Cold Imagery In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

3165 words - 13 pages

Cold Imagery in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

Cold imagery is everywhere in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. There are various forms of cold imagery found in each character's personality and life experiences. Cold images take on various forms, such as Jane's descriptions of pictures in a book displaying the Arctic, and figurative language including ice, water, rain, and sleet. The descriptive imagery of coldness symbolizes both the repression of passion, physical and emotional, and the tribulations endured throughout the course of the novel.

Jane Eyre is a fiercely passionate, vivacious, imaginative individual who expresses her emotions and events through vivid imagery. Jane suffers turmoil from the opening paragraph and narrates her early life experiences with cold images. Charlotte Bronte quickly advises the reader of the turmoil awaiting Jane through the use of a dreary cold winter setting. For example, in the novel Jane says:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner . . . the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and rain so penetrating, that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question. I was glad of it; I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John and Georgiana Reed. (39; ch. 1)

The dreary winter setting coincides with the lonely, detached, and abandoned feelings of Jane Eyre. The "leafless shrubbery" implies the desolation felt by Jane. This is also symbolic of her being an orphan. Leaves cover and shelter a shrub like what parents would do for their children. Jane has no living parents and resides with a cold and uncaring guardian, her Aunt Reed. "Clouds so sombre" are symbolic of her melancholy feelings due to loneliness, need of affection, and a lack of love. Donald Erickson, in "Imagery as Structure in Jane Eyre," asserts:

Even the earliest pages of the book show the wintry nature of Jane's youth, for they are filled with somber references to rain, sleet, and penetrating winter winds that howl sorrowfully about the eaves of Gateshead. The barrenness, coldness, and essential hostility of this world, and Jane's subjective response to it, is shown repeatedly by such nature imagery early in the narrative. (18)

Though Jane leaves the cold outdoors she does not receive warmth inside, either. She is sent to her room to remain in solitude as punishment for not having "a more sociable childlike disposition" (39; ch. 1). While being punished, she reads a book, Bewick's History of British Birds. The book contains pictures, described by Jane, which illustrate her lonely and alienated feelings. Jane explains:

Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak...

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