Explain the importance of paranormal experiences in the novel “Jane Eyre”. What do the characters learn from dreams and visions and how do these experiences modify your understanding of the characters. Dreams and visions in Jane Eyre play a significant part in Jane’s life. Jane although being a very realistic and logical person believes in these superstitious signs and is aware of their importance but does not show her understanding openly. She keeps her visions to herself and only expresses them through her paintings. Jane has visions and day dreams since she was a child. The ‘Red Room’ is the place where Jane starts having visions, she has one of a strange figure when she had been locked in the red room by her Aunt Reed; “…the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom…” this ‘figure’ reflects Jane as even her face was pale and gloomy. This tells me that because Jane had too many unexpressed emotions she let them out unknowingly in the form of this vision. This also reflects to Jane as she refers to it being like “half fairy, half imp” and Mr. Rochester later also calls her that.
This shows that Jane is influenced by fairy tales and proves that even though Jane portrays herself as having a tough exterior, she too has a soft, feminine side to herself. While in the Red Room, she also sees a vision of her dead Uncle Reed, “…at this moment a light gleamed on the wall”, Jane sees this light as a “vision from another world” thinking that it is her uncle. This tells me that Jane greatly misses her uncle and she also knows that he would have treated her better if he were alive. Jane’s description here foreshadows her almost psychic experiences later in the novel. It is also reflected in the fear of the unknown, the supernatural, which also refers to the gothic theme.
“…It was exactly one mask of Bessie’s Gytrash…” Jane, upon seeing a creature while returning to Thornfield believes it to be a creature that was mentioned by Bessie when she was young; “a great black dog.” Although this was a misconception, it points to the bizarre events that will occur after meeting Mr. Rochester. This is also Gothic as horror is an integral part of gothic stories. This shows the reader that even after Jane leaves Gateshed, she still remembers the Bessie and her old stories showing that once Jane knows someone, she is unlikely to forget him/her. It also shows her liking for Bessie as she takes her stories seriously and refers to them throughout the novel. When Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield, Rochester takes interest in three watercolor imaginative landscapes she painted while at Lowood School.
They reveal her great awareness for dreams. Jane describes the drawings as visions of her "spiritual eye" and notes, "The subjects had indeed risen vividly on my mind". All her paintings represent gothic imaginings and they foreshadow the coming destruction, showing that Jane unconsciously predicted the future in her paintings. This reveals some hidden talent that Jane might posses and this enhances Jane’s plain, dull character. Jane frequently hears loud laughs from the third floor while she is asleep and twice, Mr. Rochester and his servant Mrs. Fairfax unsuccessfully attempt to convince Jane that her sightings of Bertha Mason are dreams but Jane is adamant that they were not dreams. One night, shortly before Jane discovers Rochester's room is ablaze, she hears a "demonic laugh" emanate from her keyhole.
This tells us that even when Jane is sleeping, her subconscious mind is always alert and it is her attentiveness and instinct that saves her from most situations. Jane has another sighting of Bertha a few days before her wedding where Bertha tears her veil while Jane is asleep; “it was a discoloured face-…” “…it removed my veil from its gaunt head, rent it in two parts…” the tearing of the veil is symbolic as it is the start of the destruction depicted in Jane’s paintings. Again Mr. Rochester tries to convince Jane that it was a figment of imagination as she was in a “state between sleeping and waking…” but again Jane doesn’t believe him. This tells us that Jane had the ability to differentiate between dreams and reality thus proving her to be intellectual person who cannot be swayed by fake dreams.
A dream in Jane Eyre can serve as a general symbol. Jane believes the superstition of her old governess Bessie, that "to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one's self or one's kin" and the next day Bessie finds out that her sister is dead. Jane too starts having dreams about children and these develop into series; ". . . during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an infant: which I sometimes hushed in my arms, sometimes dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with daisies on a lawn; or again, dabbling its hands in running water. It was a wailing child this night, and a laughing one the next: now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from me" following these dreams is trouble when Jane wakes up from one of her dreams to the murderous cry of Bertha Mason, Rochester's mad wife whom he keeps locked in the attic of Thornfield.
The day after that, Jane finds out that her cousin John has died and her Aunt Reed lies on her deathbed. After Jane and Rochester become engaged, Jane has another pair of child dreams. During the first, Jane experiences "a strange, regretful consciousness of some barrier" dividing Rochester and her. She dreams that she carries a sobbing child on an unknown road, and Rochester walks ahead of her. She tries to catch up to him, but her steps are slowed, and Rochester walks farther and farther away. In the second dream, Jane images the destruction of Thornfield. She wanders around the ruined estate, clutching the child because she "might not lay it down anywhere, however tired were my arms however much its weight impeded my progress".
These dreams may reflect a fear that Jane muffles from herself and others, namely that marrying Rochester will change her identity. Again this shows that even though Jane outwardly presents a strong exterior, she too is very insecure. These child dreams again as before bring distressing events as Jane and Mr. Rochester’s marriage is stopped by Richard Mason. Jane has another symbolic dream the night she decides to leave Rochester and Thornfield. In this dream, she has returned to the red room of Gateshead. As she looks up at the ceiling, it turns into clouds; “She broke forth as never moon yet burst from cloud: a hand first penetrated the sable folds and waved them away; then, not a moon, but a white human form shone in the azure, inclining a glorious brow earthward. It gazed and gazed on me. It spoke, to my spirit: immeasurably distant was the tone, yet so near, it whispered in my heart — "My daughter, flee temptation!" this reflects that Jane knows she is doing the right thing by not marrying Mr. Rochester also telling us that Jane religious beliefs were strong and that she could not be influenced to do wrong, no matter how hard it was to ignore it.
Jane has another vision where when she is with St John Rivers, she hears “Jane! Jane!” and she feels that Mr. Rochester is calling her. This is just after St. rivers asks her to go to India, and this vision guides her telling her that she should not go with him because Mr. Rochester need her and this leads to Jane finding him and finally getting married to him. This reinforces the fact that Jane has some psychic ability to know when to do the right thing and also to what the future will bring. Dreams in Jane Eyre thus serve different purposes. They forewarn Jane of trouble or good fortune, and reveal Jane's passionate inner self to the reader. They can serve as general symbols, interpretive representations, or direct reflections of Jane's emotions. However Charlotte Bronte makes sure that she doesn’t overdo the spiritual theme of the novel in order to keep it realistic and not make it a fairytale like story.