The use of the supernatural in Jane Eyre
- Pages: 9
- Word count: 2089
- Category: Eyre
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‘Jane Eyre’ has been described as “no more than a typical romantic novel” but if it is read deeper, qualities unusual in a romantic novel are uncovered. Qualities that are more associated with “gothic novels” of the time. These lead me to believe that ‘Jane Eyre’ was not just “a typical romantic novel,” and that the actual plot of the book revolved much more around the elements of the supernatural that are scattered throughout. I will investigate these elements to prove just how unlike a typical romantic novel ‘Jane Eyre’ really is.
The first hint of the supernatural that we, as the reader, are introduced to is the occurrences in the Red Room at Gateshead when Jane was but 10 years old. She was locked in a room, dubbed the “Red Room”, by her aunt, Mrs Reed. It was written that her uncle died in the very same room. Because of her knowledge of this fact, Jane Eyre believed that a light which she saw floating across one of the walls was the spirit of her uncle arriving to avenge her mistreatment by his widow: Shaking my hair from my eyes, I lifted my head and tried to look boldly round the dark room; at this moment a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked myself, a ray from the moon penetrating some aperture in the blind? No; moonlight was still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided up to the ceiling and quivered over my head… I thought the swift-darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world. ” This final ghostly experience during Jane’s brief stay in the “Red Room” was most probably a product of Jane’s over-active imagination which was triggered by stories told to her to scare her.
The ghostly atmosphere of the room, “This room was chill… it was silent,” “Mr Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber that he breathed his last,” added to Jane’s imagination, enabling her to conjure up the images of ghosts and phantoms that haunted her during her stay. Pathetic fallacy is also used during the “Red Room” incident both to reflect Jane’s mood and the atmosphere of the room: “Daylight began to forsake the red-room; it was past four o’clock, and the beclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight.
I heard the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and the wind howling in the grove behind the hall. ” These descriptions occur more in conjunction with a Victorian gothic novel than a traditional love story, which emphasises my point that Jane Eyre is written much more in a gothic style, emphasising much more on the supernatural than love. Love sells books; the supernatural makes for much more interesting reading. During the course of Jane Eyre, the use of forewarning and prophecy is frequent.
This is another feature of Charlotte Bronti?? ‘s novel that runs on a parallel with traditional gothic novels. There are no ghosts in ‘Jane Eyre’ yet every phase of Jane’s life is preceded by an image within her imagination depicting a supernatural visitation as though from another world. There are many small examples of this foreshadowing throughout the book, such as Helen Burns’ death. Helen’s death is foreshadowed by her delight in eternity, inability to concentrate, insistent cough, and ominous forebodings: We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous flame of flesh. ” These thoughts which swirl mindlessly around Helen’s head are surely a premonition of the untimely end that becomes her very shortly after she and Jane become friends. It soon becomes apparent in the novel that all who Jane becomes close to are destined to leave her in some shape or form.
Perhaps she is a jinx to herself, or perhaps the circumstances described within the novel are merely Jane’s destiny. The use of thought-provocation to do with destiny and fate within Jane Eyre also highlights the use of the supernatural, as does the belief in God of most of the characters. Is God not, after all, a supernatural being? God is the one being who can control the destinies of everyone. Bronti?? displays her character’s belief in God to show how powerful he is. Perhaps Jane’s imagination causes her to produce an over-exaggerated image of God, that causes her to be scared of death, and that is why Bronti?? as encouraged a loneliness and independence to develop in Jane’s character. She herself is scared of dying, and doesn’t allow, or is denied by Bronti?? , the closeness in relationships that she deserves because of this fear. For example: Jane’s relationships with Helen and Mrs Reed end in death. Jane’s relationships with St John Rivers and Mr Rochester end because they have faulted. Jane is often left alone or abandoned, the death of her parents probably being a trigger for her loneliness and isolation from others.
Jane is not always abandoned physically, but mentally suffers disappointment in silence. Her “tortured soul” is another strong theme that often runs through gothic, supernatural novels. Jane has dreams of this prophetic nature. Her dreams occur very often within the novel. They have a tendency to predict future happenings with almost pinpoint accuracy. For one, the existence of the vampire-like woman in Jane’s dream: “This, sir, was purple: the lips were swelled and dark; the brow furrowed: the black eyebrows widely raised over the bloodshot eyes.
Shall I tell you of what it reminded me… Of the foul German spectre – the Vampyre. ” foreshadows the existence of another woman (Bertha) existing within Mr Rochester’s life. These dreams present the best opportunities for Bronti?? to include the more spiritual side of the supernatural in ‘Jane Eyre. ‘ Jane’s dreams only tell her about her future, and are not predictions, merely shadows and metaphors for the future. However, many of her dreams are interpreted by Jane as bearing tragic news.
On most of these occasions, it seems to me that Jane only interprets them as signs of impending doom because she associates them with similar stories or experiences, both of herself or others, which led to a tragedy. Even the most ancient childhood memories produce a basis for comparison: ” When I was a little girl, only six years old, I one night heard Bessie Leaven say to Martha Abbot that she had been dreaming about a little child; and that to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble… The next day Bessie was sent home to the deathbed of her little sister.
Of late I had often recalled this saying and this incident; for during the past week scarcely a night had gone over my couch that had not brought with it a dream of an infant… and I grew nervous as bedtime approached and the hour of the vision drew near. ” The next day Jane received news that her cousin, John Reed, had died and that she was wanted back at Gateshead Hall. Prior to her wedding day, Jane also experiences two other dreams, which, as the others did, hint at the future that is in store for her. The first dream causes Jane to realise the ” barrier dividing us. (Rochester and Jane) It depicts ” the windings of an unknown road; total obscurity… rain… you, I felt, withdrew farther and farther every moment. ” This, as the reader soon realises as he reads on, is surely a foreshadow of the long, unknown journey that Jane is soon forced to make, as the existence of Bertha is revealed painfully. The second dream that Jane relays to Mr Rochester involves “Thornfield being a dreary ruin, the retreat of bats and owls… of all the stately front nothing remained but a shell-like wall, very high and very fragile-looking… he wall crumbled. ” This dream could be representing two things. The ruin of Thornfield could simply be representing an image of what will come in the future, as the book reveals later, the wreckage left after a devastating fire. But this dream could also have a more symbolic intention. The ruin of Thornfield could also indicate that the relationship between Jane and Rochester is soon to be in ruins, and the crumbling wall at the end of Jane’s dream could be interpreted in the same way, as the imminent crumbling of the two lovers’ relationship.
However, the most memorable of Jane’s prophetic ‘dreams’ within the novel is found near the end, when Jane, during a daydream, hears Mr Rochester calling her name over the lonely moors: ” The room was full of moonlight. My heart beat fast and thick: I heard its throb. Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible feeling that thrilled it through, and passed at once to my head and extremities… I saw nothing but heard a voice somewhere cry- ‘Jane! Jane! Jane! ‘ – nothing more… t was the voice of a human being – a known, loved, well-remembered voice – that of Edward Fairfax Rochester; and it spoke in pain and woe, wildly, eerily, urgently. ” Mr Rochester’s telepathic communication with Jane here can be described as just a supernatural phenomenon fully exploited, to great success, for the purpose of fiction. Bronti?? uses these instances of telepathy and premonition to great effect both in ways which are real within the novel, such as Jane’s prophetic dreams, and in ways which are very false, such as Mr Rochester’s interpretation of a gipsy “sibyl. This interpretation could merely be Bronti?? ‘s clue to readers as to the nature of the novel, to aid them in formulating ideas of their own as to the supernatural elements within her novel and the size of the role in which they play. Bronti?? uses many writing techniques such as adjectives, pathetic fallacy, poetic symbolism, and imagery to convey to the reader the theme of the supernatural. These techniques are scattered prolifically throughout the novel, hinting throughout the chapters at Jane’s torment. Adjectives such as: “ghostly,” “pale,” “demoniac,” “eerie,” and “phantom-like” are all used by Bronti?? s a tool to heighten the reader’s awareness of the supernatural element within Jane Eyre. Pathetic fallacy is often used by Bronti?? to forewarn Jane of decisions or events that may not be the best. On the eve of Jane’s wedding, there is a tremendous thunderstorm. When she is trapped in the “Red Room”, it is raining. The imagery produced by Bronti?? is accentuated within Jane’s vivid dreams, causing quite a stir within Jane’s head, and helping the reader to picture the scenes that Jane herself is picturing. Bronti?? uses poetic symbolism more sparsely, but still to great effect.
The chestnut tree splitting into two serves as a symbol for the separation of Jane and Mr. Rochester. Bertha’s tearing of the wedding veil symbolises Mr. Rochester’s betrayal of his real wife and Jane, his betrothed. The creepy settings in the novel are reminiscent of the architectural styles that frequent the gothic style novels. The fire in Mr. Rochester’s room also helps to validate the idea of a “gothic” novel by architecture. Buildings constructed under the idea of “gothic” architecture are noted for being elaborately built and “rising toward Heaven. Thornfield Hall meets this idea perfectly. The structure of Thornfield Hall is large and evasive. Most of the rooms are described as being “dreary and solitary,” due to their dimension. The amount of land owned by Mr. Rochester isolates Thornfield Hall and compliments the overpowering appearance of the house. The architecture and location of Thornfield Hall helps confirm the idea of a desolate setting. Thornfield Hall was located on an extensive amount of land owned by Mr. Rochester. Houses were located a great distance apart and it took a long time to travel from house to house.
Visitors usually spent days at houses they were visiting because of the traveling distance. With the setting of a book such as Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre being quite out of reach to other characters, it gives the reader an eerie feeling and allows the imagination to travel when an unusual incident takes place. This also occurs when Jane Eyre is traveling through the moors after she leaves Thornfield Hall. The moors were described as an uninhabited and desolate area. With this part of the story taking place at night in this area, the reader is left to imagine the possibilities of what could be in the overgrowth.