Symbolism in Jane Eyre and Rebecca

Topics: Goals In Life

The following sample essay on Compare Jane Eyre and Rebecca Focusing in Particular on Each Writer’s Use Of Symbolism. This essay is about two, romantic-suspense novels that I have been studying recently. The narrative, theme and characters of these novels are very similar but they were both written at different times. One of the novels “Jane Eyre,” is basically about a young girl Jane, who falls in love and marries her employer Edward Rochester who is older than her. In the other novel “Rebecca,” the narrator, whose name we do not know, also falls in love with an older man, Maxim De Winter who is a widower.

As the story of both the novels develops, we find out that the husbands conceal a horrific secret from their wives.

Also, the two main female characters in the novels come from similar backgrounds. They have both been brought up in hardships and have always had a lack of money. Whereas, the men they have married are very wealthy, this makes the women feel a bit out of place and minor to their husbands.

Basically the theme of the novels is that a young woman falls in love with a man, who is much older to her and then discovers that the man she loves keeps some sinister secrets from her. The book “Jane Eyre” is about an orphan girl Jane who is deprived by her aunt and cousins.

At the age of eleven she decides to go to a young orphan’s institution.

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She spends her time there for eight years and later becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, to an eight year old French girl, Adele. She falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester and is ecstatic when she finds out that he also loves her. Despite the age difference between them, they decide to get married. On their wedding day Jane discovers that her husband-to-be, Mr Rochester has a mentally disturbed wife who is locked up in the attic at Thornfield.

After making this alarming discovery, she runs away and starts to live life with a family in a woodland cottage. Coincidently, she later discovers that the family she is living with are her long lost cousins. She inherits a fortune off her uncle, and decides to marry one of her cousins, in an attempt to forget her first love Mr Rochester. She is unable to do this, so she returns to Thornfield. When she arrives there she discovers that Thornfield was set alight by Edward Rochester’s wife and that she also died during the incident.

She also learns that Mr Rochester was injured in the fire, and is suffering from blindness and the loss of an arm. Despite his physical disabilities, Jane marries him and gives birth to two of his children. In “Rebecca” the narrator is the main character. She is also an orphan who is disadvantaged. One day she is introduced to a man named Maxim De Winter, after having a few secret meetings with him she falls in love. She doesn’t know that Maxim feels the same way until he proposes to her, willingly she agrees. The newly wedded couple return to Maxim’s home Manderley.

Maxim’s first wife Rebecca was adored by everyone. One of the house keepers, Mrs Danvers loathes the new Mrs De Winter and always emphasizes Rebecca’s presence in the house. During her stay in Manderley she is constantly criticized, by Mrs Danvers. She is made to compete with the old Mrs De Winter. After suffering a lot of torment from Mrs Danvers she is finally faced with the horrific secret that her husband has kept from her. She finds out that Maxim De Winter murdered his provocative ex wife, as he didn’t really love her and she was unfaithful to him.

He shot her but he pretended that she had drowned. She is faced with the same options as Jane Eyre whether she should stay with her husband or leave him. She decides to stay with him but they don’t return to Manderley as it was burnt down, another similarity between the two novels. The authors of both books use symbolism to a great effect. Like most books the symbolism is perceived only after the story has been read completely. The novels have very similar views to the houses they talk about. They both speak negatively of the houses. In “Jane Eyre” I focused analysed how Thornfield Hall was portrayed.

The name Thornfield Hall, to start of with, is very symbolic, as the house was where all the lies and dark secrets were kept, therefore a field with many thorns in it. The author of Jane Eyre often uses a contrast between light and dark. An example of this is when Jane is walking through a corridor in Thornfield “She took her candle, the staircase window was too high and latticed… ” When people ‘see the light’ it usually means that they realise something that they should have known. In this case Jane cannot ‘see the light’ as the source for light is out of reach.

This may be symbolic, of Jane not yet knowing about the dark secret about the existence of Bertha Mason inside the house. The dark landing is compared to that of a church rather than a house, where Jane feels uncomfortable, “a vault like air pervaded the stairs… “. The vault is symbolic of a coffin that encases the emotions and feelings of Jane. The church is also where Jane finds out about Edwards secret. The feeling within the house is very creepy, “… the eerie impression… wide hall and spacious staircase… the long cold gallery”. These descriptions seem like a perfect setting for a ghostly appearance within the house.

The doors inside the house are always closed, this is symbolic to the danger and the secrets that are being kept and disclosed from Jane. This gives us an idea of the theme of the novel as later on we discover that behind those close doors many dark secrets have been kept. Jane describes the steps in Thornfield to be “quite slippery,” this is also quite symbolic as Jane’s life on the whole is slippery and insecure. She also mentions a clock that is “curiously carved,” this is particularly symbolizing the plot of the story which is constructed in a twisted and complex way.

The continuous reference to the house resembling a church gives a hint that there could be a wedding later on in the story. Charlotte Bronte uses the setting to reflect the lives of the characters. An example of this is when she emphasizes the opening of doors. This symbolizes the starting of Jane’s new life and the secret revelations that Jane will face later on. Charlotte Bronte uses the settings of the house to describe the plot, theme, and characters of the novel. The author of “Rebecca”, Daphne Du Maurier also uses very similar techniques to Charlotte Bronte.

In “Rebecca” I focused on the journey of Mr and Mrs De Winter, when entering Manderley for the first time, as a wedded couple. Mrs De Winter, like Jane also speaks negatively of Manderley and its surroundings. She describes the path entering Manderley to be ‘ twisted and turned as a serpent’, this is symbolic to the life that she leads later on as it is all over the place and quite unstable. Another symbolic meaning of it could be that it is referring to how Maxim viewed Rebecca to be, like a serpent; evil and resented.

The phrase ‘serpent’ is often used when talking of evil and deceit, and serpents are creatures that cannot be trusted on their appearance. This is exactly what Rebecca was like, her outer appearance made her look very innocent but in reality she was an unfaithful wife who deceived her husband. She describes the branches above them to be ‘intermingled’ like a roof of a church; this could be symbolic to Rebecca and Maxim’s marriage as they wedded inside a church whereas the new Mrs De Winter wedded Maxim inside a registry office. She recounts the leaves to be ‘thickly entwined with very less sunlight coming through’.

This can be interpreted in two different ways. One interpretation could be that the love between the newly wedded couple is so strong that nothing can get between them; however another interpretation could be that the new Mrs De Winter felt her life was so thickly closed up that there was very little chance of any happiness coming through, as light is usually always associated with happiness. She describes the air surrounding Manderley to contain ‘no wind’ again creating the image of a coffin like in “Jane Eyre” where she feels encased and suffocated.

She recalls the “lodge gates were a memory” these were the gates that led them in to Manderley. This could be symbolizing that Mrs De Winter’s previous life was now a distant memory, now that she is entering a new wedded life. She observes the wildlife around Manderley and says “… other trees, trees I could not name, coming close, so close I could touch them” this could imply that Mrs De Winter knew there was something going on which was secretive but she couldn’t quite get her finger on it.

Mrs De Winter goes on to describe the rhododendrons “blood red… shocked me with their crimson faces, massed one upon the other in incredible profusion… nothing but the slaughterous red.. .” The red is like blood, this could symbolize that Rebecca was murdered in cold blood. The flowers are so vibrant and bright that you can’t miss them; this is exactly what Rebecca was when she was alive. Later in the story the rhododendrons are mentioned again, “There they were blood red and luscious, massed beneath the open window… Even though Rebecca is no longer alive, there are still signs of Rebecca’s existence within the house.

“There was a drawing too… and in the centre of this, the tiny statue of a naked fawn, his pipes to his lips… where he would dance and play his part… ” The little fawn is the new Mrs De Winter, she feels inferior to Rebecca and that she has to try and compete against Rebecca as she feels they are being compared. She has to pretend to be someone that she isn’t and “play a part” in the Manderley household. “The rhododendrons are always there as an audience…. nd I noticed then that the rhododendrons, not content with forming their theatre on the lawn outside… had been permitted to the room itself. ” She is standing in the room which used to belong to Rebecca when she observes the rhododendrons in there, “their great warm faces looked upon me from the mantelpiece, they floated in a bowl upon the table”. The rhododendrons represent Rebecca, who is looking down on Mrs De Winter. This is like a flashback of Rebecca’s death, as when she died she was left floating in water.

In “Jane Eyre” I looked at a passage where Jane walks across to the local town to post a letter, “… the ground was hard, the air was still, my road was bendy; I walked fast until I got warm and then walked slowly to enjoy and analyse the species of pleasure. ” This quote sums up Jane’s relationship with Mr Rochester. First she is unknowing of his feelings for her and she feels alone but then she rushes through with everything when he claims he loves her as she doesn’t want it to end.

Then in the end she takes things slowly as she knows he loves her. “If a breath of air stirred, it made no sound here… ” Even though Bertha Mason was in the house, Jane was unaware of her living inside the house. “Far and wide, on each side there were only fields,” she and Edward were now able to lead a life with no more problems everything was in the open; wide and clear. The characters in both stories are very similar. Mr Rochester and Mr De Winter have great similarities.

They are both previously married before they fall in love with younger women and they both have deadly secrets that they keep from their wives. They both have a similar financial status as they are quite rich and well off. The characters Jane and Mrs De Winter also have many similarities. Firstly, both of them came from similar backgrounds where they were not respected and made to feel inferior. They then fall in love with men that are much older than them and they also face similar situations, as both of their husbands confront them about a sinister secret.

When they discover their husband’s secrets they both decide to stick by their husbands as they love them too much. Both authors use similar techniques in their writing. Not only does the plot of their stories resemble each other, their characters and themes of the story are quite the same. The symbolism techniques that they use have a great resemblance; the two writers’ literacy skills are very alike. The two novels are very interesting but out of the two I found “Rebecca” to be most exciting.

This is because it was a well written, romantic thriller with lots of unexpected twists and turns, whereas the plot of “Jane Eyre” was quite predictable. The use of symbolism is very effective in both novels, in “Rebecca” there is a great concentration on nature, but the flowers that are mentioned are spoken about from a negative perspective. Other authors tend to use flowers in a more positive way to portray beauty but Daphne Du Maurier does the total opposite, this is one of the things that I enjoyed when reading her novel as it was quite different compared to other novels.

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Symbolism in Jane Eyre and Rebecca. (2017, Oct 16). Retrieved from

Symbolism in Jane Eyre and Rebecca
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