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Jane Eyre | Setting

Victoria Elliott | Wednesday September 07, 2011


Jane Eyre is set firmly in northern England, in five separate locations. The Reed house at Gateshead, Lowood School, Thornfield Hall, Moor House (the Rivers’ house) and Ferndean Manor, which is Rochester’s smaller, more rural home. Mary, Rochester’s housekeeper at Ferndean, gives Brontë the chance to demonstrate that her control of the Yorkshire dialect is as strong as Emily’s, who used it in so extensively in Wuthering Heights: ‘she’s noan faâl, and varry good-natured.’ The dialect emphasises the more rural and remote location, where Jane and Rochester can live retired from the world.

The rugged countryside and general sense of nature around the last three houses of the novel is very important as a symbol of the Romantic sensibilities of both Jane and Rochester. Jane and Rochester first meet outside the house, as Jane has been enjoying her walking view of ‘the solid mass of a crag, or the rough boles of a great oak’, the natural surroundings echoing her encounter with the ‘dark, strong and stern’ Mr Rochester. The power and ruggedness of the northern landscape is appropriate to the connection between the two main characters, but it also has the potential for bleakness. Interestingly, when Jane has left Thornfield Hall and is crossing the moor by foot, and sleeping rough, is when she most explicitly links natural beauty to God, and finds solace in prayer. The natural world provides some measure of protection as she ‘nestled to the breast of the hill’, though it cannot fully provide for her physical need for sustenance. Jane frequently describes in detail the landscape in which she finds herself, and nearly always in a wondering and celebratory tone. A celebration of nature is another feature of Romantic literature. It is also appropriate to Jane’s simple faith.

The five main locations act in some ways as a structure for a five-act novel. Each is very different and represents a very different experience in...

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