What does the red room symbolize in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre?
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The red room in Bronte's Jane Eyre is the place where Jane's uncle died when she was one year old.
"Mr. Reed had been dead nine years; it was in this chamber he breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne by the undertaker's men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion" (11).
Not only is the red room a symbol of death because someone actually died there, but Jane has an awful experience that she felt could have taken her life. She thinks she sees her father's ghost at one point which makes her pass out. Further, the room of course is all red with color which symbolizes blood--an intense symbol for a little girl of ten years old. To make matters worse, she is left alone at night in the room as a punishment for merely existing. It is as if Jane is thrust into the pit of hell and must face everything fierce and horrible about her social status in life as an orphan. Does she emerge triumphant? Luckily, yes she does, but it takes many more hard knocks before she finally succeeds.
Jane Eyre is being raised by her Aunt Reed, after the death of her parents. Jane's mother's brother was Mr. Reed, who had died in the red room. Her Aunt had made a death bed promise to her dying husband, to look after Jane. Of course, this didn't happen. Jane's whole existence with her Aunt and cousins was horrible. Jane was mistreated and abused at the hands of family, that should have loved and protected her. The red room itself, was a frightening room for any child. Knowing that her uncle had died in the room made Jane have second thoughts of going to this room. She had heard the stories of it being haunted. When she tries to defend herself from the cruelty of her cousin, John, Jane is sent to the red room, as a punishment. She is to be locked in the room all night. Jane imagines that if her uncle were still alive he would treat her with kindness, then her imagination runs away with the thoughts of the dead.
" I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest any sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfort me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over me with strange pity."
Jane faints and becomes hysterical inside the room. Her aunt thinks she is full of evil and sends her to Lowood School. From this point forward, Jane will recall the red room anytime she feels alone or ostracized by the people around her. The red room symbolizes a type of prison for Jane, not a physical prison, but an emotional prison. From such a young age, Jane has been treated as though she doesn't matter. Her feelings don't matter. People use and abuse her, yet deep inside of Jane is a strong quiet strength, that she must call upon.
Several times throughout the story, we see Jane having to fight the memories of the red room. It still haunts her, even after she has grown into womanhood. Whenever she feels like her independence or her self worth is in jeopardy is being threatened, Jane recalls the horrors she felt inside the red room. From finding her inner strength, Jane is able to overcome the red room and finally is able to put the memories to rest, as they should be.
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