Gothic features are all through the novel ‘Jane Eyre’. Even though the novel is romantic, not gothic, metatonamy, references to the supernatural, and other gothic features can all be found in ‘Jane Eyre’.
Charlotte Bronte uses metatonamy throughout her novel as a gothic technique, creating atmosphere.
The novel begins with pathetic fallacy, with ‘sombre clouds’ and ‘penetrating rain’, which reflects Jane’s ‘sombre’ mood. This makes the reader immediately aware of the sadness of Jane’s childhood.Order now
Another example of this technique is in Chapter 5, where, on the journey to Lowood, it is ‘wet and somewhat misty’. The word ‘misty’ gives the effect of insecurity and secrecy surrounding Lowood, and Jane’s future there. It also creates a gloomy atmosphere, which reflects Jane’s life at the school.
The weather is also described as ‘misty’ when Jane arrives at Thornfield in Chapter 11. This has the same effect, and also reflects Jane’s life at Thornfield, as it is where she discovers Mr.Rochesters’ secret.
This use of pathetic fallacy to forewarn the reader of Mr.Rochester is also employed when Jane first meets him. The moon is ‘pale yet as a cloud, but brightening momentarily’. This ‘brightening’ symbolises the brief time that Mr.Rochester and Jane are together as a couple.
The moon is also used by Charlotte Bronte to give prior notice to the reader about the events on the night
Mr. Mason was attacked. The moon is described as ‘beautiful, but too solemn’, which helps the reader to understand that something is about to happen which will stop it being so ‘solemn’. The word ‘solemn’ also creates an effect because it is not a word that is usually used to describe the moon; this then sets the sombre mood for the rest of chapter 20.
Another example of Charlotte Bronte’s use of metatonamy is in the final paragraph of chapter 23, when it is noted that lightening had split the horse chestnut tree in half. This symbolises Jane and Mr.Rochester, as they too are about to be split. Once again, the author has employed nature to forewarn the reader of upcoming events. The lightening has destroyed another aspect of nature, and therefore the elements are responding to the immoral position that Mr.Rochester has put Jane into.
Metatonamy is one technique of using symbolism in a gothic way. Symbolism and imagery are also used at the beginning of chapter 1. Lots of spiritual imagery is used, with the ‘haunted’ churchyard, ‘marine phantoms’ and ‘black horned thing’. Words like ‘haunted’ and ‘phantom’ are very gothic words; they create a depressing and gloomy atmosphere for the beginning of the novel in which the reader is immediately thrown into.
There are many spiritual references in the novel ‘Jane Eyre’. Mr.Rochester refers to Jane throughout the novel as a spirit, using terms such as ‘sprite’, ‘changeling’ and ‘fairy’. The reader is constantly being bombarded with this sort of imagery, and therefore, all the way through the novel there is a spiritual element.
Mid-way through chapter 23, Mr.Rochester says that there is a ‘string’ connecting him and Jane, and that if the string was broken, he should ‘take to bleeding inwardly’. This is similar to the almost psychic bond that they share near the end of the novel, when Jane hears ‘a known, loved, well-remembered voice-that of Edward Fairfax Rochester’ calling her name. Mr.Rochester later states in chapter 37 that at the same time, he heard Jane’s reply: ‘I am coming; wait for me’.
Another spiritual link in the novel is presented in the relationship between Jane’s dreams, and the events that follow them. Whenever Jane dreams of a child, bad news follows. The supernatural is a key element in gothic novels.
The first dream that Jane had involving a child lasted a week. She mentions she had been dreaming of the child on ‘that moonlit night when I heard the cry’; referring to the evening that Mr. Mason was attacked. She also receives bad news regarding the Reeds. A pattern develops that suggests that when Jane dreams of a child, bad news or events will follow.
Jane also dreams about an infant on the eve of her wedding. She wakes from the dream to find Bertha ripping her wedding veil, and here she meets Rochesters’ wife for the first time, the evening before she discovers who she Bertha is. She also mentions that in the dream, ‘Thornfield was a dreary ruin’, which is what it becomes after the fire. This is another example of the supernatural, because Jane envisions something that happens in the future.
The red room is a gothic concept that is repeated throughout the novel. The ‘original’ red room in ‘Jane Eyre’ is the room at the Reed’s house, in which Mr. Reed had died. It is described as a very sombre place, ‘very seldom slept in’. This sense of the room being forbidden creates a mysterious and supernatural atmosphere, and Jane reinforces this, by talking of Mr. Reed’s spirit in chapter 2, and how it ‘may quit its abode’ and ‘rise before me in this chamber’.
In the ‘original’ red room, Mr. Reed had died. The second time a red room appeared in the novel is in chapter 20. In both cases, she is locked in the rooms overnight, and is scared of an inhuman creature appearing, in the form of Mr. Reed’s ghost, and the ‘wild beast or fiend’. These similarities increase the expectation that, like Mr. Reed, Mr. Mason will die too.
The third time Jane is locked in a room, she locks herself in, after discovering about Mr.Rochesters’ wife. She is also in her room for a long period of time. In the other two red rooms, someone becomes ill; in Jane’s room, she was ‘sickening from excitement and inanition’. The red room becomes a symbol of affliction.
Throughout the novel, there is an aura of mystery surrounding Mr.Rochester. It is typical of gothic novels to have a mysterious character.
Mr.Rochester hints at his past all through ‘Jane Eyre’, first hinting when he first meets Jane at Thornfield, saying ‘fortune has knocked me about a bit since’, and makes other references to misfortune, for example, ‘when fate wronged me’. These suggestions create a cryptic atmosphere around him, and force the reader to ask questions such as ‘what happened in his past?’.
Jane herself doesn’t comprehend what he is mentioning at this meeting either, as she says ‘I don’t understand you at all; I cannot keep up the conversation as it has got out of my depth’. This creates even more of a mystery, because it then becomes clear that no-one has any understanding of what has happened to Mr. Rochester in the past.
He promises at the end of chapter 14, that he’ll ‘explain all this one day’. Jane says that he did explain it ‘on a future occasion’. However, the explanation he gives does not account for his previous behaviour. Charlotte Bronte has created a feeling of suspense, which is a key feature of gothic novels, because the reader wants to know the other explanation.
Mr. Rochester also seems to dislike Thornfield Hall, and, at the point that it is mentioned that he ‘abhors’ it, the reader is unaware of his wife. When he ‘glares’ at Thornfield, his eyes show ‘pain, shame, ire – impatience, disgust, detestation’. This raises questions as to why he hates Thornfield, thus creating mystery. Also, the use of these emotive verbs builds up the atmosphere of obscurity surrounding Mr. Rochester, as they are very powerful, and this is a juxtaposition of his character, as he has little control over the situation regarding his past ‘mistake’, and he is actually quite powerless.
Part of Thornfields’ mystery is exposed in Chapter 20, when Mr. Mason is attacked. The reader then becomes aware that something deadly is at Thornfield Hall. However, all this revelation does is create even more of a mystery, as the reader begins to ask the same questions as Jane: ‘What mystery, that broke out, now in fire and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night?’ and, about Mr. Mason: ‘ How had he become involved in the web of horror?’.
There is also a mystery of why Mr. Rochester thought someone would ‘meddle’ with his and Jane’s marriage. Jane noted that his ‘accent and look of exultation’ was ‘savage’, which adds even more mystery to the arcane character of Mr. Rochester. ‘Savage’ is a word generally used to describe wild animals, and, Charlotte Bronte, in using it to describe Mr. Rochester, makes him appear as a monster, thus making the reader wary of the darker side of Mr. Rochester, and warning them in advance of the way he is likely to react when his wife is revealed.
Most gothic novels contained a mysterious character. In ‘Jane Eyre’ there are three: Mr. Rochester, Grace Poole and Bertha Rochester.
Grace first comes under suspicion at the end of chapter 11, when Jane hears her laugh for the first time. The laugh is gothic because it is scary- Jane describes it as ‘distinct, formal, mirthless’.
Just before she finds Mr. Rochesters’ bed alight, Jane hears a ‘demonic laugh’. This creates an atmosphere of suspense, which is an element of gothic novels, as you wonder what events will follow this ‘demonic’ laugh. When the laugh is described as ‘demonic’, the reader immediately associates the laugh with the devil, and therefore as something evil. Also, it helps the reader to make an assumption that the owner of the laugh is also ‘demonic’, and, as is described in chapter 20, a ‘fiend’.
There is a strong gothic feeling when Mr. Mason is attacked by Mr. Rochesters’ wife. Firstly, there is the mystery as to what is going on above Janes’ room with the ‘fearful shriek’ and ‘deadly struggle’. These adjectives lead to the connotation that somebody is being murdered by someone else, and this builds up the mystery. Then, this feeling is intensified with the revelation that Mr. Mason has been attacked.
A mysterious character enters again on the eve of Janes wedding, when someone enters her room and rips the veil. An aura of uncertainty is created as to who this person was, and why they were doing this.
There is a gothic element of a monster in ‘Jane Eyre’. Bertha sucks the blood from Mr. Mason and ‘said she’d drain my heart’. When looking back on this from the 21st Century, we can see this is typical of a vampire. Later, Jane explains that the woman who tore her wedding veil reminded her ‘of the foul German spectre- the vampire’. This imagery of the vampire is very supernatural, and therefore becomes gothic imagery.
Bertha is repeatedly described as beast-like throughout the novel- when Jane is introduced to Bertha, she is unsure of whether she is ‘beast or human being’. She describes her as a ‘strange wild animal’. Her laugh is described as ‘demonic’ and ‘goblin-laughter’. This use of supernatural imagery gives the effect that Bertha isn’t human, and that she herself is a mystery.
The gothic features used are similar to the many gothic novels of its time. These similarities lie in the plot, and literary techniques used by Charlotte Bronte.
Gothic novels incorporated mystery and suspense into the plots. ‘Jane Eyre’ has lots of these elements. The supernatural, and mysterious strangers are usually in the early gothic novels. ‘Jane Eyre’ has many supernatural references, and three mysterious characters.
Some of ‘Jane Eyre’s plot is very similar to that of other gothic novels. For example, the revelation of who, and what Bertha is, is much less horrifying than the suspense that had been built up throughout the novel beforehand. This is similar to ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’, in which a character faints after seeing something behind a veil. What it actually was was less scary than what the reader is led to believe.