Fire And Ice


Fire And Ice Essay, Research Paper

Charlotte Bronte, in writing the novel Jane Eyre uses a great deal of

symbolic imagery to convey various themes throughout the novel. The most

interesting type of imagery is Bronte’s use of fire and ice imagery to develop

the characters of the novel and show the struggle the character of Jane Eyre

goes through. Fire most commonly represents passions. While fire and

passion can provide warmth and comfort, they can also burn. Ice, or water,

symbolizes calm reason, devoid of passion. Ice and reason can provide calm

and soothing comfort, but they to can also burn. Throughout the novel, Jane

goes back and forth between these two temptations, trying to achieve the right

balance between the two, while still preserving her own self.

To develop the character of Jane, Bronte uses a great deal of fire

imagery. This is most evident at Gateshead. The novel opens with Jane

seating herself at the window-seat. She draws shut the red curtains around

her, effectively closing herself off. Jane sees through the window the cold and

gloomy outside world. The winter landscape represents society, cold and

emotionless. The curtains, representing Jane’s passionate nature, symbolize

how Jane’s fiery personality alienate her from society. A short while later,

John Reed, representing a male-dominated society, enters the room in search

of Jane. When John attempts to assert his dominance over Jane, she is unable

to control her passionate nature and retaliates. As punishment for giving in to

her fiery side, Jane is locked inside the red-room. Obviously, the color red is

of importance here. Red is the color of fire and heat, and represents passion

and fury. Jane describes the red room’s, “massive pillars of mahogany, hung

with curtains of deep red damask”(15), which represents her very passionate

nature. At the same time, Jane also describes the red-room as being very cold,

having an icy chill. The cold room, devoid of emotion symbolizes the way

society thinks people should behave. When Aunt Reed locks Jane in the

red-room, she is locking Jane’s fiery nature in with the cold emotion that

would temper Jane’s passionate side. This very effectively demonstrates

society’s response to a female who is not quiet and docile. It also shows that

strict social tenets severely limit Jane in her attempt to express her passion

and her self.

Ice, or water, imagery also plays an important role in defining Jane’s

character. One of the paintings that Jane shows to Rochester is an apt

example of this. The first painting that is described shows death by drowning.

Also, “the swollen sea”(128) in the painting gives the impression of

impending danger. Jane sees the water as a locking out of passion and

emotion. She believes that if she were to follow society by acting docile and

unemotional, it would destroy her true self, her passion and emotion. She

feels that if her passion were taken away, all that will be left is a cold,

unemotional corpse. Jane is intelligent though, and realizes the need to keep

calm and be reasonable, to exert some restraint on her passion.

The two facets of Jane’s character, fire and ice, have physical

manifestations that symbolize Jane’s struggle to bring these two elements into

balance. The first of these manifestations is the character of Rochester, who

embodies the fire in Jane’s spirit. With the introduction of Rochester a great

deal of fire imagery manifests. His mere arrival at Thornfield gives warmth

and life to the cold and silent hall. Jane describes the change in Thornfield

saying, “a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of the oak

staircase” and there was “a genial fire in the grate”(120). Rochester’s physical

appearance is described with imagery as well. Rochester is not only the fire

that warms the hall, but he is also the fire that beckons Jane’s passionate side.

Rochester represents the temptation of passion over reason. To achieve

maturity, Jane must exert some control over her emotions. Rochester is a

threat to this. By stirring her emotional desires, he is encouraging her to

unleash the fire that is within her. When Rochester says, “Come to the

fire”(125), and begins to question her at their first formal meeting, it…

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