Jane Eyre Gothic Elements
Throughout the novel Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë incorporates Gothic elements?specifically the supernatural?to emphasize the eerie presence that follows, and essentially haunts, Jane through each of her endeavors. Although the reader perceives certain situations as supernatural, they are not truly supernatural in the novel. By creating such an atmosphere, Brontë is able to utilize supernatural elements to convey significant revelations within Jane that ultimately change the course of her story.
The first of many supernatural occurrences?and a very important one at that?presents itself at Gateshead Hall, following the cruelty inflicted upon Jane by her aunt, Mrs. Reed. While locked inside of the red-room, Jane views her reflection, which consisted of “a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still” (Brontë 20). Jane describes her reflection as “[having] the effect of a real spirit” (Brontë 20). By depicting her reflection as unearthly, Brontë shows the reader a glimpse of Jane’s inner view of herself. In comparison to those she lives with, Jane knows she is different, that she is merely plain and small. However, the “glittering eyes” Jane describes also highlights her differences in regard to the Reed family (Brontë 20). Jane’s eyes are a representation of her passion, which begins to surface as a result of the injustices she endures at Gateshead. Although her passion first manifests itself as fear, it is still viewed as uncanny. Ultimately, Brontë incorporates this scene into the novel because it not only foreshadows Jane’s passionate nature, but also the many encounters with others in which Jane is viewed as an odd character as a result of her plain exterior in comparison to her vibrant interior.
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Because supernatural elements propel the novel, Jane’s encounters with the supernatural do not cease when she leaves Gateshead, but continue also into her time at Thornfield. At Thornfield, Jane unexpectedly finds herself a genuine home, one that she never imagined she would have. Gateshead and Lowood restricted Jane’s independence greatly, yet at Thornfield, she was able to develop into her own person. In the process of becoming herself, she repressed many of her fears, which the reader becomes aware of through the existence of Bertha Mason. On the night prior to the marriage between Jane and Mr. Rochester, Jane is visited by a “woman, tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back” in the middle of the night (Brontë 330). Jane describes Bertha as a woman with a “savage face” and “red eyes” (Brontë 331). Although Bertha is a woman with a mental illness, Brontë illustrates her as a supernatural creature because she embodies Jane’s inner self that is composed of fear and darkness. Evidently, Bertha’s existence carries the intention of destroying Jane’s happiness and home at Thornfield?which has been Jane’s greatest fear since Mr. Rochester proposed to her. After her encounter with Bertha, she confesses her confusion to Rochester, who identifies her visions as “mental terrors” (Brontë 332). However, Jane reveals to the reader that she only conceded to his ideas because she desired to please him?once again, suppressing her feelings to please Rochester. Despite Jane’s initial shock on their wedding day, Bertha’s existence actually triggers significant growth within Jane, in which she comes to the realization that she can only rely on herself for happiness.
At Moor House, Jane unites with the family she did not know she had, which brings her content following Rochester’s betrayal. Her journey to Moor House and the union with her family allows Jane to grow immensely within herself. However, Jane’s newfound strength is tested to its limits when St. John attempts to manipulate Jane into becoming his wife. In their final discussion, she agrees to marry him, only to be interrupted by the voice of Mr. Rochester. Evidently, Jane is perplexed by these sounds, as they were “[spoken] in pain and woe?wildly, eerily, urgently” (Brontë 485). Immediately, Jane realizes that she must pursue him or she will live with regret. This instance alone signifies Jane’s strength because she was able to deny St. John and instead seek what her heart desired. When Jane and Rochester eventually reunite, the reader learns that Rochester did call for Jane on the same night she heard his voice. Brontë incorporates this otherworldly connection between them to signify that they are two souls meant for one another. The decision to leave Moor House to marry Rochester demonstrates the overall growth of Jane throughout the novel, who developed into an individual capable of deciding her own fate.
Essentially, Brontë incorporates the supernatural to create an atmosphere of suspense, yet also achieves a deeper meaning by doing so. When Jane encountered the supernatural, she often grew from the experience and triggered a change in her demeanor despite her initial fears.