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Essay on The Ecology of Jane Eyre: Surviving the Struggles

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The Ecology of Jane Eyre: Surviving the Struggles

Wild, calm, fierce, gentle, damaging, nurturing – nature, such an unpredictable force, can be paralleled with Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. Many of Jane Eyre’s characters resemble nature, and many of the novel’s events are supported or foreshadowed by occurrences in nature.

Jane Eyre’s main character, Jane, is shown maturing from child to adult. Jane’s metamorphosis throws her from the fairytale escape she has created, into real life that she must adapt to in order to survive. There are subtle changes in Jane’s character that hint of maturity. In the novel’s first paragraphs Jane states: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day . . . I was glad of it; I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes . . .” (1; Ch.1). Further into the novel, nature being the medium of change, Jane adopts a new perspective: “It was a fine, calm day, though very cold; I was tired of sitting still in the library through a whole long morning . . . the distance, two miles, would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk” (102; Ch.12). The juxtaposition of Jane’s varying opinions show the growth of Jane’s character. This growth could be a result of Jane’s change of environment. Jane’s initial dislike of long, chilly walks is perhaps due to her unpleasant surroundings at Gateshead. Jane’s contempt for the walks and the outdoors vanishes during her time in the more hospitable environment of Thornsfield. Though Jane matures through the novel, from the beginning she is unabashadedly honest and harsh, much like nature. Jane, as does nature, reveals only naked and blatant honesty. When Rochester asks Jane if she thinks that he is handsome she, with no initial equivocation, answers, “No, Sir” (122; Ch.13). Jane, a type of nature, is companioned with another character who, similar to Jane, represents nature, Rochester. Rochester rivals Jane with his harsh and natural honesty: “Not quite: you have secured the shadow of your thought; but no more, probably. You had not enough of the artist’s skill and science to give it full being; yet the drawings are, for a schoolgirl, peculiar. As to the thoughts, they are elfish” (117; Ch.13). A development of Rochester’s character can be seen toward the novel’s end. This cha...


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... warning: “I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut tree in Thornfield’s orchard, and what right would that ruin have to bid a budding woodbine cover its decay with freshness” (425; Ch.37)? Jane reassures Rochester: “You are no ruin sir – no lightning- struck tree: you are green and vigorous” (425;Ch.37). When Jane leaves, Rochester becomes distraught. Fittingly, Rochester’s surroundings reflect his feelings. Jane notices on her way to visit Rochester that “There were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel walk girdling a grass plot . . . ‘quite a desolate spot’” (412; Ch.37). When Rochester sees Jane again and the two vow to love and live together always, Rochester regains his natural vigor: “The sky is no longer a blank to him – the earth no longer a void” (432; Ch.38). Jane and Rochester, seeming to understand their relationship and dependence with nature, accept it. Jane tells Rochester toward the novel’s end, “we will go home through the wood; that will be the shadiest way” (427; Ch.37). This statement recognizes nature’s importance in their lives and seems to acknowledge that for them the natural way is the most honest, pleasing, and fitting way.


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