Isolation is when one is secluded form the rest of their community. Charlotte Bronte shows us two types of isolation. There is Physical isolation where certain characters are part of their communities but they are considered to be non-existent. The second type of isolation is mental. Bronte shows us the mental turmoil that some characters suffer.
Isolation is experienced early in the book. We see the young Jane, refraining form the activities the Reed children take part in. She prefers to sit alone, hiding in the small breakfast-room, whilst the Reeds a playing joyfully and enjoying their childhood. in preference of playing she reads books which have complex language. This act of reading emphasises her yearning for company.
Jane also experiences isolation when she compares herself to her cousin sisters. At a young age she notices their differences, hence, she considers herself plain and inferior to them. This realisation is enforced when Miss Abbot says:
‘You ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses Reed and Master Reed’
From this statement, we as readers acknowledge Jane’s position in the house.
Jane is a character who wants to stand up for herself and refuses to accept inferiority to the Reed children especially John Reed. We as readers realise she will not succumb to his abuse, when she defends herself against him. At an early age, she shows her strong character. This meagre act of defence infuriates Mrs Reed, thus resulting in Jane spending an evening in the presumably haunted red-room. She is locked in as if she is a rabid animal that needs extreme methods of restraining. This punishment, which Mrs Reed inflicts onto Jane, causes hatred between the two. The novel goes on and Jane matures but the memories of the red-room continue to haunt her.
After the incident in the red-room Mrs Reed is anxious to send Jane to school. I think her negative and hostile attitude is caused by her belief that Jane replaced the place of her children in the late Mr Reed’s heart. She claims he showed the infant Jane more affection compared to their children. This belief clearly shows she is jealous of Jane. As a result Jane starts to attend Lowood Institution, a school for orphans only. Jane spends 8 years there, six a pupil and two as a teacher. She spends this time as part of a monotonous routine that is only prone to change if she leaves the school. During this period she never returns to Gateshead, hence remaining ignorant of the outside world which is not centred around Lowood. She also continues to think she has no relatives because Mrs Reed refuses to notify her of her uncle’s whereabouts.
Whilst at Lowood, Jane is a victim of Mr Brocklehurst’s punishment. He is under the guise that Jane is a wicked child. He tarnishes Jane’s image by informing the entire school she is bad. As a punishment, she is instructed to stand in the centre of the schoolroom on top of a chair. This results in Jane attracting everyone’s attention. Jane’s acceptance to this punishment is very ironic because previously Helen Burns received the same punishment and Jane’s reaction was,
‘I would be unable to stand in the middle of the room’
It is also hypocritical because she is doing something she claimed she would be unable to do. Since she non-defiantly accepts her punishment, it connotes that she is fearful of Mr Brocklehurst and she is accepting isolation from the rest of the school, hence showing a change in character.
Charlotte Bronte also uses contrast to emphasise isolation. An example is Jane’s first day at Lowood. The girls are having a break from schoolwork and it is a summers’ day. The imagery that is created by Bronte is that of a jovial mood because everyone is pleased that it is a warm day. She writes,
‘The stronger among the girls ran about and engaged in active games’
But whilst the other girls are enjoying themselves, Jane continues to hear a persistent cough. She mingles in amongst the girls and realises that it is Helen Burns. This girl is sitting alone and she is very absorbed in a book she is reading. There is contrast between the jovial mood and the lonely girl. Later on, we learn that she does not feel part of the school because she does not fit in. She decides to exclude herself from the activities they take part in by concentrating on reading. Its as if she finds solace and refuge from reading.
Jane is a governess at Thornfield Hall. Her main job is to teach Adele. While she is working, there she experiences isolation. The following statement shows this.
‘A private governess has no existence, is not considered a living and rational being except as connected with the wearisome duties she has to fulfil,
Jane has indulged into a life of isolation. From this statement, it shows that she acknowledges that she cannot converse with the servants because they are not as learned as she is. At one time, she says the following statement concerning Mrs Fairfax.
‘Mrs Fairfax turned out to be what she appeared, a placid-tempered, kind-natured, of competent education and average intelligence’
She considers her to be at a lower level of intelligence; hence, she finds difficulty conducting intellectual discussions with her. At times Jane has the opportunity to speak to Mr Rochester, but he is usually away from Thornfield hall. At one period, Rochester leaves Thornfield abruptly. Since Jane has become accustomed to his presence, she seeks to know his whereabouts. However, she can only rely on information from Mrs Fairfax.
Charlotte Bronte shows us the development of Jane. In the first chapter, we see Jane experiencing isolation in the Reed household. This isolation continues to develop throughout the novel. Since the book is written in the first person singular, we only know about the isolation of one character. Imagery is created using descriptive language. This technique emphasises isolation as one of the major topics in the novel.