Jane Eyre, Chapter 2

The passage from chapter 2 ‘The Red room was a square chamber very seldom slept in … ‘ to the end of the chapter, is significant in my reading of the novel. The previous passages show Jane’s life at Gateshead; Mrs Reed has locked Jane in the Red Room after she lashed out at John, her cousin. The Red Room has a dark history, as it was the room in which Jane’s Uncle both died and was lain in.

The Red Room is described in the first two paragraphs; ‘A bed supported by massive mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask. The furnishings are large and of shades of red (dark reds) creating a heavy and domineering atmosphere ‘ their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of different drapery’ The sense of coercion is emphasized by words such as ‘shrouded’ and the imagery of layers of drapery gives a sense of an overpowering heaviness surrounding Jane petite child form, making her seem somewhat insignificant.

The sense oppression, or attempt of it, of Jane is a reoccurring idea within the novel; by Mr Brockelhurst and in her time at Lowood school, where strict religious views suppress her passionate nature and the period of courtship between herself and Mr Rochester where he tries to change her, forcing finery and expensive gifts upon her. ‘the wardrobe, the toilet-table were darkly polished mahogany. Out of these dark surroundings rose and glared white, the piled up mattresses. The appearance of red and white is symbolic to passion and self-control (fire and ice) a theme ever present in novel as Jane battles with her own reason and feelings an example being whether she follows her heart and stays with Mr Rochester after learning of his living wife, or following reason and moral and leaving him.

The appearance of the ghost of her dead Uncle brings forward the Gothic elements of the novel and a new form of gothic writing is presented, because although it seems real it is actually a working of her imagination and is all just in her head. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot,’ The imagery and heaviness that these words in stow is so strong you can feel her fear and there is no doubt that the fear is real even if the circumstance which aroused it is an illusion. Within the novel, other situations occur which proceed from her overactive imagination such as in chapter 16 where she is convinced Grace Poole is some murderous lunatic believing her to have set Mr Rochester’s bed on fire and again the Gothic elements of the novel are made clear.

‘The strange little figure there gazing at me … I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp. ‘ Jane sees her reflection in a mirror and thinks her reflection like some supernatural being; Jane being described as something paranormal is echoed many times by Rochester, they are quite playfully used by him, however, upon her encounter with his insane wife just before she was meant to wed Mr Rochester, the description takes on a new meaning.

Bertha tries on Jane’s wedding veil and looks at herself in the mirror and Jane herself describes her as a vampire, the fact that they are both their appearances are described as supernatural creates a connection between the two women showing that perhaps Bertha’s fate of insanity could be Jane’s too if she were to marry Mr Rochester, at that point in the novel in any case. This enforces the Gothic aspects of the novel.

Within the passage imagery of imprisonment is given, ‘The red room was a square chamber’, the square shape of the room is like that of a prison cell, ‘no jail was ever more secure’, the sense of being trapped and a captive once again links to Bertha, who, we find out later in the novel, is herself locked away in a room, this creates another connection between the two women; Bertha is described as a wild beast and within this passage Jane herself is shown just as impassioned, even wild, when she pleads with her Aunt to let her out of the Red Room; ‘she sincerely looked on me as a compound of virulent passions, mean spirit, and dangerous duplicity. ‘ The similarity in the two women’s natures becomes apparent. However Jane is able to escape her imprisonment; ‘I suppose I had a species of fit, unconsciousness closed the scene.

Though her body remains a captive of the Red Room, her mind is able to escape through unconsciousness and this is where the two differ, whereas Bertha lets her passions control her, Jane is able to overcome them. Consciousness, or the lack of thereof, is used at other points in the novel, one such time is after Bertha tries on the veil and Jane once again looses consciousness and once more she escapes the situation through this means. The Red Room holds many of the themes and methods which reoccur throughout the rest of the novel and in some situations, such as the one with Bertha and the veil, showing her as more than just the crazy wife in the attic but also Jane’s Alter ego, of sorts, giving new meaning to the storyline and is therefore very significant to my reading of the novel.

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