Thornfield Hall

I’ve taken the time to try to accurately recreate Thornfield Hall in Minecraft. Having the description read to me from the book, I felt transported to the location (though that may have been part of being in quarantine at the time), and I started to draw it as I saw Thornfield in my mind. At first, it was all for fun, but I got to thinking about unessays, and here we are. 

I mainly wanted to stay as true to the in-text descriptions as I could, but I think some personal bias wormed its way into the design. During our meeting, Professor Helms asked if Thornfield was supposed to look like a prison. At first, I laughed in disbelief, and let him know that it was unintentional, but thinking back, I do believe that I consider Thornfield to have been Bertha’s prison. Despite this being a subconscious series of choices, it seemed to ring through the building, no matter how hard I tried to push against it – though surely the figure my wife put in a window of the attic meant to represent Bertha increased the feeling of imprisonment. I think it’s visible in a screenshot or two, and catching a glimpse of it is unintentionally haunting, but I didn’t want to take it out, as my wife took the time to dye some purple clothes for the figure and position it there as a helpful contribution. 

I spent at least two hours to start just finding textual evidence, choosing the perfect location in a new world seed, deforesting the area, and changing the landscape to suit the build before really digging into it. Around five hours were dedicated to the actual Hall, which is made of blocks (and stairs, where applicable) of stone bricks, chiseled stone bricks, blackstone, glass panes, smooth stone, spruce planks, and a healthy helping of attention to detail. It’s actually pretty much only a facade, the inside is nearly empty, and it only goes back to include the front rooms of the building. This structural technique is clear in a few screenshots, but I wanted to take as many as possible, so I added them regardless. After the Hall facade was all finished, I added the vines to make it look slightly more part of the environment and also add some age while still allowing it to look pretty well-maintained (by not adding cracked stone bricks or allowing there to be any missing pieces that would indicate heavy wear). 

After that, the main lawn was planned and created. The fountain, which was part of the original sketch while I was listening to Jane Eyre, didn’t appear in the text, but I really do think it helps to enrich the atmosphere of the place. I took care to extend the gravel road out of camera-shot, and added shrubs around the property’s roadways to give it more of a restrictive feeling, as when Jane was running away after the failed attempt to marry Rochester. All of this was around another hour or so (with additional landscaping) before the three-hour-long Orchard build. The Orchard was honestly where I ran out of steam, but I’m pretty proud of the results regardless. Vanilla Minecraft doesn’t have fruit trees, so I just used oak trees (which drop apples occasionally, but don’t show apples in the branches) and avoided looking at them too closely for the screenshots. I had tried to put in those new Weeping Vines to look like fruit, which looked good at first, but once they grew to the ground it was very clear that they weren’t fruit hanging from the trees anymore, so I had to scrap them.

I spent a good portion of my time on the Orchard’s fencing, which I gathered from the reading was something like half-ish dense trees (I ended up using Birch, and only on one wall), half-ish tall fencing (Blackstone Walls and Iron Fences), with one wall being made of a “sunk fence”, which looked out into rolling fields. It was a good hour of just designing fencing and making it look pretty before I was happy with it. I think the same-ish feeling goes towards the “Chestnut Tree” (constructed of Oak Wood and Birch Leaves), where it took plenty of time to design, and I had to keep making and remaking it until I was happy. I still am dubious of the interior fencing around the tree, and I wish I had gone taller/more majestic with the damn thing, seeing as it’s pretty pivotal to the text, but sometimes, knowing when to stop can be necessary for your mental well-being. I also took some time out to design a little shady nook with a bench, where the conversation Rochester had with Jane about sending her to Ireland when he married Ms. Ingram took place. That scene also really stuck in my head, so I had to make somewhere secluded where they could talk fairly freely, and this really seemed to be the place. I should have consulted the text a little more before committing, but I still think it ended up looking cozy and lovely.

My original plan was to build even more buildings from the text (a few cut concepts being Jane’s School-Teacher Cottage or Mr. Rochester’s Home Post-Thornfield), in addition to burning down Thornfield Hall after I took these screenshots (part of the reason I took so many). However, by the time I had reached this point, everyone else had already finished reading Wide Sargasso Sea, so I clearly needed to move on. The plan to burn down Thornfield involved setting fire to the Orchard, cutting down all of the flowers in the yard, and ripping the Hall to pieces with TNT, but I equipped myself to do so after about an hour of setting up and taking these copious screenshots, and found that I was unable to rip apart my creation. 

Thinking back, I could have done so and then not saved the game, but even a chance of losing that much initial care and work really unsettles me, so I don’t want to risk it, especially without the ability to control autosaving on the Xbox One. Thornfield Hall still stands, and, with it, Bertha. I’d like to imagine that she was able to escape properly at some point rather than just falling victim to a “kill your neurodivergents” trope, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

All that being said, enjoy the culmination of both my time, spent absorbing Jane Eyre, playing Minecraft, and loving literature, and my effort, in dragging the text for details and in making sure that my building skills were put to the test.

A screenshot of Thornfield Hall in Minecraft, a three-story stone brick building laced with creeping vines, from the perspective of the road leading to the Hall. The road is fenced in by shrubbery, and diverges around a splendid fountain before reaching the (obscured) front entrance. Dense forest surrounds the road, but flowers are visible in the mid-ground, and, in the background to the right of the image, a distant snow-covered mountain looms.
“I saw a narrow galaxy of lights too, on a hillside, marking a village or hamlet. About ten minutes after, the driver got down and opened a pair of gates: we passed through, and they clashed to behind us. We now slowly ascended a drive, and came upon the long front of a house: candlelight gleamed from one curtained bow-window; all the rest were dark.”
A closer image depicting the details on the front of the Hall. Windows at even intervals, climbing vines, and chiseled stone bricks placed decoratively between floors break up each floor and add some texture to the building. The windows are all large, except in the attic, where they are only one block  large. Rose bushes and lilacs obscure the bottom of the image.
“Everything appeared very stately and imposing to me; but then I was so little accustomed to grandeur.”
A view of the front of the Hall from slightly above. The battlements on the building are now clearly visible, as is the  design of the fancy fountain and the flow of the gravel drive up to the door. A figure is visible in a window of the attic, staring out onto the grounds. From this angle, a grass path leading around the Hall is visible, lined with rose bushes, peonies, and lilacs. Dense forest stretches out behind the Hall and into the distance.
“My spirits rose at the view. Externals have a great effect on the young: I thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils. My faculties, roused by the change of scene, the new field offered to hope, seemed all astir.”
A view of the front of Thornfield Hall, from the right, which shows the gravel drive leading deep into the dark oak forest, and shows a better angle of the flowers surrounding the fancy fountain in the middle of the drive.
A view of the front of Thornfield Hall, from the left, which shows the gravel drive leading deep into the forest, and shows a better angle of the flowers surrounding the fancy fountain in the middle of the drive. This angle also shows some of the fencing around the Orchard, which is tall and imposing, and disappears into dense Birch trees.

“The early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background.”

A view of Thornfield grounds from just in front of the right-hand battlements, showing off the patterns of flowers on the grounds and the top-view of the Orchard. You can also see into the distance from this angle, where another mountain looms in the distance, and the forest disappears off into the distance in much of the shot.
“Farther off were hills: not so lofty as those round Lowood, nor so craggy, nor so like barriers of separation from the living world; but yet quiet and lonely hills enough, and seeming to embrace Thornfield with a seclusion I had not expected to find existent so near the stirring locality of Millcote.”
A top-down view of the Thornfield grounds from just above the roof of the Hall. More of the Orchard is visible, including the rows of fruit trees, raised flower beds, the shaded archway, and the chestnut tree. From this angle, the battlements are clearly visible, and the roof texture, comprised of blackstone bricks, is in full view.
“I was now at last in safe haven. The impulse of gratitude swelled my heart, and I knelt down at the bedside, and offered up thanks where thanks were due.”
A view of Thornfield Hall from the Orchard, amidst the peonies. Purple flowers from the flower beds are visible on the left, as well as some warm-colored tulips, and the blackstone gate surrounding the Orchard. The figure in the attic window of Thornfield is still visible from this angle.
“[Mr. Rochester] moved with slow step and abstracted air towards a door in the wall bordering the orchard.
…“Come where there is some freshness, for a few moments,” he said; “that house is a mere dungeon: don’t you feel it so?”
“It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir.”
“The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes,” he answered; “and you see it through a charmed medium: you cannot discern that the gilding is slime and the silk draperies cobwebs; that the marble is sordid slate, and the polished woods mere refuse chips and scaly bark. Now here” (he pointed to the leafy enclosure we had entered) “all is real, sweet, and pure.””
An image of the Orchard from the gravel path inside, showing the fruit trees on the left and the flower beds on the right. Rose bushes, lilacs, peonies, tulips, daisies, and many other flowers make a multicolored spectacle of the garden, paling the rest of the image in comparison. The dense birch wood wall is very much on display here, showing its regrettably flattened design in the background of the right-hand side. The image was shot in such a way to suggest that the path extends for a ways out of view.
“He strayed down a walk edged with box, with apple trees, pear trees, and cherry trees on one side, and a border on the other full of all sorts of old-fashioned flowers, stocks, sweet-williams, primroses, pansies, mingled with southernwood, sweet-briar, and various fragrant herbs. They were fresh now as a succession of April showers and gleams, followed by a lovely spring morning, could make them: the sun was just entering the dappled east, and his light illumined the wreathed and dewy orchard trees and shone down the quiet walks under them.
“Jane, will you have a flower?”
He gathered a half-blown rose, the first on the bush, and offered it to me.”
A cozy leaf-enclosed alcove is depicted. It is structurally supported by iron fencing, which creates a dome of leaves above a worn bench and a selection of colorful flowers. A gravel pathway leads through the alcove, and a lantern hanging from above lights the scene. Draping vines spill down from the leaves above to partially conceal the alcove.
“The arbour was an arch in the wall, lined with ivy; it contained a rustic seat. Mr. Rochester took it, leaving room, however, for me: but I stood before him.
“Sit,” he said; “the bench is long enough for two. You don’t hesitate to take a place at my side, do you? Is that wrong, Jane?”
I answered him by assuming it: to refuse would, I felt, have been unwise.
“Now, my little friend, while the sun drinks the dew—while all the flowers in this old garden awake and expand, and the birds fetch their young ones’ breakfast out of the Thornfield, and the early bees do their first spell of work—I’ll put a case to you, which you must endeavour to suppose your own: but first, look at me, and tell me you are at ease, and not fearing that I err in detaining you, or that you err in staying.”
“No, sir; I am content.””
Another angle of the leaf-enclosed alcove, from just behind the wooden bench seat. More colorful flowers are visible from this angle, as is the winding path between the fruit trees the mid-ground of the shot. Rose bushes frame the other entrance to the alcove, which is overgrown with climbing vines.
“Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been yielding their evening sacrifice of incense. …[Mr. Rochester] strolls on, now lifting the gooseberry-tree branches to look at the fruit, large as plums, with which they are laden; now taking a ripe cherry from the wall; now stooping towards a knot of flowers, either to inhale their fragrance or to admire the dew-beads on their petals. …I trode on an edging of turf that the crackle of the pebbly gravel might not betray me.”
A screenshot of the horse-chestnut tree, which towers over the fruit orchard around it. A bench is positioned to look out over the sunk fence and towards the camera, and a little wooden fence encloses the tree, the bench, and the surrounding path and flowers. Here, the ground-covering plants are somewhat thinned. Thornfield Hall is visible in the background, looming over the scene. The quality is slightly lower than the rest in the series, due to the image being cropped.
“No nook in the grounds more sheltered and more Eden-like; it was full of trees, it bloomed with flowers: a very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. At the bottom was a sunk fence; its sole separation from lonely fields: a winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse-chestnut, circled at the base by a seat, led down to the fence. Here one could wander unseen.”
The chestnut tree is the center of the screenshot, looming over the viewer imposingly. It is the opposite side from the last image, but another bench is on this side, this time flanked by blue cornflowers. The viewpoint looks up at the tree from below, showing a view of the brilliant blue sky above.
““Come! we’ll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour or so, while the stars enter into their shining life up in heaven yonder: here is the chestnut tree: here is the bench at its old roots. Come, we will sit there in peace to-night, though we should never more be destined to sit there together.”

Why does your response to this piece of literature matter?

While I’m tempted to say that my response to this literature doesn’t matter, I think that anything that gets you to engage with a text critically is important in solidifying your own understanding of that text. While it may not be important to anyone else, it holds value in that it’s part of your exploration of a text, and that in and of itself is an important process by which your (or in this case, my) engagement with the text begins to “matter.” Especially since my piece doesn’t delve deeply into any theme in particular, it’s hard to describe how the project helped me to understand Jane Eyre, but I genuinely think that it allowed me to create a visual display of how the text affected me, which, as I’m working to critically describe and explain, is revealing how I understood the text. It’s messy and complex to try to put into words, but engagement with a piece of literature is what will give it staying power, whether for the better or not, within a mind, and that makes all forms of engagement with a piece of literature matter.

5 thoughts on “Thornfield Hall

  1. This is amazing. I love Minecraft and I know how long even with creative mode and mods how long it must have taken to design this. You are right, engagement with the text matters. That’s how the text remains relevent. Somehow people who engage with the text find pieces of themselves in there. This project is brilliant.

  2. This is so freaking good, oh my gosh. Minecraft is something very dear to me, and I appreciate you treating it like it’s a valid medium for things here, because it is! It makes me think of the nearly endless educational possibilities with this game. I remember in High School I would design circuits using redstone for a Digital Electronics class I was in. So you can really cover a breadth of subjects via Minecraft. Sorry, got away from myself a bit there. That’s just the ed major in me. Anyway though, this is such a good depiction of Thornfield, and I’d just like you to know that this is what I’ll think of whenever I decide to reread Jane Eyre.

  3. This is incredible. You clearly put a ton of thought into it, and it shows! I love your idea about Bertha overcoming the “kill your neurodivergents” trope! I always love good, optimistic retellings of otherwise tragic endings. This genuinely helped me visualize the setting of Jane Eyre! Your connections between the images and quotes shows you have a very strong understanding of the text, and a really profound ability to create based on that. Great great job!!

  4. This is absolutely amazing, I mean wow. I think this is so creative and I just love your take on it. I love that you have quotes from the novel under each picture, I think it adds an analytical view into what you were thinking when you designed Thornfield Hall. While reading I was looking up pictures of Thornfield so I could try an visualize the setting of the novel, and I think this one takes the cake! Awesome work!!

  5. Wow, this is so amazing!!!! Thornfield Hall looks absolutely stunning and the detail is immaculate and beautiful with the planted flowers, trees, gravel road, etc. I was gasping as I read your description and looked at the pictures and it is clear this took quite a lot of effort. Your build of Thornfield Hall looks very majestic and beautiful and I can’t help wondering what the inside looks like and wishing I could explore it. 🙂 Fantastic job!!

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