Jane Eyre


Symbols and Themes

Heath—This is a symbol or metaphor that Jane finds aptly representative of Mr. Rochester’s nature upon first meeting him by chance on the wintry road between Hay and Thornfield. He appears to her to be an enigma, like the heath which grows wild in the open air, tossed to and fro by the wind. She senses in him a man who is tossed to and fro by passion, yet rooted to a place just as the heath is rooted to the ground. Yet, in the verses that she quotes, the heath is in the wilderness and is blown away by the wild wind. While Rochester may have been in the wilderness, metaphorically speaking, he is now returned to civilization, or at least to his property in the countryside. If he has been blown away, he has now, it seems, been blown back to his home and into Jane’s life. Jane, who just prior to their initial meeting was attempting to see beyond the horizon and the hills of woods and shrubbery surrounding Thornfield, now finds the horizon admitting some outsider into her sphere. If Rochester is a man, buffeted by the wind like the heath, Jane (it is hoped) is a woman whose nature is grounded in goodness, and whose grace can act as a support for Mr. Rochester in the end.

Elf—Rochester constantly refers to Jane as his little elfish friend, as though she were from some fairy kingdom come to make his destiny a happy one. This reference to her “magical” nature is part of his fantasy to escape the actual truth which he hides in the attic of Thornfield Hall. By imagining as though he could will himself a better and happier existence merely by closing the door on one part of his life and embracing another, Rochester hopes to enter into the “elfish” fairy world that he believes Jane truly represents, where all hopes of fulfillment are possible and all possession of happiness attainable. The problem, however, is that Jane is neither an elf nor an angel, but merely an inexperienced girl who is in love for the first time and with her master, no less. Ironically, Rochester’s half-crazed pursuit of his...

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Essays About Jane Eyre