Themes, Motifs, and Symbols:

Themes:

Gender Relations-
During the Victorian era, men and women had very different roles. Men were involved in politics, business, and commerce, and they obtained jobs and occupied public or religious stations. A woman’s role was at home, being a mother and fulfilling domestic duties. In a nutshell, men were the governing gender, dominant and ambitious. Females were submissive and less educated, meant to serve their spouse.
Jane displays some of the characteristics considered ideal for a woman during her time. But, Jane breaks the mold in many ways. Though she appears simple, she is very intellectual and intelligent. As a woman, Jane is constantly dealing with patriarchal domination, and though she is generally obedient, her fiery personality shows through when she wishes to assert herself. Jane is much more passionate and individualistic than the traditional Victorian woman.
The men in Jane Eyre also display certain characteristics that were considered proper, such as education and a high station. As she grows up, Jane faces several men who do not respect women as their equals. Mr. Brocklehurst, St. John, and at one point Mr. Rochester all attempt to control Jane. Twice she refuses a marriage proposal that would compromise her identity and equality.
The marriage between Jane and Mr. Rochester is uncommon. Since Jane is a woman of lower status than Mr. Rochester, he is her superior. But in their marriage the power is shared equally and husband and wife respect each other. As Jane says, “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine” (Page 454).
Extra information on gender roles/ gender relations in Jane Eyre
The Dress of a Governess.jpg
The tradition style of dress for Victorian governesses.

Love versus Autonomy-
Jane searches throughout the book for love and acceptance, her fear of losing her autonomy makes her refuse Rochester’s marriage proposal. Jane thinks that “marrying” Rochester while he is legally tied to Bertha would mean making herself a mistress and giving up her own integrity for the sake of joy. On the other hand, her life at Moor House puts her in the opposite position. There, she enjoys independence and does useful work, teaching the poor; but giving up her joy. Although St. John proposes marriage, offering her a marriage built around freedom, Jane knows their marriage would be loveless.
Nonetheless, the events of Jane’s stay at Moor House are to test Jane’s autonomy. Only after proving her efficiency to herself can she marry Rochester and not be dependent on her “master.” The marriage can be between equals. Jane says: “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. . . . To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. . . . We are precisely suited in character—perfect concord is the result” (Chapter 38).
To be loved was to live a full, happy life. For Jane, her independence represented her worth. Without either of these, Jane could not have lived a full and happy life. Through her life, Jane found answers, she came to the understanding that love is more important than independence, because no one is meant to be alone in this world. We all need someone to love, and we all need to love others
All about Jane and her love life "Love is in the Eyre"

Religion-
Throughout the novel Jane encounters many of main religious figures: Mr. Brocklehurst, Helen Burns, and St. John Rivers, each believing in different religions. Jane ends up forming her own thoughts and faith, in the meantime rejecting the others. Mr. Brocklehurst brings Evangelicalism when he claims to be filling his students with pride. Later St. John Rivers shows a type of Christianity of ambition, glory, and extreme self-importance. Although Jane doesn't give into any type of religion that people present to her, she never gave up her belief in a god of Christianity when she calls for His aid in multiple occasions. But her understanding in her religion isn’t obsessive or demanding, which helps her fuel her passion and aids her achievements and efforts.
Extra information on religions in Jane Eyre

Social Classes-During the Victorian era, people in England lived in a strict social hierarchy. There was a distinct upper class, to which aristocrats belonged, and a distinct lower class, to which servants belonged. There was a middle class as well, in which merchants and those who had moderate wealth fit. Within these castes there were smaller divisions as well.
Jane demonstrated how complicated social position can be. When she was a dependent orphan at Gateshead Hall she was shunned and mistreated by the Reeds, constantly reminded of her inferior status. Later, when Jane became a governess, she had an unclear class standing. She was sophisticated in her manners and had an extensive education. Because she was tutoring children of the upper class she was familiar with the culture of aristocracy. Intellectually, she was equal to the higher castes. But as a paid employee, or “subordinate,” as Jane says, she is treated as a servant of the lower class, and remains penniless and powerless.Jane speaks out against the social prejudices of her time. To Mr. Rochester she says: “I don’t think, sir, you have the right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience” (Pg. 137). In addition, in Chapter 23 she exclaims, “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! … If God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.” Jane comprehend the complication behind her position: she is stuck in a lower social division, but it would be extremely difficult to change her standing.
Near the end of the novel Jane finds that her deceased uncle bequeathed a large sum to her. With this miraculous new wealth, Jane is able to overcome the boundaries in society that had been separating her and Mr. Rochester and marries him as his social equal, not as an inferior governess.
Social Class Pictures


Symbols:The Splintered Chestnut tree-

Splintered Chestnut Tree
Splintered Chestnut Tree

The night after Mr. Rochester proposes to Jane under the big chestnut tree at the bottom of the orchard, the tree gets hit by lighting and half of the trunk splits away. That surely does not mean good fortune for Jane and Rochester. There is more than one way to interpret the symbolism of the chestnut-tree: does it represent Jane and Rochester, or just Mr. Rochester himself? If the tree represents their union then the part that splits away symbolizes Jane, who leaves Mr. Rochester after thinking she can never be with him. But, later Rochester actually compares himself to that tree and Jane to a new and growing plant saying, "I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut-tree in Thornfield orchard… And what right would that ruin to have bid a budding woodbine cover its decay with freshness?" (Chapter 37). Mr. Rochester cannot be himself without Jane and he will never recover completely from their separation. Just like the tree will never be the same after getting struck by lightning.

The Red-Room-
Picture of Jane and Red Room
The red-room symbolizes Jane’s fight for freedom and happiness. Jane throughout her life never has forgotten the red-room it always comes up in her memory when she is punished or ridiculed. Like at Lowood when she was humiliated the room came up in her memory. The red room also presents itself in her memory when she decides to leave Mr. Rochester and Thornfield after he asks her to become his mistress. The red room has hurt Jane very emotionally and to get over that feeling she has to become independent and financially be okay on her own. The red room symbolizes all of Jane’s hurt throughout her life and how she has had to work so hard to find happiness and in the end when she has become independent that is when she is and was able to be happy and marry Mr. Rochester.
Picture of Jane being humiliated
Jane in the end with Mr.Rochester- after she became independent
Jane in the end with Mr.Rochester- after she became independent


Bertha Mason-
The only information we know about Bertha Mason comes from stories that Mr. Rochester tells about her, which makes it hard to judge her character well. The symbol of Bertha Mason can be interpreted in several ways. First, Bertha can be seen as a manifestation of Jane's emotions, such as her rage against the social and gender oppression that binds her. Also, Jane loves Mr. Rochester, but inside she is afraid that marriage to him could mean confinement. Bertha Mason expresses the fear and anger that Jane never shows. In addition, she can be seen as a representation of a Victorian wife confined in servitude to her husband, expected to always stay at home with no way to vent emotions or stress. Lastly, some see Bertha as a demonstration of the way Britain "hid" cultures that it encountered and feared at the peak of its imperialism.

Motifs:


Fire and Ice-
Fire and Ice are used to explain and show Jane Eyre’s emotions towards people and situations. Fire usually symbolizes happiness, brightness, warmth, and positivity. In the novel Jane has a passionate personality, which is represented by fire: "a ridge of lighted heath, alive, glancing, devouring" (Chapter 4). Mr. Rochester is described as having eyes that flame and flash, and he eventually becomes very close to Jane - almost a part of her.
external image Fire.JPG
Ice, which usually represents sadness, depression, and death, symbolizes oppressive forces that Jane encountered, such as the stiff, cold St. John Rivers who tried to force Jane into an unfulfilling marriage. Here is another icy quote: "To this house I came, just ere dark, on an evening marked by the characteristics of sad sky, cold gale, and continued small penetrating rain” (Chapter 37, Page 498). Jane was depressed she sat in a new home where everything was so dull and dreary.

external image Cool-Ice-Water.jpg
Substitute Mothers-Although Jane was an orphan, she was far from being underprivileged when it came to parental guidance. She had many strong and impacting women nurturing and guiding her all throughout her life, such as Bessie, Miss Temple, Mrs. Fairfax, and Diana and Mary Rivers. Bessie was everything to Jane that she never had: she was simple and plain, and had a soft smooth voice that could calm anyone, even Jane after the traumatic experience in the red-room. Bessie showed Jane the importance of songs and books and how they can comfort and sooth the soul. Miss Temple also contributed a great deal of spiritual strength and knowledge to Jane, even if she didn't acknowledge it then.
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Extra InformationAdditional info on the symbols, themes, and motifs of Jane Eyre:
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