Gothic Elements in the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

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The story in the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte revolves around the girl Jane from her struggles as an orphan in the contemporary English society. She is orphaned at an early age and lives with her aunt, before being sent to a catholic boarding school of Lowood where she stays for eight years under very harsh conditions. She then moves and eventually ends up at the Thorn field hall as a governess for the young Miss Adele Varens a ward of the owner of the house Mr. Rochester. The novel is mired by various gothic elements throughout the story; its mysterious, dark, and sorrowful as well as scary. This paper will explore the various elements and how they impact readers understanding.

The first element we are going to examine is the element of women being threatened by a powerful male figure. In the first chapter of the novel we see Jane as she is young and an orphan living in her aunts home. She is reading when one of her male cousins throws a book at her, with insults. He says, You have no business to take our book, you are a dependent, momma says; you have no money, your father left you none, you ought to beg and not live here with gentlemans children like us (Bronte, 2000:8) in chapter seven, when Jane is sent to a catholic boarding school, the Lowood school, there is the arrival of the financial manager Mr. Brockhurst. Jane accidentally drops her slate and he lushes at her calling her careless. He makes her stand in a stool and tells the entire school that she is a liar and that they should not be seen talking to her. He is a cruel man, a hypocrite who claims himself a Christian but starves the girls, has them living in deplorable conditions and even has them shaving their hair: claiming vanity yet his own wife and daughters wear silk and have very long braided hair. Therefore it is in my clear understanding that Mr. Brockhurst clearly brings out the gothic element of threat, he is in a position of power, as the schools financial manager and he uses this power to pry over the innocent poor orphaned young girls. As a reader I am quite empathic with the girls as they are clearly struggling and suffering in silence as being poor they have no voice in the crude English society. As in the case of Hellen, she is mistreated and despite it all prods Jane to forgive. This element builds suspense as the reader is forced to hope and pray for the day that this cruel hypocritical man will be forced to end his era of tyranny upon the poor girls and our prayers are answered when a new group takes over the school exposes him for the evil man he was and eventually improve the conditions in the school.

The second element we will examine will be the element of supernatural. They can be termed as events which occur to which we have no explanation of and are out of the normal or not ordinary. In the novel we have quite a number of these happenings as they occur. We shall begin with chapter one where after the fight with her cousin john, Miss Reed her aunt holds her accountable and sends her to the red room. This was the room that her uncle Reed seemed to have died in, while looking in the mirror she imagines she has seen her uncles ghost in it and this cause her to cry out in terror. On the arrival at the Thorn field hall, in chapter 11, Jane hears strange eerie laughter that echoed throughout the house. In one evening she again hears the demonic laugh and gets out of bed only to witness that Mr. Rochester house is on fire. I expected to hear so still a region, a laugh, struck my ear (Bronte, 2000:124)There is also what sounds like fingers brushing through the walls. These happenings build an air of mystery as we are forced back into our imaginations, to be able to try to figure out what might be causing these things and to try to comprehend why they might be occurring or what might be causing them. They create suspense as the reader quickly tries to read on to try to figure them out.

The third elements which will be examined include; omens, visions and portents. They might be in the form of disturbing dreams, or even visions or even foreshadow by the writer. In the novel Jane dreams of children and on seven consecutive nights has the disturbing dreams involving children, she beliefs this to signify death. There is also the part where a gypsy reads her future, depicting the element of vision and tells her that it will be full of happiness. There is also the part in chapter 12 where Jane recalls about a spirit called Gytrash which disguised itself as a horse, mule or dog and frightens travelers (pg. 129). Mr. Rochester dog appears suddenly and it is huge, lion like creature with strange large eyes. This event clearly creates certain pictures in the eyes of the reader, with them expecting things such as death or depicting the darkness in the Thorn field hall.

The fourth element depicted in the novel is high and overwrought emotions. In the first chapter of the book when Jane catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she sees a ghastly figure. She thinks it is the ghost of her uncle coming to haunt since the promise to take care of her had been broken. Jane experiences great terror and cries out with a lot of terror. She also experiences high emotion when john finishes hurling insults and throws a book at her; she is overcome with anger and finally hits back causing a fight. Jane s friend Hellen also draws a lot of empathy as she clearly is in a lot of pain, she endures a lot of suffering which angers Jane .I chapter four she is also so angry and remorseful at her aunt for treating her so badly that she as an outburst at her aunt before being taken to Lowood . I am glad you are no relation of mine and I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. (Bronte, 2000:40). Jane also suffers a lot of humiliation when she is called a liar by Mr. Brockhurst, she is deeply ashamed of this and this lowers her self-worth. In chapter 11 onwards in the strange happenings of Thorn field hall, Jane is disturbed by the weird laughter and other strange things in the house she is faced with dread, she however manages to fall greatly in love with the master of the house Mr. Rochester. He made me love him without looking at me (Bronte, 2000:203). Although she feels she is but a lowly servant and that she is not as pretty and proper as miss Blanche Ingram. She is greatly devastated when Mr. Rochester proposes to marry Miss Ingram. The characters strong emotions force the reader to empathize with them and also strengthen their connections hence they are able to identify the characters with their problems and travel the journey to discovering who they are and how they fit into their world.

In conclusion we can say that the author of the novel Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brante is a brilliant writer, she manages to capture our imagination vividly and transport us to great mysteries with a simple story of a young woman in the face of society. She manages this by incorporating various gothic elements which not only add mystery, but also is able to capture the fears, hopes, dreams and the eeriness of simple imagination.

Reference

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre (Norton Critical Editions). WW Norton & Company, 2000.

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