Gothic Elements in Jane Eyre

Essay by neo_sovereignHigh School, 12th gradeA, June 2005

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Gothic is a literary genre that is connected to the dark and horrific. It became popular in the late Victorian Era, following the success of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, in 1764. Since that time, gothic literature has become a widespread influence. Some elements that are typically gothic include ancient prophecies, mystery and suspense, supernatural events, dreams and visions, violence, and a gloomy and desolate setting. Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre, was greatly influenced by the gothic movement. This is obvious to anyone who has read her work. Jane Eyre, in particular, falls into the tradition of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century gothic novels. Gothic elements can be seen in the mystery behind Thornfield and Rochester's past. There is also a prevalent theme of the supernatural, such as the appearance of Mr. Reed's ghost, the ghoulish and sinister laughter of Bertha Mason, and Rochester's disembodied voice calling out to Jane.

Furthermore, there is a great deal of suspense that is generated by the violent behaviour of Bertha Mason. The gothic elements of mystery, violence and the supernatural have the strongest presence in Jane Eyre.

The mystery behind Thornfield and Rochester's past is a strong theme in the novel. When Jane first arrived at Thornfield, already she could sense that something was peculiar about the place. She hears a "distinct, mirthless laugh" coming from the third-floor of the house. Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper, informs Jane that a servant named Grace Poole lives up there. She is also rather unbalanced. Jane finds the servant's behaviour very strange and disturbing. However, Jane seriously starts to question the story behind Grace Poole when the servant snuck into Rochester's room and set the bed curtains ablaze. Jane finds Rochester's reaction to the incident to be peculiar in itself, since...