In “A tabernacle of repentance in the midst of a red sea,” Alexandra Keegan suggests that the red room early in Jane Eyre is connected to hell. Later, Bertha sets Mr. Rochester’s bed on fire, creating a scene reminiscent of the first, particularly when we remember that both have associations with ghosts. Where the bed in the first room has “curtains of deep red damask,” Mr. Rochester’s actually burn. Color focuses on the bed in the first room; the walls are merely “a soft fawn color with a blush of pink,” odd for a place called the red room. But this works to parallel the later scene, which fixates solely on the burning bed.
Something creaked: it was a door ajar; and that door was Mr. Rochester's, and the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence. I thought no more of Mrs. Fairfax; I thought no more of Grace Poole, or the laugh: in an instant, I was within the chamber. Tongues of flame darted round the bed: the curtains were on fire. In the midst of blaze and vapour, Mr. Rochester lay stretched motionless, in deep sleep.
"Wake! wake!" I cried. I shook him, but he only murmured and turned: the smoke had stupefied him. Not a moment could be lost: the very sheets were kindling, I rushed to his basin and ewer; fortunately, one was wide and the other deep, and both were filled with water. I heaved them up, deluged the bed and its occupant, flew back to my own room, brought my own water-jug, baptized the couch afresh, and, by God's aid, succeeded in extinguishing the flames which were devouring it.
Bertha’s “demoniac laugh” mentioned shortly beforehand lends even more credence to Mr. Rochester’s room as a type of hell. Mr. Rochester is the one “stupefied” in the midst of the flames. If we accept the hypotheses about the red room representing hell and foreshadowing Mr. Rochester’s room, then Jane’s actions in throwing water over Mr. Rochester have extra weight. Bront goes so far as to use the loaded word “baptized” for Jane’s actions, in close connection with the phrase “by God’s aid.” Jane saves Mr. Rochester from both physical fire and spiritual damnation in this scene.
1. How do the two rooms compare to each other? Is the connection valid?
2. Does this baptism reinforce Jane’s appearances as a Christ-like figure, or set her in a new role, perhaps as John the Baptist?
3. Here, Jane physically rescues Mr. Rochester from danger caused by his wife. Can we extend this to mean that Bertha led him into religious peril as well? Looking at what we know of their history from the text, why or why not?
4. In the red room, Jane feels like one of the trapped sinners. In this scene, she acts as a savior swooping in temporarily. What happens in the intervening time to make such a change plausible?
Last modified 10 March 2011