Presentation on theme: "The Gothic is a major theme and story structure in Jane Eyre and most literature at the time. Jane herself is associated with the supernatural/gothic."— Presentation transcript:
The Gothic is a major theme and story structure in Jane Eyre and most literature at the time. Jane herself is associated with the supernatural/gothic. Bronte does this to make Jane stand out from the other characters as well as add drama and suspense to the novel. Features of The Gothic in literature include: The Supernatural: ghosts, ghouls and the unexplained Architecture: Structures that are large, seem abandoned or are decayed, have a sense of mystery or ominous tone associated with them. Medieval elements: Castles, monasteries, etc. Female suffering: Imprisonment, abuse or murder at the hands of an authoritative figure (usually male).
The Red Room “…at this moment a light gleamed on the wall…it glided up to the ceiling and quivered over my head” (16). Red imagery – red walls, red damask curtains, red carpet, Bed and tables are mahogany, the table is covered with a crimson cloth, Jane is bleeding from a wound on her head when she is placed in the room. Jane’s uncle, Mr. Reed, died in the room. The Red Room symbolizes Jane’s fear as well as how society traps her by limiting her freedom due to her class, gender and desire for independence.
Thornfield There is mystery surrounding Thornfield and Rochester as the reader is only provided with small details regarding this setting and its master leaving them to use their imagination to fill in the rest. Thornfield is presented as a gothic mansion with wild roses growing up the side showing signs of neglect. It is also a reflection of Rochester’s character. Through Jane’s comparison of Thornfield to the story of Blue Beard Bronte hints at violence and imprisonment both of which are features of female suffering. At the end of the chapter with the introduction to Thornfield Jane hears a mysterious and chilling laugh. This will be the first time of many but it is not revealed until later to whom this demonic laugh belongs.
Jane’s initial encounter with Rochester Jane meets Rochester for the first time as she travels alone on a desolate road during a wintery evening. Jane described the scene as “The ground was hard, the air was still, my road was lonely” “Dimness” “Low-gliding and pale beaming sun” “Wild roses” “Utter solitude and leafless repose” When Jane meets Rochester he does not reveal who he is further adding to the mystery of the inhabitants at Thornfield and revealing an element of Rochester’s character – he is a private man who keeps secrets.
The Mysterious Bertha On several occasions Jane hears a mysterious laughter throughout the house. She believes it is from Grace Poole but is never certain. One night Jane hears the mysterious laugh and goes in search of its source. While looking she comes upon Rochester’s room and discovers that his bed has been set on fire. The evening of Mr. Mason’s arrival Jane is awaken by a commotion. Rochester asks Jane to tend to Mr. Mason, who has been attacked and left wounded, while he fetches a surgeon. While tending to Mr. Mason, Jane comments on his “…corpse-like face” Jane overhears Mason tell Rochester “She sucked the blood: she said she’s drain my heart” Jane comments that on the night of the attack there is a full moon which is usually associated with supernatural creatures (werewolves, vampires, etc.)
The Mysterious Bertha continued On the night before her wedding Jane has a “vision” of a mysterious figure coming into her room, wearing her wedding veil and then ripping it in half. When Rochester finally reveals his wife Bertha, to Jane she is described as “…a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight tell: it groveled, seemingly on all fours: it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal…” (297). Ultimately Bertha is depicted as a malicious, dangerous and almost supernatural figure, however, it can be argued that her current state is a result of her mistreatment by the male figures in her life.
Jane is constantly in search of love and a connection with those around her. Her motivation is largely due to her lack of experience with love and relationships as a child due to her orphan status and the mistreat she suffered at the hands of the Reed family. Jane seeks out and explores three types of love Motherly love through Miss Temple and Mrs. Fairfax Friendship/familial love through Helen Burns and the Rivers siblings Romantic love through her relationship with Rochester Jane struggles with romantic love because it suffocates and challenges her will to be independent. Over the course of the novel Jane struggles to find a balance between her freedom to think and feel while developing an emotional and psychological bond with another that does not threaten this desire.
Jane’s quest for this balance is the cause for her initial reservations regarding her marriage to Rochester. He is a dominant figure but more importantly she would have to rely on his generosity in order to live with him in his world since she does not have a fortune of her own. Additionally, after learning about Bertha, Jane would have to live with Rochester as his mistress, making her even more of a stigma in society and thus further reliant on Rochester. In order for Jane to find the balance she desires between love and independence she must leave Rochester and only return to him when she feels she is and is treated as his equal. This is possible at the end of the novel as Jane has inherited her own fortune, making her financially independent; Bertha has died so Jane can legally become Rochester’s wife; and after the fire destroys Thornfield causing Rochester to lose his sight, this makes them equally dependent on each other for navigating through their new life together.
Jane Eyre’s character challenged the role of the hero in Victorian novels Typically this role was reserved for males. As a result the small, plain and poor heroine had never been seen before. Jane was the first main female character to claim the right to feel strongly about her emotions and act on her convictions. In 19 th century England gender roles strongly influenced people’s behavior and identities Women were not viewed as men’s equals. As a result Jane faces off with a series of men due to their condescending attitudes towards her.
Mr. Brocklehurst and Jane Mr. Brocklehurst attempts to control Jane and the other girls at Lowood through his enforcement of strict rules and an ascetic lifestyle. He also focuses their education on attaining skills that will make them a “good housewife”. As Jane quickly learns fighting these oppressive ways is futile and only results in public punishment as a means for further reinforcement of the importance of following what one is told to do rather than thinking on one’s own. Mr. Rochester and Jane Rochester is strong in his speech towards Jane and attempts to control her through his lavish gifts after his proposal. Additionally, on numerous occasions he decides to not be completely honest with Jane, suggesting that he feels he knows what is best for her and what is not. He is also forceful in nature as he grabs Jane by the hand leading her to Bertha’s room and threatens to use violence in order to make Jane stay after she discovers the truth about his current wife. It is not until Rochester treats Jane with respect and as his equal that she willingly and happily decides to be with him.
St. John and Jane St. John begins to assert his influence over Jane through his stern sermons, arrangements for Jane’s employment and areas of study (suggests she study Hindostanee rather than German). St. John proposes to Jane, telling her that she should come to India with him as his wife. Although Jane comments that St. John was not an easy man to refuse she does turn down his proposal. In response St. John tries to control her decision by stating that in refusing his proposal Jane is going against her religion. In a discussion with Diana, however, Jane realizes that St. John only wants her to travel with him to India so he can use her as a tool in his missionary work. Although conscious of this St. John’s influence is so strong that Jane contemplates bending to his will and becoming his wife and traveling to India even though she knows this will be an unhappy and tremendous sacrifice on her part. The only thing that prevents Jane from making this decision is when she hears Rochester’s voice calling for her. Thus, it is only another man’s need for her that changes Jane’s mind.
Bertha is symbolic of the traditional view of the treatment of women during the Victorian age. Similar to Jane’s experiences she is repressed and controlled by a dominant male figure. The extremity of her circumstances however – being locked away in a room, her insanity which has caused her to behave animal-like – is Bronte’s comment on the detrimental effects this type of relationship can have on an individual. It is not coincidental that Bertha, a married woman, suffers this horrible fate while Jane, a character who refuses two marriage proposals, is able to eventually find happiness. What Bronte was trying to show was that the current state of marriages squashed a woman’s identity and only in striving for equality in her relationship could a woman find happiness and be her true self. Ultimately this notion of gender equality was a radical idea during Bronte’s time.
Jane often feels and is made to feel inadequate to many of the other characters in the novel due to her social standing. At Gateshead she is constantly reminded of her orphan status and is often left out of common privileges or mistreated as a result. At Lowood students are provided with barely the basic necessities due to the fact that they must rely on the charity of others. Jane eventually finds some social mobility once she becomes a governess at Thornfield, however, she is often reminded of her place. For example: Mrs. Fairfax comments that she will be happy to have Jane’s company as her status as the head housekeeper of Thornfield means that she should not interact with the workers on friendly terms as means for maintaining her authority. Blanche Ingram and her mother willingly speak negatively about governesses (that they must be controlled, their amusement over their abuse of them, etc.) in the known presence of Jane.
Jane feels that her love for Rochester is wrong because she isn’t of the same class. Blanche Ingram is Jane’s class foil. Blanche is portrayed as an unsavory character who is selfish, only cares about money and appearances, and lacks any valuable talents or ideas. Although in virtues and character she is inferior to Jane due to her social status she commands more respects. Through Bronte’s creation of the protagonist as governess who is able to navigate the social landscape of her time she examines the sources and consequences of class boundaries. Ultimately, through Jane she is trying to make her readers break down class prejudices and instead recognize and respect people for their personal qualities.
Although the novel does endorse breaking many social constructs it also supports the maintenance of some social rules. For example, Jane refuses to become Rochester’s mistress although he was tricked into an unfortunate marriage. Jane recognizes that how she sees herself arises at least partly from how she is viewed by society, and is unwilling to make herself a powerless outcast for love. Thus, Bronte is also commenting that particular social constructs do have a place in our lives in order to maintain civil and moral boundaries.
Religion was an important foundation in Victorian society. Charlotte Bronte herself was deeply connected to this world as both her father and brother were pastors and she eventually married the pastor who took over her father’s church. The presence of religion in the novel, however, was used to critique and revaluate its status in Victorian society. Hypocritical religious figures: Mr. Brocklehurst & St. John Mr. Brocklehurst Though Mr. Brocklehurst is charitable as he gives money to Lowood in order to support and provide for orphaned girls he seems to be selfish in his giving as he barely provides them with the basic necessities while lavishing his family with fine clothing. Additionally he often seems to be seeking praise from others for all that he is doing for the girls through Lowood thus going against what the purpose of charity is.
When the reader first meets Mr. Brocklehurst he is described as “a black pillar” with a “grim face at the top was like a carved mask” 25). Again he is described as being “black marble” when he punishes Jane at Lowood (56). The actions and descriptions of Mr. Brocklehurst make him seem cold, evil, two-faced and emotionless. St. John He is described as being cold and emotionless; an ivory statue with marble or ices kisses (304, 352) He reveals his manipulative tendencies prior to his second proposal to Jane as he reads a passage from the bible about hell. Ultimately, he tries to use the fear of God in order to influence Jane to make the decision he wants.
St. John never intends to marry Jane for love; he wants to marry her for his own purposes – so that she will serve and assist him in his missionary work. Mr. Brocklehurst and St. John were used to demonstrate the hypocrisy of some religious individuals. Bronte uses them to illustrate that sometimes people of faith use their religion as a means to serve their own needs thus defying its intended purpose. Through these characters the author teaches the reader that individuals should not be idolized due to their status in a religious structure but rather through their morality which is demonstrated through their own words and actions. The characters of Helen Burn and Jane Eyre help to further reinforce this notion.
Helen Burn, Jane’s first friend and companion at Lowood, is properly the best representative of what it truly means to be religious even though she is a quiet and powerless young orphan who dies at an early age. Helen can be seen as a martyr or Christ-like figure as she endures her unjust punishments at Lowood quietly and willingly. She does not hold resentment towards those who treat her unfair nor does she search for any recognition for her virtuous ways. Helen saves Jane during one of her darkest hours. When she arrives at Lowood Jane feels completely alone and does not know how to handle the strict and relentless environment she now finds herself in. Helen teachers her the importance of enduring hardships, even those that are unfairly administered, thus providing Jane with the important tool of perseverance which allows her to not only make it through her days at Lowood but to overcome obstacles in her future.
Helen’s Christ-like status is further enforced through her teachings of heaven and the emphasis on this mortal life not being as important as the one to come after death. Helen’s gravestone marking ‘Resurgam’ meaning ‘I will rise again’ also connects to her faith in life after death. Jane Jane develops her morality throughout the course of the novel and in the end acts as a model of how an individual should build the guiding principles of their life. At first Jane initially has religion pushed upon her through her experience with Mr. Brocklehurst and his Evangelical practices at Lowood. She is able to recognize the hypocrisy of his ways but takes from her experience with Helen the importance of perseverance and enduring hardships with humility.
St. John River provides another religious model for Jane, however, he practices a Christianity of ambition, glory, and extreme self- importance. St. John tries to convince Jane to sacrifice her emotional deeds for the fulfillment of her moral duty, offering her a way of life that would require her to be disloyal to her own self. Ultimately Jane finds her spirituality by rejecting both of these models and instead finding a middle ground. She recognizes the importance of staying true to one’s self and developing self knowledge while having complete faith in God. She demonstrates this faith when she turns to God for support (after her wedding is interrupted she prays to God for solace) and trusts that He will ensure she survives as she wonders the heath poor, homeless and starving.