It is vitally important to realise that the book that Jane is reading in this first chapter of this incredible novel is not just chosen at random to fill space in the page. No, it is a carefully chosen novel that has been selected for a purpose. One of the...
It is vitally important to realise that the book that Jane is reading in this first chapter of this incredible novel is not just chosen at random to fill space in the page. No, it is a carefully chosen novel that has been selected for a purpose. One of the aspects that clearly comes through from the first chapter is how Jane is presented as an isolated, solitary individual. Note how this element is reinforced through her reading of Berwick's History of Britsh Birds:
They were those which treat of the haunts of sea-fowl; of "the solitary rocks and promontories" by them only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its southern extremity... Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with "the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary space--that reservoir of frost and snow where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights above heights, surround the pole, and co-centre the multiplied rigours of extreme cold."
Another aspect to note is how this book ties in with a central opposition that runs throughout the novel, which is based on the difference between fire and ice. These two contrary states seem to sum up the dilemma of Jane, as she struggles between expressing all of her emotions and being ruled by them (fire), and then the opposite: not allowing her emotions to rule her in any way at all and living without really engaging in life. At various times the imagery of fire and ice is repeated to reinforce the growth that Jane goes through. Of course, by the end of the novel, she is able to balance fire and ice within her, marrying Rochester in a socially acceptable way which also allows her passions to be moderated.
However, returning to the book, it is clear that the images that Jane sees reflect her own sense of where she is in life and her position:
The words in these introductory pages connected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to the broken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.
Jane reads into the pictures that she looks at her own situation, and thus reinforces her own sense of being isolated, trapped and desolate.