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Importance of Setting in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

The Importance of Setting in Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is a novel, written in the Victorian era by the author Charlotte Bronte. Bronte uses different setting in order to show what the characters are feeling. The setting is often a reflection of human emotion. The setting also foreshadows certain events that are going to occur.

A use of setting to portray a character’s emotion is essential to a novel. It gives the reader more of a feel for what is going on. An example of this is when Rochester proposes to Jane. Jane is dazzled and excited about the idea. The setting echoes her excitement. “A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut…” Another instance is when Jane is walking through the Eden-like garden on “a splendid Midsummer, skies so pure, suns so radiant…”. The perfection of the day reflects Jane’s return to Thornfield where she feels acceptance, contentment, and love.

The setting can also show the gloom and despair of the character’s emotion. Jane is looking for a place to stay, is refused and made to stay outside in the weather. She weeps with anguish, feels despair, and rejection. The setting echoes her in that it is “such a wild night”. There is a driving rain and it is cold. The setting can be a reflection of just about any human emotion.

The setting plays a big part in the novel when the author uses foreshadowing. After Rochester proposes to Jane, the weather turns and the horse-chestnut tree, is split in half. “…the great horse-chestnut at the bottom of the orchard had been struck by lightning in the night, and half of it split away.”

This displays the coming of tragedy and the separation of Jane and Rochester.

Another instance is on the eve of their wedding day. The setting is a cloudy windy night with a red moon, “her disk was blood-red, and half-overcast…”

This night prefigures what’s going to happen the following day: Jane’s going to find out the truth about Rochester. Rochester’s description of how he sees Thornfield, “that house is a mere dungeon… filled with slime… cobwebs… sordid slate…

Fire and Water Imagery in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

Fire and Water Imagery in Jane Eyre

In Jane Eyre, the use of water and fire imagery is very much related to the character and/or mood of the protagonists (i.e. Jane and Rochester, and to a certain extent St. John Rivers) — and it also serves to show Jane in a sort of intermediate position between the two men. However, it should also be noted that the characteristics attributed to fire and water have alternately positive and negative implications — to cite an example among many, near the beginning of the novel, reference is made to the devastating effects of water (“ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly”, “death-white realm” [i.e. of snow]), and fire is represented by a “terrible red glare”; later, fire is represented as being comforting in Miss Temple’s room, and it is water that saves Rochester from the first fire. These literal associations with fire and water become increasingly symbolic, however, as the novel progresses, where the fire / water / (ice) imagery becomes a representation of the emotional and moral dialectic of the characters, and it also becomes increasingly evident that the positive and negative potentialities of fire and water also show the positive and negative potentialities of the characters whom they represent.

Rochester is very much associated with fire, with the “strange fire[s] in his look”, and particularly with his “flaming and flashing eyes”. By extension, so is everything associated with him (i.e. his first wife and Thornfield). Jane’s first reaction to Thornfield itself, destined to fall victim to fire, is to be “dazzled” by the “double illumination of fire and candle”, just as she is later to be “dazzled” by the fire of Rochester himself. On one level, this “fire” is the Romantic fir…

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Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Dodd, Mead

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