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Evaluate Bronte's use of fire and ice in chapter 26.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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rosey-girl | Student, Grade 12 | Valedictorian

Posted November 9, 2011 at 8:54 AM via web

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Evaluate Bronte's use of fire and ice in chapter 26.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 9, 2011 at 12:31 PM (Answer #1)

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Key symbols through Charlotte Bronte's work, fire suggests Jane's passions and those of kindred spirits while ice represents the forces against her. 

In Chapter 26 as Jane and Mr. Rochester prepare to go to the church, Mr. Rochester impatiently calls her "Lingerer" and tells her "my brain is on fire!"  Here the passions of Rochester match those that Jane experiences at times such as in Chapter 4 when she describes herself as "a ridge of lighted heath." Jane describes her agitated bridgegroom as grimly resolute with "such flaming and flashing eyes."

In contrast to Rochester, Jane's face reveals that the blood has gone from it, her forehead is "dewy" and her lips and checks are "cold," indicating that forces may be against her.  Certainly, the images of lifelessness and cold are foreboding.  In fact, shortly thereafter, the revelation that Rochester has previously been married is made.  When this revelation is made by Briggs, a solicitor for Richard Mason, the brother of Mrs. Rochester, Rochester's eye shines and appears "yet wild beneath." Jane describes him in both terms of fire and ice,

What a hot and strong grasp he had!—and how like quarried marble was his pale, firm, massive front at this moment! How his eye shone still, watchful and yet wild beneath!

This news also causes reaction in Jane, one that parallels her kindred spirit, Mr. Rochester, who clutches her to him,

My nerves vibrated to those low-spoken words as they had never vibrated to thunder; my blood felt their subtle violence as it had never felt frost or fire: but I was collected and in no danger of swooning. I looked at Mr. Rochester: I made him look at me. His whole face was colorless rock: his eye was both spark and flint. He disavowed nothing: he seemed as if he would defy all things. Without speaking, without smiling, without seeming to recognize in me a human being he only twined my waist with his arm and riveted me to his side.

Fire as a symbol of aroused passions carries meaning further as Mr. Rochester catches sight of Richard Mason, his brother-in-law. Mr. Rochester's  

... eye, as I have often said, was a black eye; it had now a tawny, nay, a bloody light in its gloom; and his face flushed—olive cheek, and hueless forehead received a glow, as from spreading, ascending heart-fire:

Interestingly, the wedding party are appalled at the appearance of a woman who squeals as a fierce hyena and eyes like red balls.  But, after observing the highly charged encounter of the madwoman and her husband, Jane describes herself as surrounded by evil forces,  

Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman—almost a bride— was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate. A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hay-field and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, to-day were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods...now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine forests in wintry Norway.  My hopes were all dead....they lay stark, chill, livid corpses...I looked at my love...which he had created; it shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle...

Indeed, it is with great skill that Charlotte Bronte portrays the excessives passions of Jane and Mr. Rochester with fire and ice, both symbols for the tortuous emotions of the characters who suffer.

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