November is a dark and ominous month in Jane Eyre’s life.
Firstly, she is locked in the red room, as a child, at Gateshead. Secondly, she is lonely at Thornfield Hall, before Rochester’s arrival. Finally she is leading a solitary life in Morton, while her cousin, whom she doesn’t love, proposes to her.
The first lines of Jane Eyre presents the reader with a gloomy November day:
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day…. the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.
The young girl, under ten years old, was confined to the house she detested. She had been taken in by a family who relegated her to the position of a homeless poor relative they despised. In the breakfast room, where she was expelled, away from the rest of the family, who were comfortably seated in the drawing-room, Jane observed:
‘…to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves of my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.’
Later that day, she was confined to the ghostly Red Room, after refusing to be bullied and beaten by her cousin John Reed.
Jane arrived at sombre Thornfield Hall in October, but chilly November arrived fast, and Mrs, Fairfax informed Jane of what to expect from then on:
I’m sure last winter (it was a very severe one, if you recollect, and when it did not snow, it rained and blew), not a creature but the butcher and postman came to the house, from November till February; and I really got quite melancholy with sitting night after night alone.
Thornfield Hall was a vault-like, dreary place between November and February. On this occasion, Mr. Rochester returned in January, when he met Jane on the icy causeway, on her way to Hay.
Shortly after moving to Morton, and recovering her health, in November, Jane set up a school, where she lived. She found both a job and lodgings. She describes the rudimentary building:
I had closed my shutter, laid a mat to the door to prevent the snow from blowing in under it, trimmed my fire, and after sitting nearly an hour on the hearth listening to the muffled fury of the tempest, I lit a candle, out of the frozen hurricane—the howling darkness.
Shortly after, still in November, she learnt of her uncle’s death and the fortune she had inherited. Months later, she returned to Thornfield Hall in search of Rochester.
November in Jane Eyre
November is the month of transition between the warmer and colder part of the year. It heralds a time of introversion and hard work in order to lay the foundations for the spring.
During those chilly autumn days at Thornfield, Jane more than teaches, she transforms Adele into a more docile pupil, and ears the respect of the rest of the staff who thought she was too frail for the job. By the time Rochester arrives she’s literally become the ruler of the roost. She sleeps upstairs with Mrs. Fairfax, very near the master’s room, she has got to know the house and the area, she has gained the respect of everyone, and she loves it at Thornfield. There is no-one to boss her around, until he arrives.
In Morton, she occupied her time drawing and reading, teaching, and gaining the respect of the locals as she worked as their teacher at the newly founded school, until she learnt of her new and improved situation.
The positive events in Jane Eyre occur in spring and summer, while winter is a time for introspection, loneliness, and hardship. Fortunately, spring and summer bring renewed hope and love to her life, as we have seen in other posts on this blog.
Emily Dickinson, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, also had a sad, cold, and difficult view of November.
Charlotte Bronte would have loved this poem, which she probably never read.
How happy I was if I could forget
To remember how sad I am
Would be an easy adversity
But the recollecting of Bloom
Keeps making November difficult
Till I who was almost bold
Lose my way like a little Child
And perish of the cold.