Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte- Literary Analysis [Part 1]

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Literary Analysis Essay

The Reconciliation of Fire, Ice, and Eyre

In the novel Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte explores a patriarchal Victorian society, where Nature clashes with monotheist Christianity, and passion clashes with reason. As Jane develops, conflicted with these polarized binaries, Bronte examines the dichotomy between the fire of passion and emotion and the ice of spirituality and rationality. Through Jane’s internal conflict with Rochester and Bertha, Bronte employs a recurring fire motif to delineate the vulnerabilities of an unrestrained burning passion, with emotions overpowering the ability to reason and think. Through Jane’s internal struggle with St. John, Bronte uses iterations of the ice motif to suggest that the extreme renunciation of self-desires and the embrace of rationality and spirituality shroud corporeal passions that would otherwise kindle warmth and individuality in a frigidly stratified society. By coupling these antithesis elemental motifs with the influences of Rochester, Bertha, and St. John, Brontë explores the balance of passion and rationality as catalysis for the development of identity and ultimately its impetus for the augmentation of humanity and its condition.

Will Edward Rochester unlock Jane’s heart with his key of fiery passion?
Or will St. John capture her heart first in his breathless frozen winterland?

Jane Eyre Literary Analysis: Character Analysis and Symbolism of Edward Rochester with Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre

Bronte uses a fire motif to portray the burning unrestrained passions of Jane and her conflict with Rochester and Bertha in order to explore how unbridled passion, in the absence of rationality, clouds the perception of spiritual and societal morality. Despite Rochester’s “callous” appearance, Jane is attracted by his “pleasurable and genial…face…his presence more cheering than the brightest fire” (Brontë 146). By dichotomizing Jane’s enamor of Rochester’s “pleasurable and genial face” with his physical “callous” features, Bronte accentuates the extent to which Jane is entranced with her passion of love and blind to his flaws, his “callous[ness].”Rochester is not just her “bright fire” but “the brightest fire.” Through Jane’s superlative proclamation and fire motif, Bronte also adumbrates at the protagonist’s naivety of her “brightest fire” passion. Without fully rationalizing Rochester’s special treatment towards her or his subsequent seduction in the garden, Jane continues to “lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength,” listening more to her flaming emotions than her logic, the need to “keep to your caste” (162). Likewise, Brontë uses the “brightest fire” motif to show that Jane’s inexperience with passionate love obscures her rational judgment of questioning Rochester’s motives, smoldering her ability to reason under a conflagration of feelings.

Rochester and Jane Eyre in the 1943 film

Ultimately, as Jane learns about Rochester’s manipulation and secret wife, rationality emerges, and the flames of her passionate love waver. She asserts that “him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. One drear word comprised of my duty – ‘Depart!’” (315). Jane understands that although she “love[s] him,” it is logical to “depart,” her “duty” to still retain her moral principles of society by not joining in Rochester’s immoral corruption. Her “duty” of empowered rationality allows her to logically “renounce” the enslaving power that Rochester asserts and seek a different lifestyle without stifling either passion or moral. Thus, Bronte uses Jane’s reentrance of reason in her internal conflict of passion to suggest that rationality instills clear judgment and helps pave way for a more moral, spiritual life.

Jane Eyre Literary Analysis: Character Analysis and Symbolism of Bertha Mason and Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre

images (1).jpg
The Girl in the Mirror: How can we forget Rochester’s first and mad wife, Bertha Mason, locked in the ceiling of the mansion?

Through Bertha Mason, Brontë utilizes the wild fire motif to depict the dangers of an extreme uncontrollable burning passion – Bertha’s violent rage against the stifling constraints of a patriarchal society –that obstruct rationality and the moral boundaries.“Gurgl[ing] and moan[ing],” Bertha lights Rochester’s bed on fire, “tongues of flame darted round…in the midst of blaze” (148). The wildness of the “tongues of flame” and “blaze” illustrates the magnitude of Bertha’s madness and her emblematic rage against societal confinement and feminist oppression. Coupled with the blazing fire motif, her “gurgles” and “moans” depict her as an animal, through which Brontë suggests that her state of mind has gone beyond rationality and morality.

Bertha lights Jane Eyre’s bed afire. This image is derived from the second edition of Jane Eyre in 1847 (Wikimedia Commons).

Due to this extreme unbalance of passionate ire and rationality, Bertha’s savagery literally induces dangers, such as the attempt of burning Rochester alive or the mangle of Mason. Thus, through her blazing incarceration, Brontë underscores these physical dangers as additional extreme vulnerabilities of an unreconciled infernal passion with cold reason.Yet, Bertha’s animalistic qualities do not solely pertain to herself; they also reflect Jane’s internal features. As Gilbert suggests, “the imprisoned Bertha…is the ‘bad animal’ who was ten-year-old Jane…emblematic of her mind in its rebellion against society” (5).With Bertha as Jane’s darkest double, Bronte portrays an extreme example of the unbalanced unbridled passion, “rebellion against society,” and absent rationality to reinforce the idea of the need to reconcile passion with reason.

[READ Part 2: Jane Eyre Literary Analysis Essay–>]

Works Cited

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975. Print.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. “A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane’s Progress.”

The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976. Print.

Lamonaca, Maria. “Jane’s Crown of Thorns: Feminism and Christianity in Jane Eyre.” Studies in the Novel. 34.3 (2002): 245-263.

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26 replies »

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