Flight

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Jane Eyre Paper

Flight

One of the themes in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is the idea of leaving the nest and flying away from past lives. The protagonist, Jane, continuously chooses to stray from the path she is on. This is demonstrated by the recurring flight metaphors in Jane's life. Even as a child, Jane is fascinated by birds and their ability to leave whenever they please. Throughout Jane's journey she makes choices, similar to those of birds and pilots, to fly away. Jane originally focused on freedom by leaving but her sacrifice for love shows her that she has the freedom to choose to stay or leave. Jane moves from home to home many times because she has the freedom and ability to go wherever she can. However, after Jane finds Edward Rochester, her ex-employer and ex-fiance, for the second time, she realizes that the love she has for him is more important than leaving and she is able to redefine what freedom means to her while it never loses importance in her life.
When Jane was a child, she lived with her aunt's family, the Reed's. The Reed's had no sympathy towards the young orphan and constantly attacked her both mentally and physically. One day her cousin, John, finds her reading "Benwick's History of British Birds" (pg. 8). Seeing the pictures of the birds makes her feel a freedom she had never known. She thinks to herself, "With Benwick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way. I feared nothing of interruption, and that came too soon." (pg. 9) Unfortunately, John did interrupt and attack her. Although the experience is horrible for Jane, it also causes her Aunt to send her to Lowood School after a doctor talked with Jane about her wanting to leave. "If I had anywhere else to go, I should be glad to leave it; but I can never get away from Gateshead till I am a woman." (pg. 23) Jane tells the doctor that she would like to leave but she doesn't realize she ever could. But as she slowly realizes she has that opportunity, she gladly takes it. Jane wants to leave the only life she knows, as miserable as it seems, without even knowing where she is to go. She ends up going to a boarding school which is 50 miles away and as she travels there, she finally is able to fly away.
Many years later, when Jane is 18, she leaves Lowood School to go to Thornfield Hall because the innkeeper responded to a job application she sent. After Jane meets Mr. Rochester, the owner of Thornfield, he looks at several portraits that she had drawn and painted while she was still at Lowood. In one of the portraits there was a sinking ship, on the mast of that ship a bird was sitting. "One gleam of light lifted into relief a half-submerged mast, on which sat a cormorant, dark and large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet set with gems," (pg. 118) The bird again symbolizes her freedom to fly away and once again Jane took the opportunity to leave Lowood to go her own way. This painting is only described after she has left Lowood School and started her new life at Thornfield. Jane took her opportunity to change her life and move away from her work, her school and her home. Jane moves because as she became an adult she wanted to become an independent woman with better job prospects and she wanted to leave her nest and safe haven for a new life.
Jane eventually leaves Thornfield and Rochester due to a secret that he had kept. However, hardships with her new life causes her to look for her estranged love. When she comes back, she discovers that a house fire has caused Rochester to become blind and lose one of his hands. Jane realizes that he would need to be cared for constantly and that if she were to stay with him, she would have to spend most of her time caring for him. Jane comes to terms with her sacrifice because of the deep love she has for him. Rochester's dog, Pilot, represents Jane's ability to flee from the responsibilities she would have to face if she decides to stay with Rochester. The dog's name, "Pilot," shows that Jane is capable of leaving just as she had so many times before. "His old dog, Pilot, lay on his side, removed out of the way, and coiled up as if afraid of being inadvertently trodden upon. Pilot pricked up his ears when I came in: then he jumped up with a yelp and a whine, and bounded towards me…" (Pg. 404) Jane chooses not to fly away from the promise of her new life, however difficult it seems to be. And in this way, she begins to discover that freedom is not only the ability to leave but also the ability to stay. Jane changes her concept of freedom to spend time with the love of her life. This proves that giving up her choice to leave and using her freedom to stay is a wholehearted decision for Jane, but she knows that her love for Rochester is more important than anything she could find elsewhere.
Throughout the story, Jane Eyre proves to be a free spirit by asserting her freedom and choosing whether to stay or leave in her various difficult situations. The theme of flying is used many times during the novel to signify how important freedom is for Jane. It illustrates how important Jane's decision to give up her life of leaving for an equally unrestrained life with Rochester is. Jane continues to be impacted by her freedom even after she finally settles down with her newly-wedded husband. She realizes that although she gave up so much for her love in the end, she never had to give up her freedom.