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Jane Eyre Symbols
Transcript of Jane Eyre Symbols
How can children and deceit be connected? At times throughout the novel, children are the most deceitful characters. This contrasts sharply with the well-known concept of children representing innocence and goodness and gives a depth to the novel.
The Reed Family
The Reed Children
"The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these, something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her. They woke, they kindled: first, they glowed in the bright tint of her cheek, which till this hour I had never seen but pale and bloodless; then they shone in the liquid lustre of her eyes, which had suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss Temple's- a beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance. Then her soul sat on her lips, and language flowed, from what source I cannot tell; has a girl of fourteen a heart large enough, vigorous enough, to hold the swelling spring of pure, full, fervid eloquence? Such was the characteristic of Helen's discourse on that, to me, memorable evening; her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence."
Jane's earliest impressions of human nature were formed by the Reed family. Her cousins Eliza, Georgiana, and John Reed treat her harshly, and they represent the worst aspects of human personality. Their constant picking at Jane along with their mysterious ability to avoid punishment contrast with Jane's passiveness and ceaseless desire to please Bessie.
At a few points in the novel, Jane has dreams in which children play a major role. In these dreams, children are a foreshadowing of terrible events. By appearing in her unconscious, the children allow Jane to be warned of trouble that may occur, whether the dream itself consists of nightmarish occurrences or not.
The connection between the innocence of a child and deceitfulness almost seems contrary to each other, but Bronte really
pulls together both symbols nicely, as
you can see here.
At Lowood and Thornfield, children best represent innocence and kindness. Characters such as Helen Burns, Mary Ann Wilson, and Adele Varens differ greatly from Jane's cousins in that they show the good aspects of children. Many of the students are inherently good, but they are chastised by excessively strict teachers, and they quietly obey their authorities, much to Jane's dismay. They show Jane that people can be kind, as opposed to the horrible people she faced for the first ten years of her life. The sheltered and rigidly scheduled lifestyle of the pupils at Lowood exaggerates the innocence of young Jane. Adele's eager but somewhat aloof personality contrasts with Jane's personality as a child.
"The only marked event of the afternoon was, that I saw the girl with whom I had conversed in the veranda, dismissed in disgrace, by Miss Scatcherd, from a history class, and sent to stand in the middle of the large schoolroom. The punishment seemed to me in a high degree ignominious, especially for so great a girl- she looked thirteen of upwards. I expected she would show signs of great distress and shame; but to my surprise she neither wept nor blushed. Composed, though grave, she stood, the central mark of all eyes... 'She looks as if she were thinking of something beyond her punishment- beyond her situation: of something not round her nor before her. I have heard of daydreams- is she in a day-dream now? Her eyes are fixed on the floor, but I am sure they do not see it- her sight seems turned in, gone down into her heart: she is looking at what she can remember, I believe; not at what is really present.'"
"This ominous tool she presented to Miss Scatcherd with a respectful curtsey; then she quietly and without being told, unloosed her pinafore, and the teacher instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs. Not a tear rose to Burns's eye; and, while I paused from my sewing, because my fingers quivered at this spectacle with a sentiment of unvailing and impotent anger, not a feature of her pensive face altered its ordinary expression... I looked at her narrowly as she emerged from the book-closet; she was just putting back her handkerchief into her pocket, and the trace of a tear glistened on her thin cheek."
"...to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one's self or one's kin... Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an infant, which I sometimes hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a lawn, or again, dabbling its hands in running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me; but whatever the mood the apparition evinced, whatever aspect it wore, it failed not for seven nights to meet me the moment I entered the land of slumber."
"'I was burdened with the charge of a little child: a very small creature, too young and feeble to walk, and which shivered in my cold arms, and wailed piteously in my ear.'"
"'Wrapped up in a shawl, I still carried the unknown little child: I might not lay it down anywhere, however tired were my arms- however much its weight impeded my progress, I must retain it. I heard the gallop of a horse at a distance on the road; I was sure it was you; and you were departing for many years, and for a distant country. I climbed the thin wall with frantic, perilous haste, eager to catch one glimpse of you from the top: the stones rolled from under my feet, the ivy branches I grasped gave way, the child clung round my neck in terror, and almost strangled me: at last I gained the summit. I saw you like a speck on a white track, lessening every moment. The blast blew so strong I could not stand. I sat down on the narrow ledge; I hushed the scared infant in my lap: you turned an angle of the road: I bent forward to take a last look; the wall crumbled; I was shaken; the child rolled from my knee, I lost my balance, fell, and woke.'"
"I found my pupil docile, though disinclined to apply: she had not been used to regular occupation of any kind. I felt it would be injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when I had talked to her a great deal, and got her to learn a little, and when the morning had advenced to noon, I allowed her to return to her nurse."
"The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mamma in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darling about her (for the time neither quarreling nor crying) looked perfectly happy."
"John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older than I, for I was but ten; large and stout for his age, with a dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage, heavy limbs and large extremities. He gorged himself habitually at table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye with flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but his mamma had taken him home for a month or two, 'on account of his delicate health.' Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home; but the mother's heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined rather to the more refined idea that John's sallowness was owing to over-application and, perhaps, to pining after home."
"Why could I never please? Why was it useless to try to win anyone's favour? Eliza, who was headstrong and selfish, was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally indulged. Her beauty, her pink cheeks, and golden curls, seemed to give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for every fault. John no one thwarted, much less punished, though he twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep, stripped the hothouse vines of their fruit, and broke the buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory; he called his mother 'old girl,' too; sometimes reviled her for her dark skin, similar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes; not infrequently tore and spoiled her silk attire; and he was still 'her own darling.' I dared commit no fault; I strove to fulfil every duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to noon, and from noon to night."
"The stone was just broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me, at that time my chosen comrade- one Mary Ann Wilson, a shrewd, observant personage, whose society I took pleasure in, partly because she was witty and original, and partly because she had a manner which set me at my ease. Some years older than I, she knew more of the world, and could tell me many things I liked to hear: with her my curiosity found gratification: to my faults also she gave ample indulgence, never imposing curb or rein on anything I said. She had a turn for narrative, I for analysis; she liked to inform, I to question; so we got on swimmingly together, deriving much entertainment, if not much improvement, from our mutual intercourse."
Children play a major role throughout the novel, though they symbolize many different things as the story progresses. From innocence and kindness to danger and evil, the presence of children has a huge impact on Jane. They show her the best and worst aspects of human nature; they foreshadow trouble.
Why do children represent so many different things based on the point in the story in which they are located?
Adele does not have the desire to learn as Jane did as a child, but she shows Jane that children can be fun-loving and kind.
Jane sees Helen in the same light in which she views Miss Temple. Helen is the first person in whom Jane can confide; she contrasts greatly with Jane's cousins who questioned her every action.
Jane, having only been around her mischievous cousins, has a difficult time comprehending the unbending way the girls handle their punishments, even if they did nothing wrong. They allow her to see innocence and its apparent unimportance.
Again, Jane is appalled at the unfair treatment of the girls and the fact that they cannot show emotion. Their lack of questioning keeps them innocent.
Without Helen around, Jane experiences more aspects of human nature. Mary Ann is very kind and accepting toward Jane, which is very unlike the Reed family.
This is Jane's first dream in chapter 25. The dream as a whole foreshadows a separation of her and Mr. Rochester, and the child represents something that will keep them apart.
Jane recalls a conversation she overheard in her childhood. Her dreams of children allow her to prepare herself for something bad to happen.
Like her first dream, Jane is again burdened by a helpless young child. It holds her back, both figuratively and literally. The child clings to her, and she is unable to reach Rochester as long as she carries her burden.
Jane's cousins are held in the highest esteem by their mother. In her eyes, they can do no wrong, though Jane sees their true intentions. They show her the dark side of human nature.
John is a spoiled child, and he contrasts with Jane in his heavy build and naughty personaliuty.
Jane feels as though she can do nothing right. Her cousins are inherently ornery, though they never face punishment. Their behavior forms her perception of people and pushes her to become wary of others.
Are children inherently good or inherently bad?
How do children in dreams differ from children in reality?
How is the behavior of children shaped by those aorund them?
Jane is very honest and revealing to the reader throughout the novel, and even says 'reader' when addressing the audience, but this does not let the reader know this is how she truly feels. Specifically, the way she describes herself as "dull" and "subtle-looking".
Why would Jane characterize herself as dull when she put so much effort into describing others such as Mr. Rochester?
"Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the
eyes of belated travelers."
Jane is accustomed to analyzing herself through things she has read and experienced, which may or may not be the truth.
"Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!- I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is
now for me to leave you."
Though it is true that Jane is not a wealthy woman, she repeatedly harps on the fact that she is ugly and has no beauty, which is not entirely true. She is a beautiful woman but chooses
to say this in order to gain sympathy.
Mr. Rochester plays a significant part in the role of deception and disguise throughout the novel. His misleading information and schemes against Jane amount to the dramatic departure of Jane and, eventually, her worst and best
experiences of her life.
Would honesty be better in Mr. Rochester's attempt to protect Jane
from the truth of his wife?
"He is very changeful and abrupt."
From the beginning, Jane can tell there is something strange and peculiar about Mr.
"I was dumb still. He bent his head a little towards me, and with a single hasty glance seemed to dive
into my eyes."
He seems to know how to provoke Jane without even trying. This is the sign of a deceitful person because he knows he can
easily take advantage of the other.
"The ease of his manner freed me from painful restraint; the friendly frankness, as correct as cordial, with which he treated me, drew me to him. I felt at times as if he were my relation rather than my master: yet he was imperious sometimes still; but I did not mind that; I saw it was his
This being before the revealing of Rochester's wife, Jane is imprisoned by the deceit that he is manifesting. Though he may have the best intentions for their relationship, it is
wrong to keep the past from her.
"Bigamy is an ugly word!- I meant, however, to be a bigamist; but fate has out-manoeuvered me, or Providence has checked me-perhaps the last. I am little better than a devil at this moment; and, as my pastor there would tell me, deserve no doubt the sternest judgements of God, even to the quenchless fire and deathless worm. Gentlemen, my plan is broken up!-what this lawyer and his client say is true: I have been married, and the woman to whom I was married lives!"
This is the final breaking point for Mr. Rochester where he is fully revealed and Jane sees the deceit and disguise he has out on just to cover up the past.
The Reed family as a whole is very negative toward Jane, especially in the beginning. John Reed shows a clear definition of what it is to be deceitful. This not only formed Jane to be a stronger person, but prepared her for later confrontations with people like Mr. Rochester.
Does Jane remind the Reed family of their father and husband? Could this be why they resent her
"Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it: my care was how to endure the blow which would
certainly follow the insult."
Jane is growing accustomed to being punished and abused for nothing she has done which will make her very protective
of her beliefs and morals later in the novel.
"I don't very well know what I did with my hands, but he called me 'Rat! rat!' and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone upstairs; she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her maid Abbot. We were parted: I heard the words- 'Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!'"
This shows deception specifically with master John, who is still a child himself. This reveals to the reader that children throughout the story will not always be
symbols of innocence and peace.
"Deceit is, indeed, a sad fault in a
This is an ironic situation because Mr. Brockelhurst is talking about Jane who has actually never done anything deceitful to the family, while the Reed's are the pretentious and deceptive ones. Also foreshadows what may happen later on to
the Reed kids since they are of this nature.
"I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed: and this book about the Liar, you may give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, not I."
As Jane is leaving Gateshead, she gives her final words to the family that resented her. She tries to warn them that she is not the one at fault, but their own family is in need of change and an awakening to their unfortunate behavior.
Deceptive acts and the use of disguise are prominent throughout Jane Eyre. From the very beginning, the reader sees that children do not always represent innocence. This symbol helps build and create the climax of the novel and brings new meaning to the concept that Jane thought was
Other than building the climax of the story, is deception necessary in the novel?
Master Reed's desire to torment Jane because he can get away with it is deceitful.
The Reed children's chicanery is evident as they plot against Jane and let her take the blame for their wrongdoings.
Typically, children don't represent negative characteristics of human nature, but Bronte successfully goes against the norm.