spring symbolises hope of rebirth for Mr Rochester. Mr Rochester then entitles Jane as his “pet lamb”. It seems he is becoming less and less able to hide his emotions.

Jane seems worried about Mr Rochester’s life but not her own. Mr Rochester describes his life with a metaphor: “crater-crust which may crack and spew fire any day” Finally this episode ends with Mr Rochester making Jane breakfast. This symbolises them as a couple. This episode reveals little more about Mr Rochester’s secret instead it builds up anticipation for the reader who must read on to discover more. Jane and Mr Rochester show their trust for each other numerous times and this trust is further in this episode. Also Mr Rochester and Jane are drawn closer by the secrets Jane is aware of and could tell others.

Their trust is great and Mr Rochester does not question Jane’s ability to withhold her information and not alert the rest of the household. This novel is a classic Gothic romance. Gothic is a genre that uses ingredients such as supernatural events, strange creatures, dark castles and a gloomy atmosphere. Rochester’s dark secret and the unexplained events are typical of Gothic style writing. The description of the strange old furniture, mysterious laughter and accidents like the fire in Rochester’s bedroom all add the interest of the novel. For me it is a novel of passion, anger, defiance and of overwhelming desire.

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