What important symbolism is present in Chapter 8 in Jane Eyre?Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 8 of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, after having been accused of being a liar and being subjected to the ignominy of standing for thirty minutes upon a stool, Jane weeps in her shame and fear of being repudiated by the other girls, her friend Helen arrives to comfort her.  Throughout the narrative that ensues, there are symbolic names and places:

  • Miss Temple, the kind-hearted, perceptive superintendent of Lowood School, invites Helen and Jane to share tea with her in her quarters which has a "good fire and looked cheerful."  Like her name, Miss Temple's apartment is a peaceful and comforting place where Jane finds refuge from her woes, just as her heart finds solace with the mother-figure of Miss Temple.
  •  Miss Scratcherd, whose name, grating in sound, befits her personality, is representative of the oppression that Jane suffers at Lowood School.  The most severe of all the teachers, she is inspecting the bedroom of Jane and Helen, and berates Helen for the disorder in her drawers. The next day she humiliates Helen by writing "Slattern" on a piece of pasteboard which she hangs around Helen's neck.
  • Helen, like Helen of Troy, is heroic and rescues little Jane from the miseries in her heart.
  • Solomon is the biblical wise king to whom alludes when she states at the chapter's end that she would rather live at Lowood where she is loved by Helen than at Gateshead where she was better fed, but there was no love.
  • The red room, to which Jane alludes when she relates her history to Miss Temple is symbolic of the punishment and alienation that Jane must overcome before she can truly develop as a character.  The memory of the red room reoccurs whenever Jane feels there is a connection between her present situation and her initial experience of being ridiculed.  The red room is symbolic of Jane's intellectual and emotional imprisonment.

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