There are two types of isolation, mental isolation and physical isolation. Physical isolation is when someone is separated from a group of people, while mental isolation is when someone feels alone even if they have people around them. Physical isolation can lead to mental isolation (Isolation). The theme of physical and mental isolation is shown throughout “Jane Eyre”. This pattern of isolation had a negative effect on Jane Eyre that started at a young age and continued along with her until she experienced community and love in her marriage at Ferndean.
Jane loses her parents at a young age, she was first brought to the Reed’s house by her uncle. But when her uncle passed away, her aunt promised to take Jane as one of her own children. Aunt Reed breaks this promise shortly after the death and makes Jane feel more comparable to a burden than to a child. The novel starts with the Reed family gathered in the drawing-room sitting beside a fire but, “[Aunt Reed] had dispersed [Jane] from the rest of the group”, because “she really must exclude [Jane] from privileges, intended only for contented, happy, little children” (Bronte 63).
This is showing that Jane is being physically isolated from the rest of the people in the household. While the other children are spending time with their mother Jane is sent somewhere else. Jane is now under the impression that she is not like the other children, and that she is not good enough to sit with them. This is an example of mental isolation that would have made Jane feel less of a person than her cousins. Shortly after this Jane finds herself in the breakfast room engulfed in a book she says, “I was shrined in double retirement” (Bronte 64). Jane uses reading novels as an outlet to prevent her loneliness.
While she is reading in the breakfast room, she is sitting in the window seat, between the glass and curtain. This image of her sitting here could be compared to her experience living at the Reed house. She looks out the window into the harsh cold day, but she never experiences it: in her life she is constantly watching her cousins, but she never has the opportunity to experience life with them because she is being put on a lower social level. In the next chapter, Jane experiences physical isolation when she gets locked inside the red-room. This leaves Jane feeling alone and terrified.
While in the room Jane says, “I was a discord in Gateshead-hall: I was as though nobody there: 1 had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children. ” At this point Jane is admitting that she feels as though she cannot relate to the Reed family. This would have a negative effect on her self-esteem because she feels as though she is a “nobody” (Bronte 73). Therefore this is an example of mental isolation because Jane does not feel that she belongs. Jane’s isolation continues after she leave Gateshead and starts attending Lowood School.
Jane accidentally drops her slate while Mr. Brocklehurst is visiting and he reacts by putting her on a stool and giving a speech to the other students about her. While she is standing on the stool she looks out at her peers, she explains “I felt their eyes directed like burning-glasses against my scorched skin” (Bronte 129). She is being isolated from her peers and then embarrassed in front of them. Mr. Brocklehurst uses words such as “castaway”. “interloper” a “alien” (Bronte 129) to describe Jane to her peers. These are all ways that Mr. Brocklehurst is telling the other students that Jane is not like the other students.
This creates a social isolation between Jane and the other children because they now have this view of her that she is different from them and does not belong. Mr. Brocklehurst then instructs, “… let no one speak to her during the remainder of the day” (Bronte 131). Mr. Brocklehurst isolates her physically and socially here, he makes her stand away from the rest of the group and then he tells the group to ignore her. This isolation negatively impacts Jane “and because it prevents her from creating relationships with the other students at Lowood.
While Jane is in her later years at Lowood she takes a moment to look out the window and reflect on her longing for liberty by describing Lowood as, “remote” and surrounded by a “boundary of rocks”. She says that she desires to leave the “prison-ground” and she says “how I longed to follow [the road] further. ” She continues by saying “I desired liberty; for liberty | gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer” (Bronte 151). She has been physically isolate from the rest of the world since she started attending Lowood. She feels confined and trapped and she needs to leave Lowood because she cannot handle living there anymore.
The isolation continues for Jane while she lives in Thornfield. The only people she talks with are Adele and Mrs. Fairfax, neither of whom she relates well too. She does not have much opportunity to leave Thornfield, therefore she is physically isolated from the outside world as well. Jane describes Thornfield’s surroundings by saying the hills were “like barriers from the living world” (Bronte 166). Both of these leave her feelings lonely. She finds comfort in getting to know Rochester, but when she learns about Bertha she is on her own again as she runs away.
It is not until Jane is happily married to Rochester at Ferndean that she has a sense of community. Jane expresses her desire to be with Rochester when she says, “T’ll not leave you on my own accord” (Bronte 546). This is the first time in the novel that Jane expresses content with who she is with where she is living. Jane describes her marriage by saying, “I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than am” (Bronte 554). It is evident that Jane feels a close connection with Rochester, and this is one of the first times in her life that she does not feel isolated from everyone she is with.
The theme of physical and mental isolation is shown all throughout Jane Eyre. This pattern of isolation had a negative effect on Jane that started at a young age and continued along with her until she experienced community and love in her marriage at Ferndean. Jane experiences isolation from her cousins at the Reed House when she is younger. This isolation then follows her as she attends Lowood School and when she becomes a governess at Thornfield. Her isolation left her with selfconfidence issues and no friends. She does not feel a personal connection to anyone until she is happily married at Ferndean.