Christmas in Jane Eyre
I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you can spend some time with people you love.
Thank you for reading my posts, commenting, and liking. You are my greatest incentive.
Today, I’ve prepared a special post about Christmas celebrations and symbolism in Jane Eyre.
Some of Jane Eyre’s happiest and saddest moments occur at Christmas.
Firstly, at Gateshead, her Aunt Reed’s prosperous household, Christmas was celebrated with elaborate dinners, parties, and presents:
‘Christmas and the New Year had been celebrated at Gateshead with the usual festive cheer; presents had been interchanged, dinners and evening parties given.’
However, Jane Eyre, was treated as an unwanted and unloved intruder by her aunt and cousins. She tells us:
‘From every enjoyment I was, of course, excluded: my share of the gaiety consisted in witnessing the daily apparelling of Eliza and Georgiana, and seeing them descend to the drawing-room, dressed out in thin muslin frocks and scarlet sashes, with hair elaborately ringletted; and afterwards, in listening to the sound of the piano or the harp played below, to the passing to and fro of the butler and footman, to the jingling of glass and china as refreshments were handed, to the broken hum of conversation as the drawing-room door opened and closed. When tired of this occupation, I would retire from the stairhead to the solitary and silent nursery.’
Christmas at Gateshead simply exaggerated her isolation and loveless existence.
No mention is made of Christmas during her miserable years at Lowood School. We can imagine that there are no pleasant or noteworthy memories attached to this time of year for the young Jane Eyre.
We next read about Christmas while Jane is at Thornfield Hall. When Rochester received guests, Mrs. Fairfax informed Jane that Lord Ingram’s daughters, Blanche and Mary, had attended seven years previously.
‘She (Blanche Ingram) came here to a Christmas ball and party Mr. Rochester gave. You should have seen the dining-room that day—how richly it was decorated, how brilliantly lit up!’
Blanche’s merry Christmas contrasts with dreary Lowood where Jane was living at that time.
The next mention of Christmas is a metaphorical allusion by Jane after her marriage was interrupted and she discovered Rochester was already married. She retired to her room once more, her world had crumbled, and her expectant summer wedding turned into a desolate wintry night:
A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, today were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods…’
Frost, ice, and storm have taken over her hopes for happiness. She no longer has a future as the road ahead is pathless with untrodden snow. Jane is a destitute and lonely orphan once again.
Finally, it was just before the following Christmas when Jane discovered that the family who had taken her in and looked after her after she left Thornfield Hall, Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers were in fact her cousins, and that she had inherited 20,000 pounds from her uncle, John Eyre, who had died unmarried and childless in Madeira.
‘My uncle John was your uncle John? You, Diana, and
Mary are his sister’s children, as I am his brother’s child?’
‘You three, then, are my cousins; half our blood on
each side flows from the same source?’
‘We are cousins; yes.’
Consequently, Jane decided she would leave her humble abode at the Parish school and live at Moor House with her cousins Mary and Diana, with whom she planned to share her inheritance.
Jane also tells St. John that she will leave her full-time employment at the Parish school after Christmas, although she promised her pupils she would visit them once a week to teach them for an hour.
Meanwhile, she is determined to spend a merry and splendid Christmas, for the first time in her life. She plans to: ‘clean down Moor House from chamber to cellar…till it glitters again,..’ She also plans to make sure the house is warm, ‘… afterwards I shall go near to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires in every room;’ Finally she will make sure they have the best food to eat, ‘… and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your sisters are expected will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a beating of eggs, sorting of currants, grating of spices, compounding of Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies, and solemnising of other culinary rites…’
She also refurnished the house to its previous grandeur with ‘Dark handsome new carpets and curtains, an arrangement of some carefully selected antique ornaments in porcelain and bronze, new coverings, and mirrors, and dressing-cases, for the toilet tables, answered the end: they looked fresh without being glaring. A spare parlour and bedroom I refurnished entirely, with old mahogany and crimson upholstery.’
Jane’s first Merry Christmas was spent at glittering Moor House with her cousins, Mary and Diana. Jane tells us:
‘It was Christmas week: we took to no settled employment, but spent it in a sort of merry domestic dissipation. The air of the moors, the freedom of home, the dawn of prosperity, acted on Diana and Mary’s spirits like some life-giving elixir: they were gay from morning till noon, and from noon till night.’
Jane is still missing Rochester, and although it is ‘they’ who were ‘happy from morning till night’, she was also content because she had found a home, a family, and financial stability at last. Jane was warm and comfortable, had plenty of food, and enjoyed the company of her loving cousins. A sharp contrast to her hapless situation at the beginning of the novel.
This Christmas with her newfound family is undoubtedly Jane’s most peaceful and joyous moment in the novel.
Even if you are missing someone, as most of us are, I hope you all have a joyous and peaceful Christmas. The best is still to come.