Jane Eyre

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Portraits and Pictures Symbol Analysis

Portraits and Pictures Symbol Icon
Through dreams and drawings, Jane visualizes her deepest feelings. Jane's portfolio contains pictures that symbolize her life. Portraits can also stand in for people's characters. Jane compares her portraits of herself and Blanche Ingram, which mirror the differences in the two women's personalities and social class. Jane's portrait of Rosamond Oliver is the closest that St. John ever gets to happiness on earth. In each case, the visual picture takes on a new reality. Brontë, making her own picture of society in Jane Eyre, likewise wanted to give her novel real relevance.

Portraits and Pictures Quotes in Jane Eyre

The Jane Eyre quotes below all refer to the symbol of Portraits and Pictures. 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 2 Quotes
Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: … the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Red-Room, Portraits and Pictures
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

Locked in the red-room after her outburst against John Reed, Jane Eyre looks into the mirror and thinks about the dire straits in which she finds herself, now that her kindly uncle has died and she is a ward of a family that hates her. Here Jane looks at herself as if at a stranger - and, what's more, as if at a ghost. In some ways, this effect of estrangement, or making the familiar strange, underlines how isolated and alone Jane feels. She cannot feel herself a part of this family, but has nowhere else to turn, no one else to love her; and as a child, she must continue to rely on others. 

This passage also sets up an interest in the otherworldly that will characterize the rest of the book. Even the most realistic, bodily characters can slip into and out of a feeling of grounded reality - one that can easily feel not so real when the circumstances become strange enough.

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Portraits and Pictures Symbol Timeline in Jane Eyre

The timeline below shows where the symbol Portraits and Pictures appears in Jane Eyre. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
...can read. Jane pages through a copy of the History of British Birds. Its many pictures inspire her to imagine mysterious stories and arctic scenes. (full context)
Chapter 13
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...learns that Jane can draw, Rochester is intrigued and asks to see her work. Jane's pictures show sublime and desolate scenes, including a drowning on a bleak ocean, storm clouds behind... (full context)
Chapter 16
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
...Jane chastises herself for thinking she ever had a chance with Rochester. She draws two pictures—a homely self-portrait and a romantic image of Blanche—to remind her of their respective social positions,... (full context)
Chapter 32
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
...notices that St. John is visibly affected by Rosamond's presence. At home, Jane draws a portrait of Rosamond and offers it to St. John, hoping to learn more about his feelings.... (full context)