Jane Eyre - Nature

Jane Eyre - Analysis of Nature Charlotte Bronte makes use of nature imagery throughout "Jane Eyre," and comments on both the human relationship with the outdoors and human nature. The Oxford Reference Dictionary defines "nature" as "1. the phenomena of the physical world as a whole . . . 2. a thing's essential qualities; a person's or animal's innate character . . . 4. vital force, functions, or needs." We will see how "Jane Eyre" comments on all of these. Several natural themes run through the novel, one of which is the image of a stormy sea. After Jane saves Rochester's life, she gives us the following metaphor of their relationship: "Till morning dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea . . . I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore . . . now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne: but . . . a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back." The gale is all the forces that prevent Jane's union with Rochester. Later, Brontë, whether it be intentional or not, conjures up the image of a buoyant sea when Rochester says of Jane: "Your habitual expression in those days, Jane, was . . . not buoyant." In fact, it is this buoyancy of Jane's relationship with Rochester that keeps Jane afloat at her time of crisis in the heath: "Why do I struggle to retain a valueless life? Because I know, or believe, Mr. Rochester is living." Another recurrent image is Brontë's treatment of Birds. We first witness Jane's fascination when she reads Bewick's History of British Birds as a child. She reads of "death-white realms" and "'the solitary rocks and promontories'" of sea-fowl. We quickly see how Jane identifies with the bird. For her it is a form of escape, the idea of flying above the toils of every day life. Several times the narrator talks of feeding birds crumbs. Perhaps Brontë is telling us that this idea of escape is no more than a fantasy-one cannot escape when one must return for basic sustenance. The link between Jane and birds is strengthened by the way Brontë adumbrates poor nutrition at Lowood through a bird who is described as "a little hungry robin." Brontë brings the buoyant sea theme and the bird theme together in the passage describing the first painting of Jane's that Rochester examines. This painting depicts a turbulent sea with a sunken ship, and on the mast perches a cormorant with a gold bracelet in its mouth, apparently taken from a drowning body. While the imagery is perhaps too imprecise to afford an exact interpretation, a possible explanation can be derived from the context of previous treatments of these themes. The sea is surely a metaphor for Rochester and Jane's relationship, as we have already seen. Rochester is often described as a "dark" and dangerous man, which fits the likeness of a cormorant; it is therefore likely that Brontë sees him as the sea bird. As we shall see later, Jane goes through a sort of symbolic death, so it makes sense for her to represent the drowned corpse. The gold bracelet can be the purity and innocence of the old Jane that Rochester managed to capture before she left him. Having established some of the nature themes in "Jane Eyre," we can now look at the natural cornerstone of the novel: the passage between her flight from Thornfield and her acceptance into Morton. In leaving Thornfield, Jane has severed all her connections; she has cut through any umbilical cord. She narrates: "Not a tie holds me to human society at this moment." After only taking a small parcel with her from Thornfield, she leaves even that in the coach she rents. Gone are all references to Rochester, or even her past life. A "sensible" heroine might have gone to find her uncle, but Jane needed to leave her old life behind. Jane is seeking a return to the womb of mother nature: "I have no relative but the universal mother, Nature: I will seek her breast and ask repose." We see how she seeks protection as she searches for a resting place: "I struck straight into the heath; I held on to a hollow I