Gothic novel is a type of romance or fiction the setting of which was medieval and often a gloomy castle full of dungeons and underground passages. These kinds of novels replete with ghosts, mysterious disappearance and other sensational and supernatural occurrences and violent incidents. Jane Eyre uses may forms of the Gothic genre in order to create emotion and get an audience reaction. The most common Gothic form Bronte uses is Jane’s descriptions of the red room, Thornfield Hall the use of supernatural, mysteries, suspense, a ghostly atmosphere, a setting in a castle, the appearances of a fortune-teller etc.
Gothic paraphernalia is first shown in the novel in the form of the red room. It is the frightening chamber in which Mr. Reed died. It is a spare bedroom furnished with red curtains, red carpet, red tablecloth, reddish wood furniture. It’s cold, quiet and lonely. When Jane is locked in the room she catches a glimpse of her ghastly figure in the mirror and shocked by her meager presence. Suddenly she is struck with the impression that her uncle Reed’s ghost is in the room and she imagines that he has come to take revenge on his wife for breaking her promise. Jane cries out in terror.
In the novel there are allusions to supernatural occurrences such as in the red room scene when Jane senses the ghost of her uncle her ears fill with sound which she said she ‘deemed the rushing of wings, something seemed near me..’ Mr. Rochester’s telepathic communication to Jane towards the end of the novel is also a supernatural phenomenon. All these give a lack of realism and a feeling of the supernatural contributing to the Gothic genre.
Another example of the use of Gothic element is the description of Thornfield Hall. The idea of it being an ancestral home gives it a Gothic feel. The decoration is dark, dated and labored with secrets and memories of the past creating an archaic and enigmatic vision of a Gothic castle image. It is a Gothic castle is reinforced by the strange laugh from the attic door. Later in her description of the house Jane comments on the passages and the house having trap doors ‘like a corridor in some of Bluebeard’s castle’.
‘Jane Eyre’ has been called a new type of Gothic novel because of Charlotte’s use of poetic symbolism. In the garden of Thornfield there is chestnut tree which is struck by lightning. Bronte here indicates that the chestnut three could have powers that foreshadow the separation of Rochester and Jane that followed the next day and the disaster and danger for the couple that lay ahead of them almost as if nature is predicting human fate.
The appearance of the fortune teller gives the novel a sense of the supernatural which is particularly Gothic. Bronte also uses the Gothic form death throughout the novel. the predominant example is the death of Helen Burns Jane’s friend at Lowood. Jane is portrayed as the damsel in distress in parts of the novel which is a Gothic form but also adds a fairy tale feel. For example when Jane flees John Rivers finds her and gives her a place to rest. ‘Jane Eyre’ combines conventions of Gothic literature and romanticism. Like most romantic novels initially the two protagonists hide their feelings and cannot be together.