Jane Eyre makes particularly powerful and complex uses of setting, which it intertwines with plot, characterization, and, of course, symbolism and imagery. As R. B. Martin points out,

The setting of the story is carefully divided into five distinct locales, each of which has its particular significance in Jane's history and each of which is like an act in a five-act drama. Her early childhood is spent in Gateshead Hall, the home of the Reeds; from there she goes to Lowood, where she comes under the influence of Mr. Brocklehurst, Miss Temple, and Helen Burns; as governess to Adele at Thornfield she falls in love with Rochester; after the discovery of the existence of Bertha, Jane runs away and is taken into Moor House, the home of her cousins, the Rivers family; in the conclusion of the book she and Rochester are united at his crumbling hunting-lodge, Ferndean Manor. There are, in addition, two scenes in which Jane returns to an earlier home to discover changes in both herself and those she has known in the past: from Thornfield she returns to the deathbed of Mrs. Reed at Gateshead, and from Moor House she returns to Thornfield to find only its blind windows and gaping walls. [pp. 60-61]

Each of these settings has its own characteracteristic tone, the Gateshead section, for example, having that of "passion, sensuality, emotion, superstition, and the other manifesations of the non-rational" (61) of human nature. What are the tones and associated implications of the novel's other settings?

Setting also relates to characterization as well, since many of the novel's principal figures, such as Mrs. Reed and Rochester, exist intimately related to the homes and landscapes in which we come upon them. In what sense are such parallels characteristic of realist fiction or apprproate to it? What, in other words, do such techniques tell us about narratives in the realist mode? How, for example, do they relate to fantasy?

Other comments on Jane Eyre by R. B. Martin


Martin, Robert B. Charlotte Bronte's Novels: The Accents of Persuasion. NY: Norton, 1966.

Last modified 7 July 2007