Fire and Water Imagery in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

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Fire and Water Imagery in Jane Eyre

In Jane Eyre, the use of water and fire imagery is very much related to the character and/or mood of the protagonists (i.e. Jane and Rochester, and to a certain extent St. John Rivers) -- and it also serves to show Jane in a sort of intermediate position between the two men. However, it should also be noted that the characteristics attributed to fire and water have alternately positive and negative implications -- to cite an example among many, near the beginning of the novel, reference is made to the devastating effects of water ("ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly", "death-white realm" [i.e. of snow]), and fire is represented by a "terrible red glare"; later, fire is represented as being
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This is manifested most evidently in the case of the first Mrs. Rochester, who has a "fiery eye", a "lurid visage" that "flame[s] over [Jane's]", is associated with a "fiery West Indian night", and who quite literally turns Thornfield into an inferno after an (unsuccessful) attempt at burning Rochester in his bed. However, this negative association with fire also occurs with Rochester himself, if only to a certain extent. His passion for Jane causes him to try to tempt her into a step which might not only doom her to the "fire and brimstone" of the afterlife but also a living hell -- as she says about the thought of becoming his mistress, she would be "fevered with delusive bliss one hour -- suffocating with the bitterest tears of remorse and shame the next". [yes!] Moreover, in his rôle as Byronic hero / tempter, the infernal association is not inappropriate either. It is perhaps significant that one of his earlier remarks to Jane is that he will "pave hell with energy" and form "good intentions as durable as flint" -- followed immediately by the "new statute: unheard-of combinations of circumstances demand unheard-of rules", a "statute" that precipitates his attempted bigamy and the emotional torment and purgatory…