6 July 2016

Jane Eyre - A bildungsroman and a gothic novel

A bildungsroman:

Jane Eyre is a bildungsroman, or a novel of development, that follows Jane through all the stages of life. There are trials and disappointments early in life, and clashes between her personal desires and society’s rules, however, she moves on towards independence. Throughout the novel, Jane Eyre’s character changes to a more pragmatic stage. Psychological maturation is a trait of the Bildungsroman genre. At the beginning, Jane uses what she learns from the books to defend herself when she is angry. This is clear when she says, “you are like a murderer – you are like a slave-driver – you are like the Roman emperors!” Jane has become angry since she lost her parents. Mrs Reeds, who adopts Jane, makes her feel depressed and treats her in a bad manners. In fact, Mrs Reeds does not consider Jane as a family member and treats her like a servant. When Jane has expressed her emotions, she is locked in the red room and sent to Lowood school. There again, Mr Brocklehurst treats her unfairly, but she is able to express her anger by the kind support of her friend Helen and Miss Temple. There is an emotional transition when Jane feels strong through the care of Miss Temple and Helen. She finishes her education at Lowood and becomes a governess at Thornfield, where she meets Mr Rochester and experiences love as the most powerful emotion. Love makes Jane brave and mature. Her relationship with Mr Rochester makes her feel confused but respected. She feels psychologically equal to him when he admits how much he loves her: “I have for the first time found what I can truly love - I have found you. You are my sympathy - my better self - my good angel - I am bound to you with a strong attachment,” The strong emotional conflict between love and shame makes Jane run away from Thornfield. She knows that she must have her own identity when she says to him: "I tell you I must go...Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton?-- a machine without feelings?” The final emotional transition for Jane Eyre happens when St. John asks her to marry him and go to India. Jane strongly refuses his proposal and decides to follow her heart and marry her lover, Mr Rochester. The story concludes when Jane Eyre, who is a successful Bildungsroman character, finishes her emotional maturation process.

A gothic novel:

Jane Eyre is a gothic novel as Charlotte Bronte is greatly influenced by the gothic novels that were famous before the time of Jane Eyre. The gothic element focuses on mysterious events and takes place in strange settings such as haunted houses. The red room is dark like blood. It has strange noises and a large mirror. Mr Reed died there, and Jane imagines his ghost in the room. This is a gothic scene. When Jane is in the third floor of Thornfield Hall, she describes the decoration of the hall as dark, old and filled with secrets and memories from the past. It is a gothic place which looks "strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of moonlight," as Jane herself says. The double is a feature of the gothic novel. Jane Eyre and Bertha mason, “the madwoman in the attic,” are doubles, one who has a sound mind, and the other who is insane. The night before Jane’s wedding, she is visited by Bertha, Mr Rochester’s first wife, who is a mad and hysterical woman. The two characters are different. Bertha is an evil woman while Jane is religious and good. When Bertha visits Jane in her room, Jane is terrified and feels as if she is in the red room. She looks into the mirror and says that she does not recognize herself, but sees only, "a robed and veiled figure...the image of a stranger." This is a typical Gothic imagery. The striking of the chestnut tree, under which Jane and Mr Rochester sits when he proposes to her the previous night, means separation, disaster and danger for Jane and Rochester. It is also a perfect gothic symbol which predicts human fate. In conclusion, the use of the gothic element makes the structure deep throughout the novel.

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