In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë creates a hell-reminiscent horror in her picture of the red room. Jane is detained in the red-room as punishment for her misbehavior. This room is one that is kept vacant for it is the nine-years late Mr. Reed’s site of death. The passage in which Brontë describes the red room, she plays with varying shades, imagery that contains Biblical allusion. The red-room is immediately established as a place of imagined danger, one in which God’s punishment is carried out. The red-room thus holds a Biblical significance perhaps as a locale for Godly vengeance, an impermanent type of hell.

“Besides,” said Miss Abbot, “God will punish her: He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go? Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn’t have her heart for anything. Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself; for if you don’t repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney, and fetch you away.” They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.

The red-room was a spare chamber, very seldom slpt in; I might say never, indeed unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all accommodation it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion. A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle in the centre; the two large windows with their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similair drapery; the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush of pink in it. [Brontë, pp. 8-9].

This passage provides both Biblical imagery and an insight into how God was used as a punishment to children of the period. The God here is described as quite stern, rather Old Testament reminiscent. This God is foreshadowing of the omniscient power Mr. Brocklehurst hypocritically provokes to terrorize and manipulate the girls of Lowood. In addition, this strict Old Testament God to which Miss Abbot refers, Jane’s depiction of the room holds several Old Testament references. The use of “tabernacle” and “pillars” very bluntly point to Biblical imagery. This depiction is specifically reminiscent of Moses’ venture into the “tabernacle” in Exodus, where “all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle-door: and all the people rose up and worshipped,” [Exodus, xxxiii, 9]. Contextually then the red-room should be drawing Jane into prayer and repentance. Instead, though, it terrifies her and is depicted as hell as opposed to a place of worship. The red seems to indicate a passion that reflects both Jane’s inward sentiment and the potential wrath of God that Miss Abbot threatens. The red-room is interesting because it is simultaneously depicted as a place of punishment, a local for reverence, for passion and repentance. The initial red-room allusion seems to create this view of the red-room as a type of hell. Is hell then a place also for a different kind of reverence and passion? Although the red-room is impermanent in a way that the Biblical Hell is not; therefore the red-room does not completely function as a type of Hell but rather just alludes to the idea of the fiery pit of punishment wrought in Hell. Brontë immediately in Jane’s childhood presents a complicated view of religion, one that is carried throughout the novel.

Qustions

1. Are the “tabernacle” and “pillars” references meant to reflect Exodus, or more non-specific Biblical imagery or perhaps not meant to inspire a Biblical allusion at all?

2. The red-room can also be viewed as a place of madness and insanity. Is it coincidental that the insanity in the room is mixed with its religious connotation as a place for repentance?

3. The hypocrite later seen in Brocklehurst is arguably foreshadowed here as Jane gets sent away for seemingly unnecessary punishment. Can Miss Abbot also be seen as hypocrite, using religion as a means of torment or does this hypocritical-ascription fail because Miss Abbot is of a servant class and not higher-class using religion to condemn lower classes?

4. The window blinds are later termed as being white amidst the vast sea of red in this room? What is the significance of the blinds being white specifically since they are serving to block the windows, which would in theory be the source of light or freedom in this overwhelming space?


Victorian Overview Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre

Last modified 14 July 2012