Jane Eyre Questions and Answers
by Charlotte Brontë

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What does the red room symbolize in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre?

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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...

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In the novel, Jane Erye, written by Charlotte Bronte, Bronte utilizes the profound gothic imagery of the red room to reveal Jane’s inner childlike nature, thus emphasizing Jane’s exile and imprisonment at the time of her childhood. Bronte employs the techniques of crimson symbolism and personification in the red room to create a fearful mood in which the reader can see the infancy in Jane’s claims. Bronte introduces a sense of dread in the red room promptly to reinforce the terrified and childlike nature of Jane’s imagination.

Jane in the beginning of the scene quickly states that “the red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in” in order to perpetuate from the start the isolation that brings terror to children. She emphasizes the word “seldom” through the slight inverted syntax that puts stress on the word, which creates a sense of isolation and fear from Jane. Jane further stresses the lonely feeling that the room creates by stating that the “bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask,” which “stood out like a tabernacle in the center” The broad word choice Jane uses, such as “massive” and “deep” helps to create the mood of uncertainty in that both words suggest Jane’s small child like physical self in comparison with such a massive place, demonstrating her small stature and fear.

Bronte emphasizes the sense of isolation the room carries and introduces its true gothic nature through the introduction of a fire symbol and death. Jane stresses indirectly the importance of fire when she suggests that “This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered.” When a fire either slightly burns or rages, it emits light that makes even dark colors brighter. Jane appears to bring up the aspect of the fire in order to make herself seem in control of the situation in that she feels more secure. This security may be the subject of the present Jane whom is writing this novel, incorporating a little sense of light at a time in her life when she had faced dark and hard times. The present Jane may have included the symbol of the fire in order to emphasis at that time, a need for companionship and burning passion.

Bronte, through this significant scene, characterizes Jane as a once frightened and imprisoned child controlled by fears. The syntax of the passage and its subtle references to light indicate that the present Jane, the Jane writing the novel, has matured to the point in which she can remember such a terrible experience and yet seem excused for her behavior at that time. This further reveals Jane’s present control and more subdued personality, as she is able to filter the child's rage that one enveloped her and present the scene with the understanding of an adult.