Decorative Initial I

n fiction, the weather often plays a major role in determining the mood of a scene. It may foreshadow, reflect, or affect the feelings of the characters. Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë used the weather for vastly different effects. In North and South, Gaskell describes the coming of morning after the death of Margaret's mother: "The chill, shivery October morning came; not the October morning of the country, with soft, silvery mists, clearing off before the sunbeams that bring out all the gorgeous beauty of colouring, but the October morning of Milton, whose silvery mists were heavy fogs, and where the sun could only show long dusky streets when he did break through and shine" (318). This passage perfectly describes Margaret's attitude. At this point in the novel she cannot help thinking about the differences between the North and the South. The keenness of the contrast makes itself especially evident in the recent death of Margaret's mother. In the South, the beautiful weather accompanied her mother's perfect health. The continual presence of poor northern weather reminds the reader of this and accompanies Margaret's sorrow at her mother's death. The weather echoes the troubles that the Hale family feel since they moved from their peaceful life in the South.

In Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, the weather occasionally works in the opposite way. It generally contrasts the moods of the characters. For example, a warm and beautiful spring is the backdrop for all of the typhus and consumption at Lowood. Sometimes the contrast foreshadows a twist in plot or a change in mood. Jane, full of joy at Mr. Rochester's proposal of marriage, notes with surprise: "a livid, vivid spark leapt out of a cloud at which I was looking, and there was a crack, a crash, and a close rattling peal; and I thought only of hiding my dazzled eyes against Mr. Rochester's shoulder" (Chapter 23). Brontë sets a scene not of idyllic romance but of turmoil and destruction. The juxtaposition of the foul weather against Jane's happiness prepares the reader for the turn of events later in the book.

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