Jane Eyre and Gothic Literature

The first ever gothic novel was written by Horace Walpole in 1765 entitled the castle of Otranto. This genre became popular and inspired great writers such as Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein and Bram Stoker who wrote Dracula. Horace Walpole also inspired painters such as Henry Fuseli. The elements that distinguish a gothic novel to any other genre of novels are the active involvement of mystery horror and violence. Two other famous writers included Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte.

In particular I am going to look deeper into Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In the very first sentence of this novel the gothic elements are made apparent. “It was winter” Winter is very cold and bleak, in winter there are lots of thunder storms, howling winds and thick fog this emplys horror and distress, in films they always set frightening scenes in the dark or in the fog. Also in the opening of this novel Jane’s taunts from her cousins are made apparent when she tells us about then laughing at her when she gets tired on their walks.

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Jane’s troubled life is described to us, she tells us about the fact she is an orphan and that she now lives with her aunt and her cousins neither of which she gets on with. Her joy for literature got her into many scrapes at Gateshead hall, we are told about one time especially, when john hit her this happened many times but this time was special she judged when he was going to hit her again and struck out first, this filled her with fear and also the reader.

She was then forced to go into the ‘red room’ where she would be restrained like a prisoner, this room had been the room belonging to her uncles last night 9 years earlier, and now the only people that ever visited the ‘red room’ was the servants, it was like a shrine to her uncle everything appeared untouched, doubtlessly Jane had no recollections of her uncle as he had died when she was merely a year old. Jane had fears of herself dying within the red room but yet Mrs Reed kept her in there for another hour, in her head she was convinced Jane was a “wicked” child and she convinces everyone else that this is true.

Jane is so convinced she is going to die in the red room that she makes herself ill, there is only one person Jane feels she can talk to about her life at Gateshead hall and that is Dr Lloyd, together they make a compromise that she will go to school, and at last Jane is relieved, her fear will end she will go to school. After four months of hell at Gateshead hall she is summoned to the sitting room where she is to meet her future headmaster ‘Mr Brocklehurst’. Mr Brocklehurst is not what Jane expects, he is a tall man dressed in black that never smiles.

Black is a sign of evil so it frightens Jane and the reader. Jane’s aunt’s opinion of her she gave to Mr Brocklehurst and this meant her evil aunts opinion that she was a wicked child followed her to school. The school itself gave the novel some of its gothic elements; it was a big dark damp building where disease was spread easily. The fact that the school is dark and damp gives it an eerie atmosphere. But the main gothic issue at Lowood was the risk of disease. In the beginning of spring Typhus attacked Lowood.

This spread so quickly, mainly because the girls at Lowood were weak after a cold wet winter and the fact that Mr Brocklehurst ordered bad food. Very quickly Forty-five out of eighty girls had contracted typhus, at this point Jane’s friend Helen became very ill too, not with typhus but with something serious. This gives us the effect of dark damp conditions where bacteria thrives and thus making the spread of disease very simple. Many of these children died from the typhus, this brings the thought of demons and ghosts into our heads, What if they all come back and haunt Lowood?

Jane then wrote an advertisement for the newspaper searching for a job. Her one and only reply came from a Mrs Fairfax at Thornfield hall. The very name sends shivers down your spine. At Thornfield hall Jane was to be governess for a girl of nine. The morning after Jane arrived at Thornfield she talks to Mrs Fairfax and discovers the past of the child she is about to teach. Her name is Adele Verans she comes from France, when her mother died he promised to look after her. This is a gothic part of the book it brings the picture of death into our view again.

We later learn some of the frightening aspects of Thornfield hall, Mrs Fairfax was giving Jane a tour of Thornfield hall and as they approached the top floor the rooms got smaller and darker, then completely out of the blue Jane comes out with “if Thornfield had a ghost, perhaps it would sleep up here” this has obviously been placed here for a reason, later on we find out why. After this is said, Jane and Mrs Fairfax heard a strange and very frightening noise. It was neither a laugh nor a cry. This scares Jane no end and makes the reader wonder who? Or what?

Made the noise. Shortly this temporal shock is ended when Grace Pool comes out from where the noise was coming from, Mrs Fairfax then tells Grace off for making too much noise. Later on in the novel there is further reference to the third floor of the house. When Mr Rochester returned to Thornfield he has a conversation with Jane and whilst this conversation proceeded Mr Rochester kept glancing towards the third floor of the house this gave Jane and the reader the sense that there is something at Thornfield hall that Mr Rochester wants to escape from.

One night whilst Jane is lying in bed she hears that same noise that she had heard before with Mrs Fairfax, but this time it started outside her bedroom door she also heard footsteps proceeding towards the third floor of the house, this is when Jane’s suspicions about whether it is grace pool making the laughing noise come alive, she decides to follow the noise but as she exits her room she noticed that the air was full of smoke and the smoke appeared to be coming from Mr Rochester’s room, and sure enough the bed in Mr Rochester’s room was on fire, this frightens the reader loads because Mr Rochester could have died and no-one would have known until the body was found, and the house may have even burnt down.

The next gothic element I notice in this novel is when Jane goes into the library to have her fortune told, she then tells Mr Rochester that Mr mason has arrived, at this point Mr Rochester turns white, like it does when people have supposedly seen ghosts. Mr mason is later found on the third floor very white and one of his arms was covered in blood, this is really gory, and gore frightens people. The next afternoon Jane received a letter from he much hated cousin Eliza saying that her mother was very ill and had asked to see her.

Although to Jane this is good news (as she sincerely loathed her aunt) it brings the gothic issue into the novel once again in the form of her aunts death. The next gothic element is not so blatantly obvious as the others; it is the simple symbolic presence of a rose. Roses are often sent as a symbol of hatred, but also as a symbol of love, in this case it is a symbol of misfortune. Mr Rochester went to visit his farm 20 miles away, and the night he was away someone tried to sabotage their wedding, they cut Jane’s wedding veil. Jane saw the fiend that was trying to sabotage their wedding, she described it like you would a monster, however Jane was soon to find out who this mystery ‘monster’was.

This “wild animal” as Jane describes her was bertha mason, M Rochester’s mad wife. In the next part of the book, Mr Rochester appears to hate his wife bertha, but when she started a fire at Thornfield he was the on who tried to save her, unfortunately the same tragic end that had happened to a few people in this book striked again, bertha jumped of the roof and was killed instantly, whereas Mr Rochester escaped with being blinded and without his left arm, but most importantly without his love (Jane). This is the end of the gothic novel although the full novel goes on for another chapter, the last chapter is full of happiness, which I am sure u will agree with me, both Edward and Jane deserve.

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