The First Instance of Weather Symbolism in Jane Eyre
ane Eyre the protagonist Jane is isolated in her own home, in which she is treated as an unwelcomed guest, and the author begins to illustrate and convey the feelings of entrapment and constraint to the reader in this passage, often done with symbolic representation of emotion through the weather and nature in gothic novels such as this. She combines this symbolism with desolate diction and structure that mimics Jane’s daily life to communicate the feeling of imprisonment and constraint experienced at Gateshead.
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When one lives life without love, in an atmosphere of resentment they often become depressed. In Jane’s case it mostly revolves around this home in which she cannot leave. Jane is seldom allowed to speak, let alone speak her mind, she is treated like a second class citizen and because of this she is entrapped in her own mind as well as this house she “has no possibility” of leaving as she puts it in line one.
The author begins to reveal these emotions through the weather surrounding Jane; the storm surrounding the house for example is symbolically surrounding Jane’s heart.
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In the second sentence Bronte begins to describe an outdoor scene in which she mentions a “leafless shrubbery”, a plant that is obviously hibernating for winter and has thus receded into itself much like the way the real Jane has been trapped inside her own head.
When imagined a leafless shrubbery is quite dead looking and can only be really determined dead or alive by what the season is and as such as long as Jane remains in this home so associated with winter she will continue to be hibernating and emotionally dead. In the fourth line the weather is described as quite bleak and desolate, “the cold winter winds had brought with it clouds so somberand rain so penetrating that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question. ” (Line 4-6) Such a description evokes powerful imagery when associated as symbolic of Jane’s emotional state.
The cold winter winds are the home in which she resides as while the winds in and of themselves are painful and uncomfortable they have brought worse things with them while continuing themselves, her life in this home is painful but the people who live there with her make it all the more worse. The clouds so somber and rains so penetrating are sad images, a type of weather that most associate with being stuck inside, entrapped somewhere be it at home on a summers day or being denied the recess as a child that one most desperately wanted.
Bronte uses these universal feelings to allow the reader to associate with Jane on a level that deepens when they further read into the passage, the weather preparing the reader to sympathize with Jane. After this point in the passage weather is not brought to attention again until the last paragraph in which Jane narrates that she then at this time her younger self studied the weather outside and as she looked outside “ afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beaten shrub, ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast. lines(37-40) Now again the weather should be taken as emotional symbolism (it is a gothic novel after all) and further illustrates how Jane’s feeling. She describes that as far as she can see is nothing but a “pale blank of mist and cloud”; this is supposed to symbolize the all encompassing feelings of entrapment in effect. Mist and clouds when thought of hide all but what is in front of one’s face, the overcome all barriers and leave one hidden from all.
The point of all this mist is to illustrate what Jane is thinking, all she can see in front of her is more of this wet mist, mist being a smaller scale version of a storm as both are clouds, all Jane sees is more abuse in this home, some of which was just shown in the preceding three paragraphs. The symbol mentioned is that of the shrub now beaten down by this great storm, Jane has been just been verbally beaten by her Aunt. If someone has ever seen the aftermath of a great storm, such as the north east recent experienced at the hands of hurricane Sandy, they will see how what should be proud old oaks can be brought down so low.
This sentence ends with Jane describing a “ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast”, the ceaseless rain here can be thought as the aunt who in this home wields as much power as a force of nature, i. e. the rain, and this power that she wields often is used to bring Jane down just like the storm beaten shrub. In what sort of institution does the system attempt to break its occupants? Prisons and jails do which brings this symbolism all back to this feeling of submission and loss of control.
This shrub/Jane is now so bent and broken that she is about to give in with one last “long and lamentable blast. ” (Line 40) Jane is in a truly grand home full of all sorts of amenities but no amount of materialism can protect her and is in fact making her feel even more entrapped and constrained, she is without love and this wealth is “protecting, but not separating [her] from the drear November day. ” Bronte uses diction to subtlety introduce thoughts of Jane into that of the reader.
The vocabulary that Bronte uses in this passage often is what one would associate with bad days, depression and giving up. The very first line of the passage is a denial, “there was no possibility of going outside”, she is literally being constrained in what she can and cannot do. This is further expanded on by her treatment by her aunt. It allows for a springboard effect in which her use of this type of language prior to the incident in which the actual trouble starts allows for the incident to seem worse or more profound than it would alone.
She is down trodden and the in regards to changing this… “There is no possibility”. (Line 1) The second paragraph provides keen examples of this with lines such as “dreadful was the coming home in the raw twilight….. humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority… ” Jane is overwhelmed by emotions of entrapment and constraint, these emotions are often accompanied by the feelings Bronte uses in this line.
Repeated abuse and confinement often make one “raw” and have a certain connotation that one would describe as “dreadful”. Entrapment and constraint often make the victim either submissive or rebellious and Jane can be considered the former, she is “humbled by the consciousness of her physicalinferiority” and the author is using these secondary emotions that go along with entrapment in order to cover the full range of emotions associated with it as well as make what she is trying to convey more clear.
If Jane was described as happy-go-lucky and optimistic then the idea that she was feeling so suffocated would lose much of its potency. The language of this passage is there to allow the reader to not just understand that Jane is indeed trapped and constrained but also alone and saddened and defeated as one who is truly entrapped would feel. The way in which this passage is constructed allows for certain insight into how Jane’s experience at Gateshead truly is, the structure allowing for perfect example of life for this child.
The paragraphs themselves are constrained much like Jane, the first containing but two sentences and the third is a single sentence as well with the first sentence of that first paragraph being a single simple though that “there was no possibility of taking a walk this day. ” (Line 1) This simplicity from what is obviously an intelligent person, based on the fact that they remember such great detail from such an early age, indicates that some range of thought is being restricted; Jane is as restricted as the story in this egard. Jane then is describing what is going on around her and gradually becomes more complex and liberated to suddenly have her end of things cut short in paragraph 3 in which the paragraph is dominated by her aunt’s dialogue. When someone is dominating another person that person is constrained. This long winded speech by the aunt is then followed by the single line “What does Bessie say I have done? ” to be overcome by another long complex statement by the aunt.
Jane is sandwiched by her aunt’s tirades and after she is beaten down the symbolism previously discussed begins again in which the weather dictates emotion. The weather, dominance, weather pattern illustrates that it is her aunt that is making Jane feel the way she does and further proves these feelings of entrapment and constraint to the reader. This scene being the way Bronte chooses to prove how far and by whom this entrapment and constraint has come to be.
In true gothic fashion the winds and rain show the raw emotions of Jane Eyre on display, the diction preemptively brought the reader closer to Jane and the structure of the story illustrates the everyday occurrence of such abuse on this poor child. The use of these elements in which she told her story has allowed Charlotte Bronte to subtly convey the deep feelings of constraint and entrapment of Jane on a level copied for generations.