Gothic novels are a type of romance, Gothic meaning “wild”, “barbarous” and “crude” and rise from the idea of darkness, supernatural events, anti-heroes and a form of tyrannical or evil presence felt throughout the novel. The first Gothic Novel to be published in Britain was Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Oranto”, subtitled “A Gothic Story” in its second edition. Later novelists include Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho), M.G Lewis (Monk). Their influence to this type old literature can be seen in later romantic/horror novels such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre has been argued to be a gothic novel and a romance with the themes that make up the gothic.
In the book we have three main sets in which the supernatural and other strange events happen. These are: •
The Red Room in which Jane is locked up at the beginning of the book •
Thornfield and its surrounding in which Jane learns about the mystery of Grace Poole •
St John’s house where she hears Rochester’s voice
When we look at the setting of the Red Room, we instantly have to look at the colour psychology behind red. Red can represent danger, fear, and death so instantly we know that Jane is being sent to a room where evil lies, bad things will occur inside the room. Examples of this is when Jane believes she has seen the ghost of Mr Reed rise from the dead, “a light gleamed on the wall”, she is clearly afraid of the room since someone died in there, linking back to the colour association of death.
Thornfield hall has two settings, inside the castle and outside. Inside the castle is where all bad things happen, the “goblin” laughter at night, the fire in Rochester’s room, Mason’s attack etc. It is even the place where “one would almost say that, if there were a ghost, this would be its haunt”, We can see that Thornfield Hall is a cursed castle. Even Rochester himself feels threatened and hunted inside this dungeon, “come where there is some freshness…this house is a mere dungeon”, Rochester needs to find some light, he wants to get away from all his worries. On the other hand outside is where all good things happen. It is where Jane and Rochester admit their love for each other, where they meet for first time, etc.
St. John’s house is similar to the setting outside Thornfield hall. Many good events happen to Jane after she meets St John. She inherits a fortune, learns that he is a relative to her and, most importantly, she hears Rochester’s desperation to have her back.
An important element in the Gothic theme is the building up of mystery and suspense. Bronte is able to master suspense and tension throughout the novel by introducing new characters which we only find out more about them as the novel passes and by the way Jane behaves. In the Red Room for example, Jane describes it as a “a spare chamber, very seldom slept in: I might say never” by saying that no one has slept in this room it makes the reader ask themselves why and so the tension around Jane is increased as she reveals more and more secrets about the room, she makes the reader think that it is an evil room. She later describes it as the “room was chill, because it seldom had fire” we can associate the chill as being cold, a cold room meaning emotionless and dark, it lacks warmth meaning that it lacks security, you would not feel good in this room because of the temperature of it. You can also argue that this can reflect her emotions since she has no one to look up to, no one to take care of her and so she feels cold and insecure. She is unhappy and lacks the warmth of a loved one to comfort her.
As she spends more time inside the room, she begins to reveal the mysteries behind the room such as Mr Reed dying inside it nine years ago. This instantly increases the atmosphere of the room now that we have a supernatural presence inside. Jane is just a small child at that time and we need to look at the psychological view behind it....
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