Fire and Water Imagery in Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre has to choose between the "temptation" of following the rule of passion by marrying Rochester, which would have made her dependent on him and not his equal, or of living a life of complete renunciation of all passions, by marrying St John Rivers. Fire and water imagery symbolizes the two forces competing for dominance in Jane Eyre, both on a personal and metaphorical level. Throughout the novel, such imagery is used by Brontë, in keeping with her use of much poetic symbolism, to develop character, strengthen thematic detail and establish mood.
The general use of imagery requires mention. In most novels, imagery is commonly used to symbolise a certain idea or concept, such
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We see Jane's overly passionate nature through her punishment at Gateshead. She is unable to control her passions and strikes John Reed when he physically bullied her by grasping her hair and shoulders. As her punishment, Jane is locked up in the red-room. The colour red is significant here - red, the colour of fire and heat, represents passion and fury, as fire embodies this. Here, fire imagery, in the form of the red-room with its pillars of mahogany" and "curtains of deep red damask", is used to represent, through physical manifestation, Jane's overly passionate nature. Most significant also, is the direct use of fire imagery in this instance. It is stated that "the room was chill, because it seldom had a fire"; this shows that Jane's punishment for being overly passionate is a chill, a coldness of emotion that seeks to temper this rash passion. One could perhaps also argue that the chill of the red-room represents the futility of Jane's passion at this stage in her life. She may be angry and passionate, but the response of Mrs Reed to this, as would be the response of society to Jane, is to lock out that warm passion, leaving a cold chill, or a being in keeping with strict social tenets instead. By putting Jane in the red-room without a fire, Mrs Reed has effectively shown the social limitations which weigh heavily against Jane in her search for expression of that passion and self.
Water imagery is also commonly used to