Seasons: Weather in Charlotte Bront's Jane Eyre Research Proposal

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¶ … Seasons: Weather in Charlotte Bront's Jane Eyre

The most successful authors use several literary techniques to add depth and texture to their novels. Charlotte Bront engages us with narrative sequences in Jane Eyre by linking them to the moods, emotions, and events that occur in the novel. Light and dark become symbols of pain and pleasure. In addition, we often find our heroine close to elements that seem to embrace her. When things are going their worst, Jane finds herself in the cold of winter without a place to go. In addition, when things are looking up, we see lighter, more pleasant weather. These metaphors allow us to connect with Jane because images presented that allow us to feel as though we relate. In addition, Bront combines this narrative sequence with foreshadowing which gives the novel an interesting backdrop. Jane Eyre is novel of many things but without the elements of nature to guide us in this emotional journey, much would be missed. It is to these environmental changes that we feel connected and without them, the novel would not be as real for us. Simply put, the weather allows us to feel Jane's humanity as we feel our own.

Weather becomes an element that sets the mood and tone for the novel. From the very beginning, we are met with images of gloom, preparing us for the upcoming events in Jane's early life. We read, "the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question" (Bront 1). Jane could not escape the elements of the weather even inside. As she reads her book, she catches glimpses of a "pale blank of mist and cloud... with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast" (2). It is interesting to note that the book she is reading reminds her of nothing but dreariness. The book suggests:

Bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland with 'the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary space - that reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters... And concentre the multiplied rigors of extreme cold.' (2)

Here we see how Bront is surrounding Jane with this mood from all sides. Jane cannot escape the cold and bleary elements and this is her life. By utilizing these first few images, Bront ensures that we will feel the '"forlorn regions of dreary space'" (2) more than anything else. We come to realize that Jane is experiencing the cold from the inside out. Her external world is cold and her emotional one is as well. With these early narrative passages, Bront allows us to feel Jane's immediate surroundings.

Foreshadowing is an important literary technique for Bront. Many of her narrative sequences involving weather also involve foreshadowing. This combination allows her to continue to work with the same sequences and provide depth to the plot. Bront foreshadows John's visit to Gateshead with the pale clouds and heavy mist. After their confrontation, Jane is sent to the red room. Another significant event that is marked by weather is Jane's awful experience with Mr. Brocklehurst accusations lying is preceded with the same dreary images we encountered at the beginning of the novel. We read, "Some heavy clouds swept from the sky by a rising wind, had left the moon bare; and her light streaming in through a window near, shone full both on us and on the approaching figure, which we at once recognize as Miss Temple" (72). We will find that the events in Jane's life are closely linked to the weather.

In fact, Jane's future at Thornfield is foreshadowed. However, this scene is a positive one and it happens to reflect Jane's current mood. The chamber is a "bright little place to me as the sun shone in between the gay blue chintz window and carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and strained plaster of Lowood, that my spirit rose at the view" (78). Here we see that Bront is moving us away from Jane's dark journey, though the impression of Thornfield is left in the background only to emerge in the winter months at Lowood. These months are filled with "deep snows" (51) and as Jane walks to church, she painfully remembers her not-so-distant past. She states, "Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains (60). Even Sundays are "dreary days" (61) and they do nothing but reminds Jane of her cold, sad past. However, these recollections are significant to Jane's character development because they allow her to see things from a certain perspective. Her emotions are normal but they are extreme at times. She sees the bight room and feels elation and yet she is clouded with memories of her past. These changes are necessary in order for us to relate to Jane as an individual. The complexities of her emotions reveal her humanity. She is changing as her environment changes. Her vantage point changes significantly when she considers leaving Lowood. Jane looks out of her window and thinks:

There were the two wings of the building; there was the garden; there were the skirts of Lowood; there was the hilly horizon. My eye passed all other objects to rest on those most remote, the blue peaks: it was those I longed to surmount; all within their boundary of rock and heath seemed prison-ground, exile limits. I traced the white road winding round the base of one mountain, and vanishing in a gorge between two: how I longed to follow it further. (68)

Here we see a yearning for the future, which is linked with nature. Jane looks beyond the horizon to the blue peaks. She yearns to cross over them into the pleasant environment that awaits her. She can see this future for herself more clearly when she associates it with pleasantries of nature and weather.

Other dark images foreshadow other significant events that are negative.

Bront successfully conveys people, place, and events with weather. While Lowood treated Jane better than she had previously known, it was not too terribly beneficial for her. We read that Lowood was the "cradle of fog and fog-bred pestilence; which, quickening with the quickening spring, crept into the Orphan Asylum" (79). This is one example of how Bront connects weather to a specific place. We see another instance later in the novel with Jane and Rochester. In fact, one of the most prominent instances of the foreshadowing/weather sequence occurs when Jane and Rochester are enjoying an intimate moment outside. She has just accepted his proposal when a lightning bolt strikes a chestnut tree. Their conversation is interrupted as a "livid, vivid spark leapt out of a cloud at which I was looking, and there was a crack, a crash, and a close rattling peal; and I thought only of hiding my dazzled eyes against Mr. Rochester's shoulder" (280). In addition, Jane notices the tree is split in half as a result of the strike. This image foreshadows the split that will occur between Jane and Rochester and it is one that is forever attached to the couple.

Jane's return to Gateshead is also associated with weather. Bront reminds us of Jane's negative experiences and unpleasant weather. She writes:

On a dark, misty, raw morning in January, I had left a hostile roof with a desperate and embittered heart -- a sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation...[the same hostile roof now again rose before me: my prospects were doubtful yet; and I had yet an aching heart. I still felt as a wanderer on the face of the earth; but I experienced firmer trust in myself and my own powers, and less withering dread of oppression. (168)

Again, we see the connection between Jane's experiences and memories with the cold and dark images. Bront also subtly reminds us that the cold that Jane is experiencing is internal and external just as it was at the beginning of the novel. This is another example of foreshadowing as well because we anticipate that Jane will experience some difficulty while she is here. We read that until the morning, she is "tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy" (164). This statement allows us to feel Jane's anticipation and anxiety with images of the turbulent sea. She goes on:

thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah; and now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in fancy -- a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back. Sense would resist delirium: judgment would warn passion. Too… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Seasons: Weather in Charlotte Bront's Jane Eyre."  Essaytown.com.  August 10, 2008.  Accessed December 13, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/seasons-weather-charlotte-bront-jane/1456976.