Discuss Chapter XXIII and its symbolism and figurative language from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

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Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre in 1847 at the end of the Romantic period in English Literature.  Because women were not encouraged to write, Bronte published her book under the pseudonym, Currer Bell.   Jane, as the protagonist, narrates her life as accurately as anyone can who lives through these heart rendering events.


Chapter XXIII provides a pivotal event in the book.  Eyre has been outside with Adele who has gathered wild strawberries to exhaustion and has gone to bed.

The evening is so beautiful that Jane does not want to go in.  She and Mr. Rochester meet.  Rochester begins to play psychological games with Jane to determine if she loves him and returns the feelings that he has for her.  He hurts her by implying that he will marry Miss Ingram.  Adele will be sent to boarding school, so there will be no need for her at Thornfield.  Breaking in to hysterical tears, Rochester continues tormenting her until she is beside herself.  Then, he admits that he loves her and wants to marry her. At first, she does not believe him,  but then he kisses her, forcing her to receive his love. 

Suddenly, the wind begins to blow, lightning breaks through the clouds, and rain begins to pour. As they enter the house, Rochester  kisses Jane over and again with Fairfax watching completely shocked.

Symbolism, Imagery, and Foreshadowing

The chapter is a sensory delight. The colors in the story represent the beauty of the midsummer evening.  Everything is green; the roads are white; and the trees were dark green. 

No nook in the grounds more sheltered and more Eden-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed with flowers.

The sky seems to burn with red light almost like a furnace flame. The heavens glow a fervent red. The reader is bombarded with the sensory impressions of the beautiful spot.

This is the setting for the frustrating, yet beautiful love scene between these two sad characters, who appear to need each other so much.

Before they find each other on the path, Rochester casually walks along eating the lush fruit from the orchard: ripe, deep red cherries, large plums, and gooseberries. Everything is in place for this pair of star-crossed lovers to find each other.

A symbolic scene occurs when the moth lands on Rochester’s foot, and he asks Jane to come and examine it.  He states:

Look at his wings; he reminds me rather of a West Indian insect; one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover in England: there! He is flown.

The moth was retreating away, and Jane was trying to move away from Rochester as well.

The reader wants to say: Watch out, Jane, moths are drawn to flame!

He speaks to her without turning, and she is his captive just as the moth. Jane wonders how he knows she is there: “Could his shadow feel?” she asks herself. It is the first reference to the spiritual communication she senses between them.

As much as there is love in the chapter, there is also foreshadowing of the terrible secret that Rochester keeps from Jane. When they express their love for each other, the storm begins to move in with a brief strike of lightning. 

After they enter the house, Fairfax looks at the two in love, knowing that it this love is wrong. At the end of the chapter, Adele comes in to announce that the chestnut tree was split in half by the lightning in the storm.  These symbolic events bring to fruition the idea that this love affair between these two people will end in a tearing apart of hearts and finally tragedy.

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