Jane Eyre is an 1847 novel written by Charlotte Bronte. Jane’s story follows her life as a young orphan, Jane’s time at the Lowood School for Girls and at Thornfield Hall, Jane’s love interest Rochester, Jane’s marriage to Rochester and Jane’s life with him in England. Jane Eyre explores the limits of religion, morality, social class and gender during the Victorian Period in which it was published. The novel is known for its exploration of many themes including religion, morality, social class and gender.
This article seeks to examine how weather is used symbolically in Jane Eyre . When reading Jane Eyre , readers will notice that weather plays a large role within this text. Many of these instances occur at Jane’s home of Thornfield Hall. Jane’s time at Thornfield is spent primarily with Mr. Rochester, the man she loves and who loves her in return. Thornfield is a gothic castle that Jane describes as having turrets and “a great old-fashioned door…with deep panels, and a studded brass knocker” (Bronte 49).
The house is located in England in the town of Millcote which Jane describes in its chilly Autumn setting: “The sun yet shone, but it was setting; the woods–to Jane they seemed a thousand miles deep-were duskily preparing for their night’s repose. ” Jane goes on to note how dark the wooded area seems despite being early fall because the “sun was set” (Bronte 50, 55). Jane describes the setting as similar to a “churchyard” and feels lost in it. She further adds that there is no sound to be heard but for the wind rushing through the trees and Jane’s own beating heart (Bronte 50-51).
Jane notes that she stands there with her eyes fixed on Thornfield, terrified of going any closer to the house not knowing if it will be “a friendly haven or…some evil spirit’s residence? ” (Bronte 51) Jane feels tethered to this place and imagines Mr. Rochester calling out her name from within its walls: “I saw him at a window–he beckoned me he held a candle” Jane continues with the thought that if she had “obeyed the impulse” Jane would have been dead now (Bronte 51).
Jane feels as though Mr. Rochester is her only friend in the world, but then Jane remembers how desperately lonely she was before arriving at Thornfield and notes that it would be better for Jane to die than to become a prisoner of this place–a place where she knows no one except Mr. Rochester who Jane knows has committed an unnamed sin by marrying Bertha Mason, his mad wife (Bronte 55-57). Thornfield Hall becomes Jane’s prison when Jane decides not to enter its doors because she fears what lies behind them. The sun sets, night falls and Jane imagines the castle becoming darker than any other place she has ever known.
Jane notes that the stars are out but that Thornfield is still surrounded by darkness (Bronte 55). Jane later describes how, “with each gust the latticed panes shook” and Jane imagines her enemies lurking behind them with daggers in their hands, plotting Jane’s demise. Jane writes, “I heard a laugh–low, damned low…a door opened…a hand united me to … detestable companions”(Bronte 57-58) Jane feels tethered to Mr. Rochester again when he enters the room where Jane stands alone staring into the dark woods thinking of him.
Jane then thinks back on her time spent at Lowood School where Jane too felt imprisoned by solitude and poverty (Bronte 59). Jane notes that she remembered how at Lowood Jane often felt a desire for better weather, but now Jane knows “there is no need to wish for rain” because Jane’s life is filled with disappointment and sadness (Bronte 59). Jane then thinks back on Mr. Rochester when he first comes to Thornfield Hall with his mad wife Bertha Mason who lives in the attic of the house where Jane has been directed never to go by Mrs. Fairfax–Rochester’s housekeeper (Bronte 60-61, 65).
Jane imagines meeting Bertha in a dark room in a dark house in a dark wood where darkness reigns supreme: “I thought I saw a face peering…a pale face with red eyes” Jane continues with the image that Jane feels as though she is now “wandering in a vault” (Bronte 61). Jane then understands that inside of Thornfield Hall–a place Jane fears and does not want to go–is the only place Jane has ever felt happy, but Jane knows that happiness comes at too high a price: it is bought by Jane’s silence and her refusal to share Mr. Rochester’s secret. Jane fears going into the dark rooms of Thornfield Hall for more reasons than just Bertha Mason or Mr. Rochester’s mysterious past, however.
Jane notes that she has been told long ago that if lightning strikes a house three times within its walls then all who reside there will die until no one lives beneath its roof. Jane’s “mentor” Helen Burns told Jane that Jane would be struck by lightning twice, but Jane believes that she will fall victim to lightning a third and final time within the halls of Thornfield Hall (Bronte 41).
Jane says, “I thought I saw a…dreadful…face grin on me with silent laughter as I passed Mr. Rochester’s door! ” Jane continues her description of what she believes is a demon residing in the attic where Bertha lives: “I looked up–I was obliged to look up; and my glance was caught by a skylight window…a wild troubled reflection was dancing on its roof. ” (Bronte 61) Jane notes how dark it looks outside and then notes that all at once the window was crossed “by a hideous cloud” Jane thinks, “the demon of the storm…had come to tear me from Mr.
Rochester’s side”(Bronte 62). Jane realizes that she must leave Thornfield immediately and never return because Jane knows that if Jane stays Jane will die at Thornfield just as everyone else who has ever lived there. Jane notes how she hopes for better weather than what currently exists and imagines herself traveling with Mr. Rochester to Spanish Town until they reach “a little quiet friendly nook where we might lay our heads together. Jane continues by imagining two dogs beside them: one white and one black, with Jane thinking about how friends must be like dogs in order to enjoy other’s company (Bronte 62-63).
Jane escapes from Thornfield and Jane and Mr. Rochester eventually reunite after Jane returns to England with Jane’s cousins, the Rivers family (Bronte 188-99). Jane imagines she has made it to Indian Island where the grass is “fresh and smooth as a carpet” and Jane lies down in its greenness thinking about how her soul would be at peace if Indian Island were real (Bronte 199).