Bird Symbolism In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

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In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte employs birds a symbol in order to highlight important themes in her novel. While birds traditionally symbolize freedom and expression, Bronte uses them to show independence (or a lack of), freedom, and rifts in social class. Bronte also depicts some of her most prominent characters as birds such as Jane, Rochester, Adele, Bertha, and even Rochester’s guests. Through the use of bird symbolism Bronte highlights important topics in her novel, while giving the reader a deeper understanding of her most prominent characters. One of the central themes in the novel focuses on Jane’s quest for independence and her desire to define her individuality. Bronte uses birds to symbolize Jane’s quest by depicting her as a bird …show more content…
Just like two sides of a coin, one cannot exist without the other. When Jane was living at Gateshead she was a dependent of Mrs. Reed and no matter how much passion Jane fueled into her fight for independence, she was always dragged back down to reality. Her dream of independence was nothing more than “a hopeless pilgrimage” (Gilbert 342). Jane dreamt of being able to fly in the sky, to be as free as a bird, but instead found herself chained to the earth. Even after she left Thornfield and became truly independent for the first time in her life, she still found herself dependent on aid from others. Bronte chose to describe Jane as a “bird with both wings broken” since both the bird and Jane are normally capable of flying, but were unable due to their current situation (Eyre 619). What makes birds a symbol of independence and freedom, their wings and their ability to fly, was taken away from Jane. When a bird loses their ability to fly they will die unless someone comes to their aid. Jane stumbled blindly across the countryside looking for someone, anyone who would help her. After “abandoning her few possessions, her name, and her self-respect in her search for a new home” Jane became no more than an empty shell (Gilbert 364). This the state that St. John and his sisters find Jane and when they describe her as “a half-frozen bird” (Eyre 666). When Jane reached her lowest …show more content…
The most prominent example of this is when Rochester’s guests come to Thornfield and Bronte described them as “white plumy birds,” while describing Jane as a “little brown bird” (Eyre 210-342). When choosing how to describe Rochester’s guests Bronte choose to make their feathers white since the color symbolizes elegance, grace, and purity. The plumy texture of their feathers works with their pure, white color to give them an angle-like appearance. On the contrary, Bronte uses the unrefined and mundane color brown to describe Jane. These two sets of birds come from different realms, one from heaven and one from earth, which highlights the social rift between Jane and Rochester’s guests. Even though Jane has spent a great deal of her life surrounded by the wealthy, those with a high social standing do not accept her. She is out casted, not because of her personality, but because of her “refusal to submit to her social destiny” (Gilbert 338). They do not understand her since she is a servant who spends a great deal of time around wealthy. During this time period movement of the social ladder was almost nonexistent so Jane’s bounce between two classes was not accepted well. This rift between Rochester’s guests and herself highlights the division between Jane’s social class and the social class of the “birds of the one realm” (Eyre

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