Jane Eyre

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Food Symbol Icon
In Jane Eyre, food symbolizes generosity, nourishment, and bounty, and hunger symbolizes cruelty and a lack of nourishment. Brontë uses food and hunger to reveal how people treat each other—who is charitable, and who isn't. For instance, the lack of food at Lowood reveals the school's cruelty and religious hypocrisy. Ms. Temple, on the other hand, provides food and is compassionate and generous. Food has religious significance in the novel as well—physical hunger represents a deeper spiritual craving.

Food Quotes in Jane Eyre

The Jane Eyre quotes below all refer to the symbol of Food. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Jane Eyre published in 2006.
Chapter 8 Quotes
The refreshing meal, the brilliant fire, the presence and kindness of her beloved instructress, or, perhaps, more than all these, something in her own unique mind, had roused her powers within her … [Helen] suddenly acquired a beauty more singular than that of Miss Temple's—a beauty neither of fine color nor long eyelash, nor pencilled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Maria Temple, Helen Burns
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

Helen and Ms. Temple have reacted to Jane's story with grace and goodness, and after the shame of Mr. Brocklehurst's visit, Jane begins to recover. Even the tea and cakes given to her by Miss Temple are a sign of generosity until now largely absent in Jane's life. Now, she begins to feel that this particularly female bond is actually giving her the strength to carry on - a strength that has something mystical or spiritual about it, as Jane connects it to a sense of her budding "powers."

Although Jane has long been an admirer of Miss Temple's beauty, she now starts to realize as well that there can be an even more striking beauty that comes from inner, rather than external, attractiveness. Helen is the most devout person she's ever met, and her religion seems to give her a kind of physical as well as spiritual glow. As she further develops her friendship with both Helen and with Miss Temple, Jane learns certain lessons and chooses certain role models that were simply not available to her in the Reed family's home.

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Food Symbol Timeline in Jane Eyre

The timeline below shows where the symbol Food appears in Jane Eyre. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
...to her with a new "frank and fearless" attitude. Bessie treats her to stories and cakes and tells Jane she likes her better than the Reed kids. (full context)
Chapter 5
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...in formation. Students share beds in long dormitories, and must eat sparse and sometimes inedible meals. (full context)
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The school's superintendent, Ms. Maria Temple, intervenes to provide some better food. Ms. Temple also teaches several subjects. Jane respects her for her kindness and knowledge. (full context)
Chapter 6
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
On Jane's second day at the school, she wakes up shivering to a meager breakfast. She finds that her wash water is frozen in its pitcher. (full context)
Chapter 7
Religion Theme Icon
...weather. They are constantly cold and underfed. In sympathy, Jane gives most of her small meals to other starving girls. (full context)
Chapter 8
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
The Spiritual and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Ms. Temple brings the two girls to her office and treats them to tea and cake. Jane tells Ms. Temple that she is not a liar, and relates her life story,... (full context)
Chapter 28
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
...ask for work, which is scarce. She tries to exchange her gloves and handkerchief for food, but she is refused. Burning with shame but desperately hungry, Jane begs at a farm... (full context)
Chapter 29
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...On waking on the fourth day, she finds her clothes cleaned and gets a hot meal. She criticizes Hannah for turning her away the night before. Hannah apologizes, then tells Jane... (full context)