How Charlotte Bronte develops the Gothic Features of Jane Eyre
How Charlotte Bronte develops the Gothic Features of Jane Eyre

How Charlotte Bronte develops the Gothic Features of Jane Eyre

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  • Pages: 5 (2090 words)
  • Published: October 16, 2017
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Gothic literature refers to a period in the 18th 19th century when writing included supernatural or horrifying events. The word Gothic relates to the Middle Ages when stories commonly depicted courtly love, and villainous characters. ‘Gothic’ is also seen as a derogatory term for the Middle Ages used by the Victorians to describe an immoral and spiritual way of life. ‘Jane Eyre’ has been described as a Gothic novel, and portrays many characteristics of this particular style of writing. Charlotte Bronte as influenced as a child by the literature, which surrounded her.

As a child, she gained an intense interest in the Gothic style, which is reflected in her novels. A new form of writing was discovered which explored the dark side of the human soul, wild romantic yearnings, and deep passions. Many Gothic novels include detailed description, and add reference to the intimate feelings, and passionate love of their characters. The authors of these novels wanted to entertain and to enlighten their audiences.

Many stories were written with imaginary coincidences, mysterious characters, supernatural, unexplained, or dramatic events and adventures between a hero or heroine and their lovers. The imagery and description in these novels creates an illusion of time, space, and people. The settings for many of the chapters especially in ‘Jane Eyre’ are often grim and convey uncertainment and fear to the reader. Mystery and suspense in ‘Jane Eyre’ provides a crucial element to the reader’s interpretation of the novel, and many Gothic conventions are displayed through Brontes successful use of the plot and narrative techni

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Bronte introduces her eponym Jane Eyre in a rather lowly light at the beginning of the novel, “You ought to be aware Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have to go to the poor-house”. A servant, emphasising Jane’s immediate states in society, pronounces this sentence aloud. Bronte chooses an immediately unlikely protagonist for her novel. This “underhand” girl is a mystery to begin with, as she appears to have no immediate relatives, yet she is neither a servant.

To use an underprivileged young girl, with no social standing as a central character in a novel was almost unheard of. Rochester is never properly introduced; however he appears on evening when Jane is walking in a country lane. “His figure was enveloped in a riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped… He had a dark face with heavy features and a heavy brow”. This description installs a sense of dread in the reader; the repetition of the word heavy to describe his facial features creates a morose image. The fact that he is an anonymous character instantly creates uncertainty.

Rochester also, when he appears in the storyline is portrayed as a mysterious, sardonic creature, “I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character then beauty; his full nostrils denoting, I though, choler”. Jane describes his features as harsh and angry looking, and she describes rather than praises his features, which is unusual. This effect of this shows Rochester in a mysterious and rather negative light. Rochester’s house ‘Thornfield’ is also described in

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similar way to Rochester himself.

Battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery”. The house is portrayed as a rambling ‘fairytale’ style mansion. The description using the elements of different colour and shape illuminate the description. Bronte’s use of nature reflects the atmosphere of the scene. The sinister atmosphere of the house is magnified when Jane visits the leads with Mrs Fairfax, “its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard’s castle”.

The description of ‘black’ doors creates a dark impression, and the rows of doors suggest secrecy, Bronte also uses the metaphor of Bluebeard’s castle to convey further fear, as Bluebeard was a fairytale figure who preyed on his wives. This foreshadows the future events in the novel. “For the laugh was as tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard; and, but that it was high noon, and that no circumstance of ghostliness accompanied”. Jane experiences many dreams and nightmares throughout the novel, which add to the reader’s interpretation of the plot.

Often these dreams are associated with death. Jane experiences a foresight into the death of Mr John and Mrs Reed, “scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an infant”. This image of a phantom infant is foreboding as it describes an almost ghostly figure that creates distress in Jane’s spirit. The quote describes a dark scene at night, and the reference to a couch makes Jane appear helpless as she sleeps. This image of a dream also relates to Jane’s childhood experiences of death.

Death in ‘Jane Eyre’ is somewhat underrated as references are made to death so frequently that the reader accepts this as an integral part of the novel. These images of death are certainly excellent examples of the way Charlotte Bronte incorporates morbid and sinister images into her novels. Jane accepts death as a way of life, “I was asleep and Helen was -dead” Even as such a small child, when Jane was very close to death herself her connection with the dying Helen is of much significance. Bronte uses Helen’s death as a symbol of independence for Jane in the novel; however, she also begins to take heed of Helen’s teaching.

Magic and supernatural elements recur frequently throughout ‘Jane Eyre’, which Bronte uses to convey terror to the reader. Jane is introduced to these themes very early on in her childhood, as she frequently fills her mind with mythical images, “all was eerie and dreary; the giants were gaunt goblins, the pigmies were malevolent and fearful imps”. Jane’s early knowledge of magical creatures and stories forms Jane into a solemn character, and her imagination expands in these areas. The creatures she reads about are grotesque and frightening, which heightens the reader’s awareness of the ever-present mythical themes.

The creatures are described with negative traits, which also reflects Jane’s feelings at this particular time. Jane deceives her imagination when she profanes to see a ghost, ” My heart beat tick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my

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