244 kathleen anderson and heather r lawrence about to

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244 KATHLEEN ANDERSON and HEATHER R. LAWRENCE about to meet Rochester, who will bring both joy and pain through his aggressive passion, and it will take time before the revelation of his secret causes plain ‘brown bird’ Jane to ‘drop’ ( JE , p. 106) to her lowest point, a wintry near-death. When Jane meets him for the first time, ‘the frown, the roughness of the traveller set me at my ease’ ( JE , p. 108). Jane feels attracted to Rochester’s gruffness because his manner is reminiscent of her relatives’ and teachers’ callous behaviour towards her as a girl, evoking both the submissive and the assertive side of her nature. However, the selfishness underlying Rochester’s blunt familiarity causes Jane mis- ery in the long run, as visual omens continue to portend. She shows him her portfolio of artwork, in which one painting features ‘a cormorant, dark and large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet set with gems […] Sinking below the bird and mast, a drowned corpse glanced through the green water; a fair arm was the only limb clearly visible, whence the bracelet had been washed or torn’ ( JE , p. 118). According to the Oxford English Dictionary , a cormorant is ‘[a] large and voracious sea-bird […] of a lustrous black colour’ or ‘[a]n insatiably greedy or rapacious per- son’. 14 Black-haired Rochester greedily attempts to make Jane his mistress and almost ‘sinks’ their relationship. He tries to shower her with jewels similar to the bracelet that has been taken off of a corpse in her painting, jewels usurped from the living wife he drowned out of his consciousness. Susan Taylor argues that this painting portrays the tension between ‘Jane’s passionate, cormorous nature (the cormorant)’ and ‘her “fair” side (the corpse). The jewelled bracelet the cormorant holds would then represent Rochester’s “buying” her sexual favors with his offers of money and jewelry — the exchange rate for satisfying her passion’. 15 Jane could also be read as the cormorant that tenaciously clenches the preserved jewel of her whole, intact self- hood as represented by the circular bracelet (like an enlarged wedding band). She has plucked her self back from the corpse of Rochester’s would-be mistress. The frequency of bird references increases as the passion between Jane and Rochester grows. Rochester finds Jane’s mix of quietude and fervour fascinating, and respects her candid wit, but views her self-expression as unnaturally constrained, telling her that he ‘see[s], at intervals, the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close-set bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were it but free, it would soar cloud-high’ ( JE , p. 131). Ironically, Jane flies from Rochester’s presence as soon as possible, because she is attracted to his virile power and realizes the threat he poses to her as a man who discerns and seeks to release the repressed passion in her.

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