What are some of the symbols that relate to Jane Eyre?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most prevalent symbols in the novel is the use of the pathetic fallacy, where the weather/setting reflects the emotions or mood of the characters. This is often seen in storms, which rage when Jane is overcome by passion, when Rochester and later Mr. Mason are attacked by Bertha, and when lightning splits the chestnut tree at Thornfield. This last one is perhaps most significant. The tree represents the love of Jane and Rochester, and the approaching union in matrimony. However, the lightning splits the tree almost completely in half, thereby foreshadowing the revelation of Rochester's first wife and Jane's decision to flee. One section of the novel where the weather works in unexpected ways is spring at Lowood. While over half the students are dying of tuberculosis, the tree are green, flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining after a long winter. Jane herself is rather content and comfortable during this time, one of the few moments in the novel where she finds some kind of peace.

Another set of symbols in the novel is the houses through which Jane matures and eventually reaches independence. Each house serves as a symbol for Jane's stage of growth. Gateshead, where she is oppressed and rejected, is the scene of her first spiritual experience & witness to her fiery passion. Lowood, whose dreariness is implied in its very name, sees Jane's first friendship, but continued hypocrisy and cruelty. Thornfield is where Jane first finds love, but as the name suggests, where she is also forced to make difficult and perhaps heartbreaking decisions. Moor House is where she finally finds a home and a family, both literally (as they turn out to be cousins) and figuratively (through their kindness and acceptance). And of course, Ferndean is where she finds peace and fulfillment in her relationship with Rochester.

Some other symbols include birds, with which Jane often associates herself. She imagines a contrast in the beginning between the free birds in her books and herself, caged and alone. Flowers and colors are also abundant, in connection with the extensive nature imagery throughout.