How does Charlotte Bronte Use setting to convey the experiences of her characters
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The opening chapter is a good example of how Charlotte Bronte uses setting to convey Jane Eyre’s experiences in childhood. She uses pathetic fallacy, when she writes about the ‘cold winter wind’. Jane is feeling unhappy and the weather outside is portraying her mood and is an example of how she is treated by her family. Another example of pathetic fallacy in the opening chapter is the rain; the rain is described as ‘so penetrating’ this can be recognised as the family cruelty.
Bronte uses other methods to convey Jane’s experiences such as symbolism. Examples of this is when everyone’s gathered round the fire, in the drawing room, but Jane’s not allowed by the fire, this reflects the way that she’s not in the family warmth, she’s shut in the cold.
A further instance of symbolism, appears in the sixth paragraph, at this point Jane shuts herself in the drawing room… Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting but not separating me from the dreary November day’ Jane has shut herself away in a room, drawn the curtains so she’s further away, she’s separated herself from the rest of the family but she can see the grim weather outside, however it is not effecting her. The panes of glass imitate the fact that Jane can see through the glass but can’t quite get there.
Glass is fragile and can break, but Jane cant break through the glass can’t get away from the family. Foreshadowing is another technique that Bronte uses to express the experiences of the characters, an example of this is when Jane is sat in the window, reading her book, Bronte relates the book that Jane is reading to the future. For example ‘two ships becalmed on a torpid sea’ this illustrates that the sea at this point is calm, but it has the potential to be dangerous, which could reflect Jane’s life in the future.
This is another instance of foreshadowing; ‘its two trees, its low horizon, girdled by a broken wall’ this could represent Jane and Mr Rochester’s love affair, ‘girdled by a broken wall’ not protecting them, they’ve got an unstable relationship. The red-room can be viewed as a symbol of what Jane must overcome in her struggles to find freedom, happiness, and a sense of belonging. In the red-room, Jane’s position of exile and imprisonment first becomes clear.
Although Jane is eventually freed from the room, she continues to be socially disliked, financially trapped, and excluded from love; her freedom of self-expression is constantly threatened. The red-room’s importance as a symbol continues throughout the novel. It reappears as a memory whenever Jane makes a connection between her current situations. The Red Room can also illustrate Jane’s anger for living at Gateshead. She also uses senses, imagery, colour and dialogue to express the knowledge of her characters. Bronte uses it to show how isolated and unhappy Jane feels with her situation in the family.
In this chapter Jane is locked in the Red Room because she retaliated to someone who hit her, and she got blamed. The Red room is like an imprisonment, Jane’s been trapped in a cold, miserable room; this reflects her status in the family. This description; ‘Darkly-polished mahogany’ demonstrates the gothic element of the Red Room. The Red Room resembles the spare room of the house, no-one ever goes in there because people have a fear of it, Jane is like a spare part of the family, which isn’t wanted, and she’s put in there.
The room has been discarded, just like Jane has. Charlotte Bronte’s use of senses in this chapter is very effective; she uses sound, sight and smell to put across the feelings of Jane. There is a great use of juxtaposition, which shows Jane’s low status in the household. ‘The bed rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe… ‘ this reference demonstrates contrast, Bronte is writing about large objects which makes Jane look and feel small, this also reflects her status.
There is a ghostly death feel to the Red Room, ‘it was here where he breathed his last’ this relates to Mr Reed’s death, ‘pillows of the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane’ this extract could indicate a ghostly feel to the room, because of the sheet and the snowy disposition. Throughout the novel Charlotte Bronte uses another way to portray the experiences of her characters through symbolism. This symbolism is used a lot with the fire. The fire reflects relationships, feeling and also foreshadows the future in some cases.
An example of this is in Miss temple’s room in chapter five, ‘the servant led me through a passage into a room with a fire where she left me alone. I stood and warmed my numbed fingers over the blaze’ Firstly the servant is bringing Jane into the family warmth and is providing her with love and friendship. Following this Jane warms ups her fingers from the first chapter where Jane has ‘nipped fingers and toes’ this contrast shows the change in the way she’s treated, and how she’s now warm and not cold.
A contrast from this warming fire is in chapter seven at Lowood School; ‘Mr Broklehurst, standing on the hearth with his hands behind his back, majestically surveyed the whole school. ‘ This indicates his power over the girls. He’s standing with his back to the fire, which shows he doesn’t want the warmth because he’s a cold hearted man. Furthermore, he’s blocking the girls from accessing the fire, and stopping them from getting the warmth and friendship.
We can use Mr Rochester as another illustration with use of symbolism of the fire, ‘… and receiving the light of the fire on his granite-hewn feathers… Mr Rochester starts to feel the warmth of Jane, and begins to like her. Bronte uses the fire in many other references in the book to reflect a variety of things. Another example of the fire used as a symbol is in Bertha’s Room but here the idea is developed. This is in Chapter 26, ‘in a room without a window, there burnt a fire guarded be a high strong fender’ this could suggest that Bertha is locked away, like in a imprisonment with the sense of a non-windowed room, the strong fender guarding it could be like her guarding Mr Rochester from Jane.
Charlotte Bronte clearly shows the way that setting conveys the experience of the characters in the two proposal scenes. The first proposal, by Mr Rochester is set in Rochester’s garden. The chapter opens by stating ‘A splendid Midsummer shone over England; skies so pure, suns so radiant, as were then seen in a long successions’ as soon as the chapter is opened the reader is instantly put into the beautiful setting. The scenery reflects Jane wanting the proposal to happen, but she’s hiding it from Mr Rochester, and appears to be hiding it, and showing that she’s upset about leaving to go to Ireland.
The setting is very important to the moment; Charlotte Bronte has purposely chosen a lovely night for the proposal. Pathetic fallacy is used in the weather conditions, echoing and reinforcing Jane’s happiness as the above quotation shows. At the start of the chapter Bronte writes about the chestnut tree in the garden at the end of the chapter there is a sudden change in the weather, which results to a storm which splits the horse chestnut tree into two, this is a clear sign, signifying that this future marriage is not right.
Rochester’s manner and language also hit towards all not being well, ‘He set his teeth’ this shows his determination. However Jane is oblivious to all this, so shocked by her change in her fortunes. The second proposal by St John, takes place during a walk which he takes her on. When he proposes she knows that she cannot agree to, knowing that her idea of love is so different to his, St John would only use Jane as company in India.
The setting in this scene isn’t like the setting in the proposal of Rochester this could indicate that Rochester’s proposal was more romantic and unique. Bronte comments on the aspect of her nature that always complies with characters stronger than her own up to the moment of ‘determined revolt’. There are echoes of the confrontations with Mrs Reed and Rochester in her interview with St John. In spite of everything, Jane remains firm in her ideas about love. Her passionate side values beauty of true love is clearly displayed in her rejection of St John’s offer.
She rejects the idea of being ‘forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to complex it to burn inwardly and never utter a cry, though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital’ (chapter 34) this is a dramatic and moving description of the horror she feels at living in a loveless marriage. In conclusion Charlotte Bronte develops the experiences because it makes her writing, good writing. Her techniques that she uses, creates her novel to be a classical, she makes her novel as successful as it can be. Bronte involves the reader into her writing and brings the book into universal context.