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The Genre and The Girl
|by Tanvi Patel|
The Gothic, one of the leading genres in the mid nineteenth century, is very prevalent in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. The imagery of the novel transgresses slowly into the protagonist Jane Eyre and she becomes a gothic character. In a specific passage taken from a critical part of the novel (pg. 242-243), the parallels of the Gothic tradition and Jane's character are greatly eminent. The passage then asserts that Jane herself has Gothic tendencies and is drawn to the universe that is created by the Gothic imagery. This episode helps the reader to get a better understanding of Jane as well as foreshadows future occurrences.
The Gothic as a genre holds certain characteristics that alienate and distinguish it from the rest of the novel. The scene in question begins with Jane's curiosity of the nature that the Gothic embodies. She seeks "shelter" from the "wind" in the orchard and momentarily escapes the wrath of nature. (pg. 242) By escaping to shelter, Jane is able to stay safe in the normal world while experiencing the gothic through her eyes. She has not been scared off by its force but is rather curious of its power, so she stays to watch. This response is a direct parallel with the character of Jane who seems plain and calm on the outside while she holds a fiery passion within her. The contradiction of safety and fiery holds true for both the gothic and for Jane's persona. When the Gothic weather intrigues her, she is so drawn to it that she releases her inner being. Jane's "wild pleasure" enables her to "[run] before the wind" illustrating the vivid inner desire she holds within her. (pg. 242-243) This similarity between Jane and the gothic suggests that Jane has a very Gothic sense about her since because of her comfort level within the realm.
As the passage progresses, Jane places an emphasis on physicality and detail that remains very characteristic of the gothic genre. The imagery of the "air - torrent thundering through space" creates a dreary atmosphere and shows Jane's attention to detail. (pg. 243) Her careful usage of specific diction and language illustrate the high level of importance she places on the exact physicality of the darkness around her. The "laurel - walk" and the "blank and riven - chestnut tree" are given delicate focus with descriptive words to allow the reader to literally be in the novel with her. (pg. 243) This careful analysis of the world around Jane continues in various other parts of the novel including her close physical perception of Rochester's nose in the latter part of the novel. Thus, Jane parallels the characteristics of the gothic genre because of the descriptive language she uses in this passage.
The symbolism and foreshadowing of the chestnut tree suggests a tragedy. The death associated with this occurrence is very characteristic of the gothic. The fallen chestnut tree foreshadows the marriage between Jane and Rochester that is scheduled to happen. Although the "trunk [was] split down the centre, the cloven halves were not broken from each other, for the firm base and strong roots kept them unsundered below." (pg. 243) The tree symbolically suggests that even though Jane and Rochester will not marry now, their strength and love will bring them back together in later times. Thus, the tree foreshadows the fate of our two lovers who will initially have turmoil in their relationship (the failure of the attempt of marriage) but will end up together because of the strong foundation and love they have for each other. This theme of division continues this very same night when Bertha enters Jane's room and tears her veil in two. The deathly appearance of Bertha and the death of the tree are very characteristic of the genre and Jane's life. Therefore, once again the morbidity of the visual in front of Jane compares with Jane's future life.
While Jane is gazing upon the wonder of this dead tree, the moon makes a necessary appearance to add to the ambiance. The genre of the gothic is very familiar with the moon because it comes up during the night and holds certain premonitions for the future. Jane notes that the quick "bewildered dreary glance" from the moon was "blood-red and half overcast." (pg. 243) The appearance of the moon itself suggests a gothic tone to the passage, but the descriptive words used by Jane add to the flavor the glance. The use of the word "red" runs rampid throughout the book to denote Jane's tensions and passions. Here the red associated with blood is included to enhance the aspect of death represented by the chestnut tree. Both the ideologies of death and passion are reinforced here with the use of language.
Adding to the foreshadowing aspect mentioned earlier, the moon also creates a sense of madness to the morbid scene. Before the moon appears, Jane compliments the two halves of the tree when she says that they "are not desolate" even though they "will never have green leaves more- nevermore see birds making nests and singing" within the branches. After Jane's kind words, the moon appears suddenly as if to look down upon Jane to question and disrupt the positive energy created by her sense of hope. The "glance" the moon throws suggests that there is a certain madness to Jane's happiness here that will soon be destroyed. Like the connotation of the moon, Jane has a certain sense of madness that has carried her all the way to the arms of Rochester. She is aware of the class and monetary differences between herself and Rochester, yet her maddening love for him looks past all these obstacles. Therefore, the moon becomes another source of analogy for Jane Eyre and the gothic genre.
The parallels between Jane Eyre's character and the genre of this specific passage are very similar in their basic characteristics. The gothic as a genre is very well chosen for this novel because the protagonist can relate and embody most of its primal attributes. The dreary weather, the description of physicality, the uses of certain images, and inner passions are all characteristics of Jane Eyre as well as the gothic as a genre. Thus, this combination helps the reader to understand both the character and the genre through the use of each other.
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