The Lady in Red

“The Red Room” in Jane Eyre can apply to every woman who has ever felt “trapped” by their role in society as a woman. This picture is, of course, of Jane shown completely in mostly black-and-white (not red) contradictory to the title name. This is a metaphor for the way in which we have a “color-blindness” to the struggles we do not personally face, in which when we cannot witness something for ourselves, it might as well be as though it was never there to begin with.

In “Jane Eyre,” femininity and being a woman throws Jane into a series of difficulties. These significant challenges with being a woman in society, especially during this period, were not easy. Not only was Jane abused as a child by her aunt, but also by her school, and this “red room” she would get sent to was for her punishment.

It could equally be said that her identity as a woman in this novel keeps her in the red room, all around her, trapping her and keeping her captive the way Bertha, the secret wife in the attic, was held for years by Mr. Rochester. Jane’s experience with the red room causes me to reconsider my perspective about the room itself. How do we know it is red? How do we know Jane is speaking to her actual experience, if we cannot see the room and its redness for ourselves? Does every woman, and every person have a “red room” of their own, in some way, that we cannot see?

I think of how sexism is still very much prevalent in our present-day society, as well. And how it may even still ensnare us. Is every woman trapped in a metaphorical red room from the moment they are born? We all have invisible struggles, and perhaps if a woman like Jane is wearing red, a mark of the red room holding her captive, Mr. Rochester is simply “color-blind” to her struggles in which he denies that they exist.

Too often we deny struggles because we do not have personal experience with them. I feel like perhaps in this portrait, the knowledge of Jane wearing red despite being unable to see the red for ourselves puts us in a position where we must decide whether we should believe her.

Just like any woman, or any person essentially—who might be confronted with the knowledge that someone they know has an experience that we perhaps do not have personal proximity to. But just because we cannot understand something, does not mean we cannot be understanding. And it also does not mean that a person’s struggle, unable to be deciphered or made sense of by us as individuals, is not also valid or legitimate.

Jane’s experience with the red room causes us to reevaluate our approach to other people’s personal experiences and whether or not we are willing to be open to different perspectives that are new to us, other than our own. For instance, if I say, “this portrait is of a woman in red” and we cannot see the red for ourselves, how do we remain open to believing that the portrait is, in fact, red? What other details do I need to trust this information? Will I be open to listening to others who perhaps, are seeing red in the portrait that I cannot? Or will I simply shut them down and accept no other ideas but my own?

I decided to create this piece to demonstrate how quickly we are to dismiss perspectives that are different than our own. If I give you the information that this portrait, is in fact, of a woman in red—will you believe me even though you cannot see it for yourself? Why, or why not?

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