Imagery & Foreshadowing in Jane Eyre

Instructor: Clayton Tarr

Clayton has taught college English and has a PhD in literature.

!!!In this lesson, we will examine imagery and foreshadowing in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. We will specifically be looking at how the image of the red room foreshadows what is to come in the novel.

Imagery and Foreshadowing Defined

In literature, imagery occurs when the author uses descriptive language to make appeals to the reader's senses. When we read about something that is vividly described, we see it in our imagination, and paint a mental picture of what it looks, sounds, or feels like. Authors use foreshadowing to provide hints of what is to come in the story. Sometimes these elements of foreshadowing can be intentional so that readers can rethink what they've read or become hooked for what will come. At other times, foreshadowing can be unintentional and just a product of a fully formed character or narrative that repeats similar images or themes. In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre the image of the 'red room' foreshadows what is to come in the novel.

Jane at Gateshead Hall

As a young girl, Jane is put under the care of her relatives, the Reeds. She is miserable and is abused specifically by her spoiled cousin, John. One day, Jane and John get into a physical altercation. As punishment, Jane is locked away in a 'red room.' The interesting thing is that this event is foreshadowed earlier in the novel. To secret herself away from her family, Jane earlier hides behind a curtain: 'I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement.' We might then consider what the color red has to do with Jane's isolation in the novel.

The Red Room

The red room is--not surprisingly--red, nearly top to bottom. Jane notes 'curtains of deep red damask,', pointing out that 'the carpet was red,' 'the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth,' and 'the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush of pink in it.' Here Bronte uses imagery to paint a picture of the environment Jane is locked in. The vivid description of the scene transports readers into Jane's predicament. We learn that Mr. Reed died in the room and that it is rarely, if ever, visited. On one hand, this room is a space of death, while on another, it is new life. Red is the color of passion and rage, but it also resembles fire and rebirth. Thus, the red room foreshadows scenes that happen later in the novel.

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