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, Brontė, 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 Brontė\'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 Brontė 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 Brontė adumbrates poor nutrition at Lowood
through a bird who is described as "a little hungry robin."

Brontė 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 Brontė 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 saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside; I waded
knee-deep in its dark growth;

I turned with its turnings, and finding a moss-blackened granite
crag in a hidden angle, I sat down under it. High banks of moor were
about me; the crag protected my head: the sky