Throughout the novel Jane Eyre by Charlott, as Jane moves from one physical location to another, the settings in which she finds herself changes many different times, and helps the plot of the story. The author Charlotte Bronte makes the most of this by carefully placing those settings to match the different situations Jane finds herself in at each place. As Jane grows older and her hopes and dreams change, the settings she finds herself in are perfectly similar to her state of mind, but her situations are always defined by the walls, real and imaginary, around her.
As a young girl, she is trapped in Gateshead. This house is almost her whole world. Her life as a child is sharply defined by the walls of the house. She is not made to feel wanted within them and continues throughout the novel to compare Gateshead with the emotional trauma of growing up under its "hostile roof with a desperate and embittered heart."
Gateshead is, so far as we can tell, a very nice house, though not much of a home. As John Reed likes to remind her, she is a dependent; she could not and has not contributed in a manner matching with their standard of living. She may well be a family member, and likely their peer socially, but the unfortunate circumstances of her mothers unwanted marriage and her fathers lack of wealth leave her open to this petty bully, especially considering Mrs. Reeds dislike for Jane. This is simply another situation over which she has no control but which regardless shapes her existence.
Jane is, a nine-year-old girl who has grown up in relative comfort physically but who is powerless in the extreme even for a culture that did not invest much power in grown women. Every aspect of life with the walls of Gateshead, as seen through Janes eyes, confirms this.
Jane she finds herself even more caged in than she suggests that she was at the beginning of the novel. Her fight with John Reed leaves her bleeding, scared and put in the Red Room. The walls of the nursery become her world, not just those of the house. She eats and sleeps there and passes her days without seeming to leave it. Jane seems to be a prisoner in Gateshead.
When she finally leaves Gateshead and goes to a all girls orphanage called Lowood, Jane says, it is with a "sense of outlawry and almost of reprobation." Lowood is different from Gateshead where it is only providing her shelter. Where at Gateshead her physical needs were more met, while her emotional needs were ignored, Lowood is a serious place of misery and poverty. Here Jane finds people who will love her and treat her with respect. Miss Temple and Helen Burns are the first people to make Jane feel worthwhile since Mr. Reed died.
Lowood is bounded by high walls that defines Janes world. Except for Sunday services, the girls of Lowood never leave the inside of those walls. At Lowood, Jane learns that, female or not, knowledge is the key to power. By learning, Jane earns greater respect and privilege Eventually, she becomes a teacher there, a position of power, all the more so compared to what she left behind at Gateshead.
Jane stays inside the walls of Lowood for eight years. She has learned a great deal but all she finds herself able to hope for, when she does finally decide to leave, is "a new servitude."
Jane changes setting and circumstance and into a world that is completely new to her experience. Thornfield is in the open country and Jane is free from restrictions on her movements. Jane has always lived within physical walls and even as a teacher at Lowood had to get permission to leave. Jane describes looking out from the windows of Thornfield and wishing for "a power of vision" to see beyond the limits of the valley. She is still locked in, in a sense, but now she is living with relative freedom. She is restless and longs for "more... acquaintance with variety of character" that she has access to, but she also has more freedom than she has ever had.
Jane is an adult but to live she must be employed. Except for the very wealthy, this is the condition of all adults. She imagines that out there in the "busy world" that she has heard of that life is "quickened with... incident, life, fire, feeling." Now the walls around her are less real, but less caged in.
Jane finally gets to see that "busy world." After Mr. Rochester arrives, Thornfield becomes the first home that Jane has ever felt she had. Although,she is above being his mistress and leaves Thornfield. What she finds in the world she had only imagined is that she is isnt prepared to survive in freedom. The world outside the walls she is used to are not so forgiving. That world is not to allow a woman with no skills or money to live and she lacks the knowledge necessary to try. She resolves to live with Nature, to "seek her breast and ask repose,". She quickly ends up a common beggar, eating food given to her because "the pig doesnt want it."
Jane finds Moor House and is taken in. Soon she regains her health and is allowed to stay. The companionship of Mary and Diana is perhaps better suited to her intellect and temperament that any she has had before and the walls that she finds herself within are attractive. At Moor House, Jane is shown a way of living she had never quite seen before and seeing the reality of the world she had previously only imagined, she is ready to accept it. Then, as she must do at some point, being who she is, she takes a job as a teacher -- the only skill she has.
She finds another home, and again it fits her criteria. The cottage is "a little room with white-washed walls and a sanded floor" and a bed to sleep in. The coziness and simpleness of the place matches the offer from St. John to marry him and join him in his mission. These are a set of walls she understands and feels comfortable within. However, just as she could not abandon her sense of self to be a mistress to Mr. Rochester, neither can she settle for a marriage to St. John that she doesnt like.
In the end, she returns to Mr. Rochester and, she thinks, to the walls that suit her best. Only the circumstances have changed. With Mr. Eyres death, Jane is wealthy for the first time in her own right. When she gets there, she discovers that Thornfield has burned to the ground and Mrs. Rochester has died. All the walls that had kept her locked in are gone. She has moved beyond the walls and can be the person that she truly is.
These settings have shaped Jane to be a strong independent woman during a time when women were not allowed to be strong or even smart. All the places that Jane went helped shape who she was and helped her grow as an individual. The settings all portrayed a obstacles that Jane had to overcome and help her in the long run.