The “Eyes” have it

There is a cliche that always seems to pop up in media. ”Eyes are the window to the soul.” It makes sense, eyes are often more expressive than facial features. This holds true to the eye imagery in Jane Eyre.

The first passage that really shows how important eyes are is when Jane is describing Rochester’s eyes. “…and in his great, dark eyes; for he had great, dark eyes, and very fine eyes, too—not without a certain change in their depths sometimes, which, if it was not softness, reminded you, at least, of that feeling.” Already Rochester has power over Jane, not only as her employer but as a potential romantic partner. There is almost a wistful sigh to Jane’s description of his eyes.

The tone changes after the fire. Rochester had “one eye was knocked out” and “the other eye inflamed: he lost the sight of that also. He is now helpless, indeed—blind and a cripple.’” His gaze was broken, similar to how his power over Jane by this point was non-existent. Jane further emphasized the change in Rochester’s power by in the line: “The caged eagle, whose gold-ringed eyes cruelty has extinguished, might look as looked that sightless Samson.” An eagle is a bird of prey who is often seen as a dominant force in nature, to have him caged is to remove that power like the biblical story of Samson, who had his power stripped from him.

While Jane states that “I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress.” and goes on further to tell Rochester that “I find you lonely” and she would “be eyes and hands to you.” She puts herself in a place of power over Rochester, a reversal from when they first meet. When Rochester does regain his sight, it is when his son was put into his arms and Rochester “could see that the boy had inherited his own eyes, as they once were—large, brilliant, and black.” This indicates that the child now holds power over Rochester and Jane, as most children do. Because the child has Rochester’s eyes unbroken.

I could not get the image of eyes out of my head while reading the book. The constant gazes we feel in society seemed to be emphasized. Almost as though the novel had its own eyes and watched the readers through them.

3 thoughts on “The “Eyes” have it

  1. This is a great project idea, and I really enjoy the conversation about the topic of eyes and how it seemed important in Jane Eyre. I agree that the saying is cliché but in a way it is true , Jane always seems to be fascinated by eyes, and it was one of the first things she notices about him. I think it was important to talk about how Mr. Rochester’s dark eyes had power over Jane and then after the fire once he is disabled Jane has the power over him. Next they have their son who has the same dark eyes that then has power over both Jane and Mr. Rochester. I like how you talk about that because it was so minor yet it was a theme.

  2. I like your point on the cliche of “the eyes are the window to the soul” and think that even though it is a cliche, it is almost always brought up in every text we can come across. Eyes are always noted as the most intriguing facial feature. I like the point you made about when Rochester lost his sight, Jane had the power over him instead of when he could see. And then when the son is born, the son has the power over the two. Eyes were a subtle concept in the text, but I like that you were able to pull them out and really dissect the idea.

  3. Eyes are such a powerful image, especially when it comes to literature. Whenever I think of notable eyes in books I always think of the Great Gatsby. There are so many different meanings eyes can have, just because how important they are to society.I love the picture, it makes me want to see what a reflective book may look like. Seeing yourself reading something would be such an odd experience, but with the correct context, could be incredibly powerful. Great artwork!

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