Metaphors and Symbols in Jane Eyre

Table of Contents

The Moon

In Jane Eyre the moon is a metaphor for change.  The moon is either described or looked at many times throughout the novel when Jane’s life will take on a new direction.  Just a few examples are when Jane leaves Gateshead, when she first meets Rochester and right before Rochester proposes to her.

Food: Food is used throughout the novel to represent want.  One example of this is when Jane is at Lowood School.  Here the food is scant, and older girls often take it from Jane in the beginning.  Examples such as the burnt porridge are given.  However, the hunger Jane feels is not just a physical desire for food, but for personal growth as well.  When she is accepted at the school and begins to accomplish things for herself in drawing class, she is no longer focuses on her hunger, as it has been fulfilled by her own achievements.  She says, “That night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the Barmecide supper, of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk, with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings.  I feasted instead on the spectacle of ideal drawings, which I saw in the dark – all the work of my own hands.” (Chapter 8).

A similar case can be seen in Jane’s hunger before she is welcomed to Moor House.  She has not eaten much, has had to beg for food, and is physically weak from hunger. She is not only hungry for food however, and when she arrives at the house and is welcomed there, Jane is more satisfied with the friendship she finds than the food she is offered.  She had been hungry for companionship, and she finds it with Diana and Mary.

Fire and Burning

Fire is used throughout the novel to represent passion as an uncontrollable force.  When it first becomes truly obvious that Rochester has feelings for Jane, she has just saved him from the fire in his bed.  When Rochester tries to keep Jane with him after this incident, she says, “strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look” (Chapter 15).  Another example is when Rochester suggests that he and Jane remain together even though they cannot be married.  Jane writes, a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved (Chapter 27).  Jane is tempted to succumb to her and Rochester’s passions, but she does not.

The Chestnut Tree

This tree that had been struck by lightning during a storm is a symbol for the relationship between Jane and Rochester.  When Jane is running in the rain toward Rochester, she sees the tree and writes that it had not been split in half, but that while there was a hole in it and it was separated much, the roots held it together.  Jane says, “You did right to hold fast to each other.” At the end of the novel when Rochester compares himself to this ruined tree, Jane says that he is not ruined, but that plants will grow around him and take delight in him.