What is the function of the setting in Jane Eyre?
Setting in Jane Eyre acts as pathetic fallacy. That is, the weather and surroundings reflect Jane's and sometimes other characters' emotional states. In Bronte's dark Romantic novel, the environment is ripe for brooding, conflicts, isolation, and self-examination.
- Gateshead Hall
Jane is extremely restricted in the home of her dead uncle. His wife detests her, derogating the child constantly and restricting her. Consequently, Jane hides herself behind "scarlet drapery" in the recess of a window seat. Nevertheless, her cousin John harasses her and Jane yells when he draws blood from pulling her hair so severely. She is then thrown into the Red Room, the room in which her Uncle John has died. Terrified, Jane looks into a mirror in the room where
all looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality;and the strange little figure there gazing at me ...had the effect of a real spirit...like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp.
I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children.
- Lowood Institution
This is certainly the lowest point of Jane's life, as she experiences much deprivation, loneliness, and isolation. The cruel, sanctimonious hypocrite Brocklehurst starves the girls and deprives them of the comforts of heat; the girls are flogged. One day Jane is made to stand upon a stool in the center of the room after dropping her slate and breaking it. Mr. Brocklehurst draws the others' attention to her,
"Who would think that the Evil One had already found a servant and agent in her?"
When her friend Helen Burns dies, Jane suffers such loneliness that she wishes to die.
- Thornfield ["the gray and battlemented hall"]
This setting is certainly one of mystery and restlessness. Agitated, Jane walks back and forth along the corridor of the third story where she allows her imagination to
...quicken...with all of incident, life, fire, feeling , that I desired and had not in my actual existence.
One day she walks a lonely road when her thoughts are interrupted by "a rude noise." A mysterious stranger charges up on a dark horse on a path called the Gytrash, where to Jane's "notions" goblins travel. He spills from his horse after it starts on the path, and Jane assists him, only to learn that he is Mr. Rochester, her employer as governess.
Certainly, elements of the Gothic are here in this dark, brooding setting with strange noises emanating from the top floor where Grace Poole works. Jane later learns that a madwoman is there and is Mrs. Rochester, but only after she has married Rochester. The marriage annulled by this exposure of his mad wife, Jane leaves in great agony.
- Moor House
Rescued by what...
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