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THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHARACTER AND ATMOSPHERE
The relationship between character and atmosphere is one of the principal concerns in Jane Eyre. This is developed with reference to Jane's movement from place to place. The movement from one place to another can be called the movement in atmosphere in the novel. Corresponding to the movement in atmosphere, there is a movement in character. Location changes correspond to similar changes in the nature of Jane's experience. Each location represents a stage both physical and experiential. The significance of the five locations (Gateshead, Lowood, Thornfield, Moor House and Ferndean) lies in the fact that each house is a metaphor for each of the stages through which Jane has pass on her journey to self-discovery.
Jane's passionate rebelliousness at Gateshead leads to her isolation and rejection. Charlotte Brontë often presents Jane as an isolated figure. This isolation is related to the atmosphere of Gateshead, which is a place characterized by physical cold. Jane's character is not one that endears her to others. Her experience in the red room brings forth her emotional outbursts. Even the friendly Bessie is limited both in understanding and sympathy. John Reed bullies Jane physically. Mrs. Reed exercises her tyrannical authority over her. Jane's situation and character drive her to lonely introspection. "You are passionate, Jane, that you must allow," Mrs. Reed points out.
Lowood is also a place of severe cold. It is a place where Jane learns, at the fireside of Miss Temple, to curb her emotions. Inspired by Helen Burns and her saintliness, Jane learns to endure her life at Lowood with patience. Mr. Brocklehurst, misguided by Mrs. Reed, warns the teachers of the capacity for deceit of which Jane's aunt has accused her. The intervention of Mr. Lloyd helps Jane to clear her name publicly.
Thornfield is place of warmth, both physical and emotional. Here the reader sees the danger of all-consuming fire. It is here that Jane meets with the first crisis in her adult life. It comes soon after the cancellation of the wedding between Jane and Mr. Rochester when he offers to make her his mistress.
Moor House is the location where Jane is threatened by physical, emotional and spiritual chill. St. John in this section advises Jane to merge her identity with his: "A part of me you must become." She is almost tempted to give up the struggle for integrity. That is the threat which each suitor holds for her.
Finally, Ferndean is the place of warmth without burning, the coolness of the evening without the chill. This is the scene of Jane's reconciliation and reunion with Mr. Rochester.
In this way atmosphere and character, location and experience are inter-related in Jane Eyre.