by Charlotte Brontë
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The red-room, once the bedroom of Jane’s Uncle Reed, was (we’re sure you remember) the chamber in which he died. Locked in the red-room, believing that her uncle’s ghost is manifesting, Jane experiences a moment of extreme trauma leading to hysteria. So let’s think about this: Jane’s Aunt, an older woman who is supposed to be like a foster mother to her but is more like an evil stepmother, locks Jane into a room that’s entirely decorated in red with a little bit of white, and Jane panics when she thinks that an older male relative’s ghost might be invading the room. Hmm, we’re not going to have to go too far to do some psychoanalyzing here, are we? For example, on the most extreme end, you could claim that the red-room is like a womb, and Aunt Reed is infantilizing Jane and forcing her back into the womb to be born again with, needless to say, a new attitude. (If this is the case, of course it’s alarming when a male relative invades the womb, right?) We know, we know, that sounds a little silly, but when you think about it, it actually makes a little sense. Some less-wacky interpretations: that the red-room is a space in which the purity and innocence of childhood (the white bits) meet the intense and bitter emotions that come with unpleasant life experience – anger, fear, and anxiety (the red bits). Think of Jane as "seeing red" at this moment. Alternatively, you can think about the red-room experience as part of the indescribable trauma of suffering; remember, Jane loses consciousness because she can hardly deal with it, and she can never quite verbalize what the problem is (besides the possibility of a ghost). Whenever Jane suffers in the future, it will take her, emotionally, back to the red-room.