Symbols in Jane Eyre

Chapter I 1
"Bewick's “History of British Birds:”..."   (Chapter I)

The need for freedom and the instinct to migrate are two concepts associated with birds. Jane reads this book because birds are symbolic of her desire for freedom from her current, stifling situation.

"Gateshead Hall..."   (Chapter II)

Brontë begins Jane’s story at Gateshead. Note the significance and slight wordplay here, as a gate suggests an entrance and this is the head of Jane’s journey. The names of other places Jane visits will have similar symbolism and foreshadow the experiences she’ll have at each one.

"Marsh End..."   (Chapter XXIX)

Brontë continues to give significance to place names. A marsh is soft, waterlogged land that can be difficult to traverse. “Marsh End” suggests Jane will find herself on firmer footing here, just as the ground at the end of a marsh would be more solid; it marks the symbolic end of Jane’s journey.

"The fire broke out at dead of night..."   (Chapter XXXVI)

Brontë has used fire as a symbol for passion throughout the novel. She most often associates Rochester and Bertha Mason with fire to comment on their darker personalities, backgrounds, and their tendencies to make decisions based on emotion rather than reason. This huge fire near the end of the novel is a culmination of the passion and the tension that’s been building between Jane, Rochester, and Bertha.