Bronte's Jane Eyre by Zoe Brennan

By Zoe Brennan

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Jane goes on to offer her first impressions of Thornfield, typically a combination of the welcoming and the foreboding. For instance, her new room is described as a ‘safe-haven’, a ‘bright little place’ where ‘the sun shone in through the gay blue chintz window curtains’, emblematic of her optimism (165). But to get there she has to pass along a gallery with a ‘very chill and vault-like air’ which suggested to her ‘cheerless ideas of space and solitude’ (165). By describing the corridor as ‘vault-like’, Brontë gestures to what we subsequently learn is Thornfield’s role as a ‘tomb’ for Rochester’s mad wife and it is the third floor where Bertha is incarcerated for which the narrator saves much of her Gothic description: ‘All these relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory’ (173).

Brontë uses fire and ice symbolism to gesture to the competing impulses that drive Jane; the fiery ‘crimson’ sun setting over the icy landscape represents her position between an emotionally frozen outer life and the fiery turmoil of her inner life. The older narrator says that when young ‘all sorts of fancies bright and dark tenanted my mind’ and when she hears the sound of hooves imagines a figure from folklore, a ‘Gytrash’, ‘who haunted solitary ways, and sometimes came upon belated travellers’ (181).

There is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits . . and God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with our full reward’ (133). The narrative actually goes on to expose both extremes as untenable; Helen’s self-denial cannot allow for her survival in this world and Jane must learn to balance her craving for human love with an increasing self-reliance and faith in God’s love. It is largely due to Helen’s affection that Jane asserts after a few weeks that she would not ‘have exchanged Lowood with all its privations, for Gateshead and its daily luxuries’ (139).

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