In Jane Eyre, what does Jane like about the bird book? Does this tell us something about her character?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Chapter One of Jane Eyre, we find Jane reading Bewick's History of British Birds. On one level, Jane likes this book because of its "certain introductory pages" which she cannot "pass a blank." Strong images of birds and ideas of faraway places, like Norway, Iceland, Siberia, and the Arctic appeal strongly to Jane. She forms her own impressions of these places in her mind which are "shadowy," yet "impressive." 

But it is not just the book's aesthetic qualities which Jane appreciates. This book offers Jane an escape from the realities of life with Mrs Reed and her cousins. She is an outsider in their home and the victim of all manner of abuses. This leads her to an important conclusion in Chapter Two: "I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage."

Bewick's book, then, tells us much about Jane through its escapist qualities. Like a little bird, Jane wishes to fly away from Gateshead Hall and escape her outsider status. This sets the stage for her removal to Lowood School and her new life as the governess in the home of Mr Rochester

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team