TC 302 Emerging Selves
Analysis of Jane’s Dreams and How They Reflect Her Growth
Dreams, as the subconscious mind’s form of expression, can hold a lot of meaning; they can reveal the inner feelings, subconscious doubts, and secret ideas of a person or character. The analysis of Jane’s dreams in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) is a prime example of such a character. Leading up to the dramatic reveal of Bertha Rochester, Jane’s recurring dreams of the infant, wailing child, and moon reflect her fears and worries, her growth in character as she confronts those doubts and insecurities, and a foreshadowing of the future, until she must go through her biggest trial.
At the start of Chapter 21, Jane has realized her feelings for Rochester, and is troubled by week of recurring dreams about an infant. In all her dreams, the infant – although it has a varying spectrum of actions and emotions ranging from crying to laughing – bothers Jane because it is always present. Due to a childhood encounter, Jane believes that “to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one’s self or one’s kin” (21 254). Interestingly enough, however, because she is always worried about dreaming of the baby, and goes to bed thinking about not thinking about the infant, it is implanted into her subconscious, and thus appears in her dreams night after night as she gets increasingly worried. A week later, Jane finds out about the death of her cousin John Reed and Mrs. Reed’s failing health and returns to Gateshead. The repeated occurrence of this dream foreshadows the tragic plight and death of her relatives. It also provides Jane with a change to return and receive closure for that point in her life. There, she is able to come to terms to her abusive treatment, and tells Mrs. Reed, “Love me, then, or hate me, as you will…you have my full and free forgiveness: ask now of God’s, and be at peace” (21 276). By showing her ability to forgive and forget, and subsequently move on, Jane shows that she is now more mature than she was before, and especially more mature than Mrs. Reed ever was or will be. The infant in her dream can be interpreted to represent the burden of lacking a proper childhood and a loving family, something that Jane greatly yearns for, and when she is able to come to terms with her childhood and forgive Mrs. Reed, that burden is lifted, and Jane reveals herself to be a more mature individual. Another interpretation is that the infant in this dream represents Jane’s fears. She has just realized her love and affection for Mr. Rochester – however, this may actually stimulate some fears for her. Jane has always valued her independence and mobility, which she has shown multiple times, saying, “I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer” (5 102). The prospective of being with Rochester also fosters fear of the future for Jane, as she is scared of being dependent on Rochester in both salary and spirit, and rejects the idea that she has to submit to him. This mindset is clearly exemplified by how she rejects him dressing her up like a doll for their wedding, as she vents, “the more he bought me, the more my cheeks burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation” (24 309). There is also some foreshadowing that Brontë uses to hint at the impending reveal of Bertha. On the suspenseful night where she is woken by Bertha, and has to tend to the injured Mason, she is woken from her dream with the infant. Following the night where the event happened, Rochester tries, for the first time, to speak to Jane about his tragic past while they walk during the dawn. Rochester speaks to her about his hate for himself and his determination to redeem himself, but through his accounts on how he treated his previous mistresses and our knowledge of Bertha, it is chilling to imagine that Rochester is not all he seems. His references to his mistakes and wasted youth in Jamaica suggests