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Jane Eyre: Fire and Ice

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Lauren Stoll

on 30 November 2012

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Transcript of Jane Eyre: Fire and Ice

Jane Eyre: Fire and Ice The Main Motif Gateshead: Fire Connections to Sophie's World Discussion Questions Thornfield: Fire Bibliography The first stage of Jane's life is spent at her aunt's manor, Gateshead. This part of her life is very passionate and angry. Fire is symbolic of her emotions, which show much of her internal inferno. What is Fire and Ice? The motif of "fire and ice" is a very common literary device that many authors have used throughout history. Fire is used to symbolize passion and emotion and ice is used to symbolize reason and things that are void of passionate emotions. Some popular books and poems that use this motif in a very obvious way are Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice" and The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. But, as you may already know, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, is one of the most famous books for its use of "fire and ice". Many characters, places, and stages of Jane's life are symbolic of both fire and ice. Page 8: " 'Wicked and cruel boy!' I said. 'You are like a murderer-you are like a slave driver-you are like the Roman emperors!'...'Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!...Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!'" Page 11: "The red-room was a spare chamber, very seldom slept in...hung with curtains of deep red damask...the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth...Out of these deep surrounding shades rose high, glared white, the piled up mattresses..." Pages 15-16: "...a light gleamed on the wall...it glided up to the ceiling and quivered over my head...prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot..."
Explanation: The red-room that Jane is banished to all-to-well represents passion and fire. It is described as "deep red" and "crimson", which are known colors that symbolize fire and passion. The mattresses "glared white", just like white hot fire does. In this room, Jane experiences fear and horror, which are very strong emotions. Her "head grows hot" from these feelings and forces her to scream out for help. Explanation: In this quote, Jane is exploding with fury at her cousin John Reed. She is angry and calls him "cruel" and "a murderer". The way in which she rebels against him is very emotional and frowned upon because she's a woman and she's poor. Bessie and Miss Abbot claim Jane to be a "picture of passion" and exclaim that Jane must have been in "a fury" to attack John with such hatred. This quote shows the passionate anger Jane feels at Gateshead. Page 42: “You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently—into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony..." http://www.iep.utm.edu/faith-re/
http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/nj1.html Explanation: In this quote, Jane exhibits angry and passionate emotions towards her aunt, Mrs. Reed. She exclaims that she can't live without "love and kindness" and that her aunt has "no pity". This quote exhibits the most hatred that Jane has throughout this whole book and shows her need for powerful emotions, like love. Lowood: Ice The second stage of Jane's life is spent at the desolate and cold boarding school, Lowood. This part of her life is emotionally isolated and symbolic of ice. Page 63: "...the water in the pitchers was frozen...had made us shiver all night...turned the contents of the ewers to ice...I felt ready to perish with cold." Explanation: This quote demonstrates some of the ice imagery that is written into this section of the book. Bronte talks about water bring "frozen" and how people "perish with cold" while they are living at Lowood. Page 81: "...my duty to warn you, that this girl, who might be one of God’s own lambs, is a little castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently an interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse." Explanation: This quote shows the emotional isolation that Jane is forced to deal with while attending Lowood. Mr. Brocklehurst tells the students of Lowood to "avoid", "exclude" and "shut her out". He also calls her an "interloper" and an "alien", purposefully dividing her from her classmates. This isolates Jane socially and makes her life at Lowood emotionless and cold. Page 85: "...you think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive; too vehement; the sovereign hand that created your frame, and put life into it, has provided you with other resources than your feeble self..." 1. Is there a balance between fire and ice in Jane's life? Would she have been as successful with or without that balance? Why or why not? Give examples from the text. 2. How are fire and ice represented in Chronicle of a Death Foretold? Compare and contrast the fire and ice motifs from Jane Eyre to any that you can find in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. 3. What characters in Jane Eyre, other than Jane herself, represent both fire and ice? Explain and give quotes and examples from the book? Explanation: In this quote, Helen Burns is speaking to Jane. Helen is one of the main characters in the second part of Jane's life and plays a large role in the way that Jane grows up. Helen is almost void of passion, always saying that the "sovereign hand that created" her (God) is more important than human emotion. Helen is cold towards Jane, but in a kind, teacher-like way. Helen's reasonable personality has a cooling effect on Jane's fiery one and the passion she had exhibited at Gateshead is, in a way, frozen, to be reawakened later in the book. The third, and arguably most important, stage of Jane's life is spent at the fiery and warm manor, Thornfield. This part of her life is full of love and emotion between her and Mr. Rochester. By: Lauren Stoll, Kennedy Good and Maura Davis Morton: Ice The fourth stage of Jane's life is spent at Morton, where she is named headmistress. This part of her life is lonely, and cold compared to the warmth of Thornfield and Jane's only companion is the icy, stoic and religiously zealous, St. John Rivers. Page 118: "she ushered me into a room whose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled me..." Page 150: "Two wax candles stood lighted on the table, and two on the mantelpiece; basking in the light and heat of a superb fire..." Page 566: “ 'I never thought of it, before; but you certainly are rather like Vulcan, sir.' ” Page 186-187: "Tongues of flame darted round the bed: the curtains were on fire. In the midst of blaze and vapour...the very sheets were kindling." Page 546: "Thornfield Hall is quite a ruin: it was burnt down just about harvest-time...The fire broke out at dead of night...the building was one mass of flame." Explanations: All of these quotes provide an example of the imagery of fire that Bronte writes into Thornfield. During almost every encounter between Jane and Rochester, they are in front of a fire or around candles. She describes the "wax candles" in detail and how the light is "dazzling" and "superb". Thornfield hall is a fiery manor that represents the passion between Jane and Rochester and eventually even engulfed in that passion, just as they are, and "burns down" in "one mass of flame". In Conclusion... Jane Eyre is filled with the motif of fire and ice. Throughout the 4 main stages of her life, Jane is presented with people and places which either provide a cooling effect to her passionate, firey inner self (Lowood, Morton, Helen Burns, and St.John Rivers), or add kindling to her inner inferno and are just as emotional as she is (Gateshead, Thornfield, and Mr. Rochester). These components provide a dualistic view in the way in which Jane's life plays out. Page 402: "...a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived wished to be loved better than I was loved..." Explanation: Jane compares Rochester to "Vulcan". Vulcan is the Roman god of fire and is comparable to Rochester because Rochester causes fiery, passionate emotions in Jane. When she is trying to say goodbye to him after their failed wedding, she "struggles" with "blackness" and "burning". She also realizes that she will never be loved as passionately as she is by Rochester. Page 471: "...he would not give one chance of heaven...for the elysium of her love...he could not bind all that he had in his nature...in the limits of a single passion. Definition of "motif": Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes. Page 482: "...his tall figure all white as a glacier." Page 491: "...he persued, 'I am cold: no fervour infects me.' 'Whereas I am hot, and fire dissolves ice." Explanation: In these quotes, St. John rivers is being described using ice imagery, like being "all white as a glacier". St. John is a man of little passion, one who lets his religion speak for him. He will not claim his love for Rosamond Oliver because "he would not give one chance of heaven...for the elysium of her love." Jane says that he "could not bind all that he had in his nature...in the limits of a single passion" meaning that St. John would never give up his religious quest for salvation for the frivolous feelings that are involved with love. Jane also contrasts herself from him, claiming to be "hot" and capable of melting St. John because he is "cold" and "ice". Page 522: "at his side always, and...restrained...forced to keep the fire of my nature continually low, to compel it to burn inwardly...though the imprisoned flame consumed vital after vital—this would be unendurable." Page 509-510: "...he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind...a tiresomely importunate instinct reminded me that vivacity...was distasteful...only serious moods and occupations were acceptable...I fell under a freezing spell." Explanation: Jane's passions and love for Rochester are being cooled down by St. John icy ways and stoic attitude. Like Helen Burns, he influences Jane, but, as Jane is older, she realizes that he "took away [her] liberty of mind" and puts her under a "freezing spell". When St. John asks Jane to marry him, she comes to the conclusion that St. John has isolated her emotionally and tried to put out the "fire of [her] nature" and that marrying him would be "unendurable". Jane eventually leaves, rather than letting St. John actually change her. Fire One of the most prominent philosophers featured in Sophie's World is Immanuel Kant. Kant was a religious and passionate man, believing that reason was not the basis for faith, and that many questions (not strictly religiously) lay outside the realm of reason, answerable only by the strength of one's faith. This relates to Jane Eyre in that Kant's philosophy on faith and religion in the same way Jane feels about her and Mr. Rochester's romance: that it is a passionate leap-of-faith and has nothing at all to do with reason.
Pg. 137 “Yes, he opened up a religious dimension. There, where both reason and experience fall short, there occurs a vacuum that can be filled by faith.” Ice In deep comparison to Kant's passion is the rationality we see in Plato. Plato, a Classical Greek philosopher and a student of Socrates, believed that we cannot actually know the real world, but we can have true knowledge about things that we perceive through our reason. He believed that the human body itself was present in the natural world, but that we have an immortal soul that is in contact with the world of ideas. This dual idea of the human nature, one of a grounded human body but an immortal spirit of thought transitions into Jane Eyre in the way she attempts to find the balance between the passion/fire (her body) and the reason/ice (her mind) throughout the course of the book. Pg. 79 - "Plato believed that everything we see around us in nature, everything tangible, can be likened to a soap bubble, since nothing that exists in the world of the senses is lasting."
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