Charlotte Bronte’s ,Jane Eyre, is considered by many to be a Gothic novel. There are many elements to Gothic literature. However after much research, I have come up with the five main characteristics that define every Gothic novel. First, there is always a helpless victim who is usually a female. Second, there is a cruel and evil victimizer/ villain/ torturer. Third, the victim is imprisoned or trapped within impenetrable walls such as a castle or a mansion. Fourth, there is a sense of mystery, darkness, suspense, loneliness, horror, and other similar and related feeling in the atmosphere.
Fifth, the occurrence of supernatural events. All five of these characteristics are portrayed in Jane Eyre. In Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre herself is the victim. Jane was victimized, bullied, and humiliated many times during her life. The story of Jane Eyre begins in Gateshead, an old manor owned by Mrs. Reed, Jane’s aunt. There she was treated poorly and constantly bullied and tormented. She was then sent away to an all girls orphanage school called Lowood School. There she was also treated badly and the conditions were horrible. After that, Jane’s life was turning around to be better.
She got a job as a governess in Thornfield, where at first,she was excluded by the other maids and servants, and teased by her master. However, that was nothing compared to what she has already been through. Most of the victimizing that happened to Jane was when she was a young girl. In Gateshead, Aunt Reed and her three children John, Eliza, and Georgiana were her victimizers/torturers. They resented her presence and made her feel unwanted. Aunt Reed and John were the cruelest of them all. Aunt Reed constantly made her feel self-conscious and trapped her away in the Red Room for days.
John constantly bad-mouthed her and beat her. Then she was sent away to Lowood. There, Mr. Brocklehurst, the victimizer and hypocritical master of the Lowood School, treated Jane in particular worse than everybody else. He also made conditions horrible and barely bearable by stealing from the school to support his luxurious lifestyle. After that, Jane’s life wasn’t as bad. At Thornfield, Mr. Rochester, the house owner, liked to tease her. Also, it was dangerous living in the same house as his insane wife, Bertha Mason, but it was OK. Through out the book, Jane moves from place to place.
The atmosphere also changes. However, for the most part, the atmosphere is mysterious, dark, and depressing. As a young girl, she is trapped in Gateshead. Her life as a child is sharply defined by the walls of the house. She is not made to feel wanted within them. The walls of the Red Room, where she is locked up for days for bad behavior, become her world, not just those of the house. The atmosphere during that part is lonely, cruel, and unloving. Then she is sent away to the all girls orphanage Lowood School, a serious place of misery and poverty. Lowood is bound by high walls that defines Jane’s world.
Except for Sunday services, the girls of Lowood never leave the inside of those walls. The atmosphere is full of sadness, misery, loneliness, gloom, and all kinds of depressing feelings. Being trapped / imprisoned and those dark, gloomy feeling are an important element of every Gothic novel. Another important element to every Gothic novel is the occurrence of supernatural events. The first supernatural occurrence was when Jane was imprisoned in the Red Room, where she watched her uncle take his last breathes. After she was in the room for a while, she thought she saw the ghost of her dead Uncle John.
Another supernatural occurrence is when Mr. Rochester yells for Jane and he was hundreds of miles away and she heard him. He said, “Jane, Jane, Jane! ” and she said “Wait for me, I’m coming. ” It was considered a moment of supernatural communication between the two of them. In conclusion, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte utilizes the five main elements/ characteristics that every Gothic novel utilizes. The helpless female victim is represented by Jane Eyre herself. The cruel and evil victimizers/ villains/ tortures are represented by Aunt Reed, John Reed, Eliza Reed, Georgiana Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, Mr.
Rochester, and Bertha Mason. The walls that the victim, Jane, is trapped within are Gateshead (the Red Room) and the Lowood School. The atmosphere is full of feelings such as darkness, loneliness, misery, depression, suspense, and gloom. Finally, supernatural occurrences such as when Jane thought she saw her uncle’s ghost and she heard Mr. Rochester calling her name from hundreds of miles away. The purpose of these Gothic elements is to heighten the reader’s interest and add to the tensions of the book. I believe that Charlotte Bronte successfully for filled these purposes in Jane Eyre.