Dr. John Corr
EN119 – OC1
20 November 2014
Independence within Romantic Love in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë faced much controversy when it was released. To begin with, a novel written by a woman was uncommon, but the opinions and views of the character Jane were out of the ordinary and before their time. The protagonist, Jane is a character that encounters many hardships and faces difficult decisions throughout her life. She is characterized as being a very unconventional female character of the Victorian era because of her strong regard for justice and independence. Through an illustration of setting, symbolism, plot and characterization, Brontë demonstrates that Jane’s principles are not sacrificed for romantic love. Jane overcomes the confines of social hierarchy, patriarchy, and imprisonment in the “Red Room”, and proves that the coexistence of equality and independence in romance is essential to her happiness.
Brontë characterizes the protagonist Jane as exiled and rejected early in the novel through her imprisonment in the “Red Room”, by her Aunt Reed. The “Red Room” is symbolic of Jane’s entrapment in society due to her class, gender and her independent streak, which was unconventional of a woman during her time. Her period of imprisonment in this room leads to her inability to recognize herself when she catches a glimpse of her reflection in a mirror and realizes, “[she] had to cross before the looking-glass; [her] fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed--- [that] looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality.”(Brontë 24). She is shocked by her own uncanny presence and state. This unjust imprisonment has a deep psychological effect on Jane and she emerges from this event as a changed person, who no longer finds pleasures in the activities she once did. She always relates her periods of suffering back to the “Red-Room”, where her sense of freedom and independence are threatened for the first time. This traumatic experience serves as a forewarning to Jane to be more conscious of the injustices that she has to face and motivates her to obtain freedom and equality.
The imprisonment of female characters is not solely attributed to Jane, but a key reflection of herself is viewed through the characterization of Bertha Mason. Bertha is entrapped by her estranged husband and Jane’s love-interest, Mr. Rochester, in the attic of their home and characterized as a “mad-woman”(Brontë 73). Jane’s first sight of Bertha is through a mirror, comparable to when Jane had caught a glance of herself in the red-room; she feels very uncomfortable and describes Bertha as "fearful and ghastly to [her] It was a discoloured face – it was a savage face. [She] wishes [she] could forget the roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments!" (Brontë 144). Bertha institutes the progression of Jane’s self-awareness and...