HOW DOES LANDSCAPE REFLECT EMOTIONS IN JANE EYRE?
BRIEFLY,WHAT CAUSES JANE'S OUTCOME TO DIFFER FROM THAT OF THOMAS HARDY'S TESS?
Unlike Hardy’s omniscient style, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is written in first-person narrative. Similar to Hardy’s novel however, Jane Eyre contains many vivid landscape descriptions and a great deal of imagery which influence and reflect Jane’s emotions. It is a novel about great courage in the face of adversity. It is an account of Jane’s determination not to end up a victim despite her traumatic childhood and her search for love.
One of the features of Jane Eyre is that two men propose marriage to the heroine. Rochester is loved deeply by Jane; the other, St John Rivers [pronounced Sinjen] is respected but not at all loved in a romantic way. The settings in which the proposals occur reveal a lot about Jane’s impressions and feelings concerning these two suitors. Rochester proposes in an orchard on a warm summer’s evening:
No nook in the grounds more sheltered and more Eden-like; a very high wall shut it out from the court on one side; on the other a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was a sunk fence, its sole separation from the lovely fields ; a winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnut, circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence. Here, one could wander unseen. While such honeydew fell, silence reigned, such gloaming gathered, I felt as if I could haunt such shade forever.
The landscape reflects Jane’s feelings for Rochester. She perceives him as a larger than life figure. She idolises him; places him on a pedestal; consequently, the setting is cut off from the world in romantic isolation. It is as if Jane and Rochester are in the Garden of Eden; cocooned in their love oblivious to the external world beyond the screen of the beech tree avenue.
Jane’s perception of St John Rivers is in sharp contrast. St John is a man compelled by a pragmatic sense of duty. He will not allow himself to enjoy any pleasures of this world. He suppresses all of his human sensations and emotions inasmuch as he can, sublimating them for his dedication to missionary work. In effect, this makes St John cold and aloof.
There is a great contrast between the secluded Eden-like place in which Rochester proposes to the bleak open moorland surrounding Moor House which St John chooses for his marriage proposal to Jane. One detail of the setting in this chapter  is of particular significance:
…we reached the first stragglers of the battalion of rocks, guarding a sort of pass, beyond which the beck rushed down a waterfall.
The landscape is depicted in military terms – “a battalion”, “guarding a pass”, indicating coldness; the coldness of the water falling over hard rock; military discipline, austerity. These are the images that reveal St John’s personality. He is a man of iron self-discipline. Further on in the same chapter, Jane states that St John has:
…no more of a husband’s heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock, down which the stream is foaming in yonder gorge.
Charlotte Bronte’s depiction of moorland also emphasises Jane’s feelings of desolation, the vastness of space; a sensation of living in a void when she leaves Thornfield; a feeling of being a wanderer on the face of the earth as often an orphan does. The moorland bleakness intensifies the separation and severing of Jane’s relationship with Rochester and Thornfield and correlates with her overall feelings of loneliness in her profound mental isolation at that particular time.
The following landscape descriptions reflect Jane’s feelings of belonging to nowhere and nobody; perhaps also, new crossroads of her life. Which way should she go now? How will she survive?
Whitcross is no town, not even a hamlet, it is but a stone pillar set up where four roads meet: whitewashed…..
I see no passengers on these roads; they stretch out east, west, north and south – white, broad, lonely, they are all cut in the moor, and the heather grows deep and wild to their very verge.
We are with Jane on that moor. We feel her loneliness, her dilemma, her destitution and her desolation. Consider also, Jane’s relationship with the landscape itself; her personification of nature, and how, in spite of her terrible adversity, she sees some hope:
Nature seemed to me to be benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness…..
What a still, hot, perfect day! What golden desert this spreading moor! I wish I could live in it and on it. I saw a lizard run over the crag; I saw a bee busy among the sweet bilberries…
She now places her trust in God. She puts her faith firmly in God after realising that putting her faith in Rochester has led her to this desperate state.
The setting of Thornfied Hall, although surrounded by beauty in summer, has hawthorn bushes scattered here and there, symbolic of happiness pierced with pain. The interior of Thornfield Hall seems in the main, gloomy, haunting and mysterious. The battlements, the labyrinths of corridors, and, the ‘mad woman in the attic’, not only make the reader anxious for Jane but serve to parallel the oppressive, dark secrets of Rochester’s past which perpetually threaten to unfold themselves and cast a blight on the developing relationship. But there are always pockets of light in the abode, which indicate that whatever is being concealed in Thornfield, it could not all be evil and secretive. The contradictions convey that there is still hope and the prospect of triumphant love. Compare:
A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs…. [Chapter 11]
…a cosy and agreeable picture presented itself to my view. [Chapter 11]
Landscape, setting and imagery are intertwined. Often, the narrative rises above the ordinary and receives an extra infusion of poetic power, reflecting the ebbs and flows of the relationship and correlating environments in their vicissitude. The splitting of the great horse-chestnut tree in the peaceful garden is a symbolic forewarning of the separation of Jane and Rochester or perhaps of the union between Rochester and Bertha which is soon to be ‘felled’. The visit by Bertha to Jane’s bedroom to tear the wedding veil is also significant here because it is symbolic of the betrayal of both Bertha and Jane by Rochester.With forebodings that something is terribly wrong, Jane:
….sought the orchard, driven to its shelter by the wind which all day had blown strong and full from the South [ Bertha – the Caribbean], and:
..no glimpse of blue sky had been visible that July day
The cloven halves of the tree “were not broken from each other” – this is not just Jane’s forewarning of her separation from Rochester but also, as aforementioned, the fact of the existing marriage between Bertha and Rochester. “Strong roots”, [the technicality of the marriage] kept them “unsundered below” in that the base of the tree is still joined and the roots intertwined. As yet, the two halves might be said to form one tree, reflecting that the marriage relationship between Rochester and Bertha is technically "unsundered" but like the tree, it is a ruin.[Chapter 25] Consider the image of the split trunk of the tree in the beautiful setting of the ‘Paradise Garden’.
Although not as deep or questioning as Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles, Jane Eyre is a very beautifully written novel, typical of the era. The ‘mad woman in the attic’ is of course, for dramatic effect and gives the novel a gothic feel. Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea is an excellent exploration of the fictional ‘other side of the story’.The worrying thing which is apparent in both novels is the women's tendency to over-romanticise and idolise men almost to the point of obsession and to be totally dependent on them. I am not at all sure whether issues such as these would have been debated to any wide extent during the time the novels were written however.
Jane ultimately triumphs over adversity. She is reunited in love and happiness with Rochester. The key to the outcomes of these Victorian novels reside in the respective author’s dispositions. In Tess of the D' Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy is a searching sceptic whereas Charlotte Bronte had faith [Her father was a clergyman]. In the context of the novels, Tess had too much responsibility as a child due to her parent’s abdication of it. Moreover, not only was Tess in a disadvantaged social situation but she received no proper guidance in life. She did not possess any firm foundations; consequently, weak psychological boundaries caused her to develop a guilt-complex. Although we see snippets of spiritedness in Tess, overall, she had little or no faith in herself inevitably causing her to be acted upon. Unlike Tess, Jane possesses strong psychological boundaries and most importantly, faith in herself despite her appalling childhood. Both Jane and Tess are passionate and sensitive due to their yearning for love. Charlotte Bronte's Jane does learn to balance passion with the 'pale throne' of self-repression. Her self-mastery is due to her own will, her consistency of education and the influences provided by Miss Temple and Helen Burns at Lowood.Tess has no such influences and never finds her way.