Imagine a crowded street in a busy American city. Horns honk as crazed taxi drivers swerve to avoid hitting pedestrians. The stench of pollution and garbage fills the air. This scene, though not the most appealing, leaves a strong impression upon the mind, as well as sets a tone. Throughout the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, several contrasting places are used to create desired moods and to intertwine different stages of Jane’s life. Thornfield and Ferndean, while contrasting in many ways, succeed in coming together to contribute to the story’s meaning and symbolism through diction and detail.
The most obvious use of symbolic diction is in the names of two of the manors that Jane inhabits. Thornfield and Ferndean are almost complete opposites in their literal meanings as well as in their metaphoric meanings. The word “thorn- used in “Thornfield,”” creates many negative assumptions about the place; one seldom comes across a thorn that brings pleasure. Nevertheless, Thornfield, being a change of pace, was appealing to Jane at first. On her arrival at the mansion, she states that she was “roused by the change of scene, the new field offered to hope – (109) but in the end, Thornfield did not turn out to be Jane’s sanctuary.
In this aspect, Thornfield is much like a thorn. Jane admires the beautiful rose. It intrigues her and traps her in its beauty as she reaches out to touch it. In the next moment, however, she draws back, realizing that the thorns have pricked her finger. On the other hand, Ferndean is the complete opposite of Thornfield. A fern often symbolizes a new beginning. Life at Ferndean is just that. The rebirth of Rochester and Jane’s love and the start of a new life seem very promising.
She is offered a new chance, a blank slate to start over again. Ferndean then remained uninhabited and unfurnished- (497). As shown in the quote, Ferndean is much like an artist’s blank easel. Jane is now able to paint new memories with the family that she has always dreamt of. A fern is preferable to more isolated and hidden areas. The secluded tendency of Ferndean reflects this preference. “Even when within a very short distance of the manor-house, you could see nothing of it, so thick and dark grew the timber of the gloomy wood about it- (497). This solitude, however, is actually wished for, unlike that of Thornfield; it is a private paradise.
Solidity is just one of the many physical differences between Thornfield and Ferndean. Even though Thornfield is a grand mansion compared to the quaint Ferndean, the latter is more of a close, homely setting, while Thornfield is a cold, uninviting mansion. The description of Ferndean is merry and carefree. “Most of the morning was spent in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields: I described to him how brilliantly green they were; how the flowers and the hedges looked refreshed; how sparklingly blue was the sky- (508).
The image presented is light and airy. The obvious spring season shows the beginning of something new, or a rebirth of life and love. However, contrast to the wide open fields, Thornfield is gloomy, creating an atmosphere of depression. Bronte presents this manor as “suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude- (109). The words “space- and “solitude- together instantly set the tone of loneliness and emptiness that portrays Thornfield as a negative time for Jane. The root of loneliness, for Jane, is found in difference in social standards.
Social classes are distinct and concrete at Thornfield. Enforcers of high standards, such as Mrs. Fairfax and Miss Ingram, stand in the way of the love of Jane and Mr. Rochester. By speaking harsh realities, they hope to discourage further hope of relations. Upon the discovery of Jane and Rochester’s engagement, Mrs. Fairfax declares: “Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses. “” (304). Unfortunately, she is not the only ones who has allowed society to influence love.
Mr. Rochester himself prevents Jane from experiencing true love by attempting to mold her into the rich, proper woman that he is expected to marry. However, a journey to Ferndean breaks the barriers and reunites the couple. Rochester shows that he finally understands his mistake in trying to change Jane and tells her: “The third day from this must be our wedding day, Jane. Never mind fine clothes and jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip. “” (516. ) This realization grants Jane the love that she was seeking for so long. With her wish fulfilled, she is happy and complete at Ferndean.
The contrasting Thornfield and Ferndean contribute to the outcome of the story by helping the reader to better understand the desired tone of each scene. The description of each place represents a definite distinction that separates luxury without love, from love without luxury. Jane’s happy ending in Ferndean shows that she has finally found love, though with several challenges that she must face. However, the restoring of sight to one of Rochester’s eyes represents the hope that eventually, with enough love, all obstacles will disappear.