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Jane Eyre - Analysis of Nature

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Jane Eyre - Analysis of Nature

Charlotte Bronte makes use of nature imagery throughout "Jane

Eyre," and comments on both the human relationship with the outdoors

and human nature. The Oxford Reference Dictionary defines "nature" as

"1. the phenomena of the physical world as a whole . . . 2. a thing's

essential qualities; a person's or animal's innate character . . . 4.

vital force, functions, or needs." We will see how "Jane Eyre"

comments on all of these.

Several natural themes run through the novel, one of which is the

image of a stormy sea. After Jane saves Rochester's life, she gives us

the following metaphor of their relationship: "Till morning dawned I

was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea . . . I thought sometimes I

saw beyond its wild waters a shore . . . now and then a freshening

gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne:

but . . . a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove

me back." The gale is all the forces that prevent Jane's union with

Rochester. Later, Brontл, whether it be intentional or not, conjures

up the image of a buoyant sea when Rochester says of Jane: "Your

habitual expression in those days, Jane, was . . . not buoyant." In

fact, it is this buoyancy of Jane's relationship with Rochester that

keeps Jane afloat at her time of crisis in the heath:

"Why do I struggle to retain a valueless life? Because I know, or

believe, Mr. Rochester is living."

Another recurrent image is Brontл's treatment of Birds. We first

witness Jane's fascination when she reads Bewick's History of British

Birds as a child. She reads of "death-white realms" and "'the solitary

rocks and promontories'" of sea-fowl. We quickly see how Jane

identifies with the bird. For her it is a form of escape, the idea of

flying above the toils of every day life. Several times the narrator

talks of feeding birds crumbs. Perhaps Brontл is telling us that this

idea of escape is no more than a fantasy-one cannot escape when one

must return for basic sustenance. The link between Jane and birds is

strengthened by the way Brontл adumbrates poor nutrition at Lowood

through a bird who is described as "a little hungry robin."

Brontл brings the buoyant sea theme and the bird theme together in

the passage describing the first painting of Jane's that Rochester

examines. This painting depicts a turbulent sea with a sunken ship,

and on the mast perches a cormorant with a gold bracelet in its mouth,

apparently taken from a drowning body. While the imagery is perhaps

too imprecise to afford an exact interpretation, a possible

explanation can be derived from the context of previous treatments of

these themes. The sea is surely a metaphor for Rochester and Jane's

relationship, as we have already seen. Rochester is often described as

a "dark" and dangerous man, which fits the likeness of a cormorant; it

is therefore likely that Brontл sees him as the sea bird. As we shall

see later, Jane goes through a sort of symbolic death, so it makes

sense for her to represent the drowned corpse. The gold bracelet

can be the purity and innocence of the old Jane that Rochester managed

to capture before she left him.

Having established some of the nature themes in "Jane Eyre," we

can now look at the natural cornerstone of the novel: the passage

between her flight from Thornfield and her acceptance into Morton.

In leaving Thornfield, Jane has severed all her connections; she has

cut through any umbilical cord. She narrates: "Not a tie

holds me to human society at this moment." After only taking a small

parcel with her from Thornfield, she leaves even that in the

coach she rents. Gone are all references to Rochester, or even her

past life. A "sensible" heroine might have gone to find her

uncle, but Jane needed to leave her old life behind.

Jane is seeking a return to the womb of mother nature: "I have no

relative but the universal mother, Nature: I will seek her

breast and ask repose." We see how she seeks protection as she

searches for a resting place: "I struck straight into the heath; I

held on to a hollow I saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside; I waded

knee-deep in its dark growth;



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