Bronte's Use of the Gothic in Chapter 20 of Jane Eyre
Eyre, although not a gothic novel in the traditional sense of the
word, most definitely contains elements and symbols of a gothic
nature. Chapter 20 is the culmination of all the gothic symbols
reference throughout the book up until this chapter, and in it we see
the use of the moon, blood, animalistic symbolism, religious themes,
and the language used within the chapter.
the moon. The moon is a predominant feature of this chapter of Jane
Eyre, but also features throughout the book. The moon wakes Jane in
chapter 20: “her glorious gaze roused me”, and this prepares Jane
for the night that she will face. Underneath the moon, the
supernatural themes of the chapter take place, and indeed Jane says
“dawn was approaching... hope [was] revived.” The moon has a
great place in gothic literature due to pathetic fallacy. The moon
has long been associated with insanity and also with werewolves and
vampires, two ideas that feature heavily in this chapter;
furthermore, the moon is frequently used in rituals and spells,
therefore giving it ties with magic and the occult. Its presence at
the beginning of this chapter foreshadows the events to come
throughout. However, another angle must also be considered on this:
in chapter 27, Jane sees the moon as a “white human form” that
whispered in her heart “my daughter, flee temptation”. Jane
answers “Mother, I will”. Here the moon appears to Jane as a
symbol of the matriarchal spirit. Although this idea does not
necessarily fit with previous usages of the moon, it can also be
argued that the moon guides Jane along her spiritual journey which
takes her away from Rochester, but also leads her back to him: “The
room was full of moonlight” when Jane heard a voice cry “Jane!
Jane! Jane!”, and indeed- Rochester has called Jane's name to the
moon, aware of its presence by a “vague luminous haze”.
Interpreted in this respect, the moon's symbolism is twofold.
Firstly, the moon foreshadows the supernatural, as it has long been
linked with both this, and also that of vampires, werewolves and
magic- themes that feature heavily during this chapter. However, if
we look further into the moon, it is the moon that wakes Jane and
alerts her to the beast prowling above her, allowing her to be ready
for when Rochester calls her. It gives her the strength to quit
Gateshead and it eventually leads her back to Rochester- to her home.
The moon guides Jane through her journey, admittedly leading her
full-circle, however Jane has had time to grow and develop, whilst
Rochester has been humbled by time and injury. He understands by the
end of the novel that his intentions were wrong: “I would have
sullied my innocent flower”, and this understanding allows Jane and
Rochester's relationship to survive on equal terms. With the help of
the moon, the couple achieve their happy ending.
on from the moon as a symbol of vampirism, lycanthropy and the
occult, we also see the theme of blood come into play in this
chapter. Bertha displays vampiric tendencies, threatening to “drain
my [Mason's] heart”. Bertha however, does not stop at blood.
According to Rochester, she would drain him of “my energy, my
vitality, my manhood”. Rochester also refers to Bertha as a
'hideous demon” who “allured” him in typical succubus fashion.
This chapter sees the expression not only of Bertha's vampiric
tendencies, but also of her lycanthropic tendencies. Her
transformation from woman to fiend is one so unexpected that her own
brother could not anticipate it: “Oh it was frightful!... And I did
not expect it: she looked so quiet at first.” Blood is spilled
frequently within this chapter, and it is not only used as an
expression of Bertha's more inhuman characteristics. It also serves
to show how what is to Rochester a “mere scratch”, has Mason, in
Jane's eyes “weak, wild and lost”. This difference in
interpretations of the situation shows differences in the
personalities of both Jane and Rochester. Rochester's dismissal and
denial of the situation reflects his attitude to life. Frequently, he
trivialises Jane's concerns, a characteristic possibly left over from
his days as a young man tearing through Europe and trying to leave
his past behind him. On the other hand, Jane over-thinks the
situation, and has Mason at death's door. These opposing
characteristics create conflict and heighten tension between the two
within the book, contrasts are drawn between Bertha and Jane. Whilst
Bertha is a “winged condor on the Andes”, a “snarling... dog
quarrelling”, a “carrion-seeking bird of prey”, a “tigress”,
Jane is a “pet lamb”, a “cat”. These phrases used to describe
Bertha are linked back to colonialism, which, as we also see with
Adele, is frowned upon within society: “a sound English education
corrected in great measure [Adele's] French defects”. Bertha is
foreign, which within Victorian society, would have been frowned
upon. These colonialisms are used to warn and remind the reader of
Bertha's origins, and stress that they are not English. Furthermore,
Bertha is the antithesis of Jane. According to Gilbert and Gubar,
“the character of Bertha Mason serves as an ominous representation
of uncontrollable passion and madness”. This uncontrollable passion
and madness echoes that of Jane's when locked in the red room. Bertha
represents everything that Jane would be if not educated in a moral,
upstanding society. On another level however, Bertha can also be seen
as a manifestation of Jane's subconscious. Jane loves Rochester,
however fears that her marriage to him may become an imprisonment;
Bertha manifests this fear by tearing apart her wedding veil.
Furthermore, when Thornfield comes to represent servitude and
submission for Jane, Bertha burns it to the ground. Bertha represents
the emotions and actions that Jane must keep in check.
within this chapter, we encounter religious themes. In particular,
these are seen in the depiction of the cabinet on which the twelve
apostles can be seen. Judas, she imagines, is “gathering life and
threatening a revelation of the arch-traitor- of Satan himself- in
his subordinate's form.” This suggests a devilish and supernatural
evil. When we add this to the fact that metres away prowls Bertha,
referred to soon after as a “mocking demon”, a “wild beast”
and a “fiend”, this description becomes even more chilling.
Bertha is here being linked to the devil, his presence released by
Judas. In a way, Mason could be described as Judas. Here, Rochester
is forced to bring Jane into close proximity with Bertha in order to
keep Mason alive. However, if it wasn't for Mason's stupidity, this
action would not have been necessary: “it was mere folly to attempt
the interview tonight, and alone.” Furthermore, Bertha's existence
would not have been revealed to Jane were it not for Mason
interrupting their wedding day. Mason's betrayal of Rochester can be
linked with Judas' betrayal of Christ.
language use within the chapter. Bronte uses language carefully,
conjuring up vivid and horrifying images within our mind. The entire
description of the events that occur on the mysterious third floor
simply serve to heighten the tension, mystery, and add to the
reader's sense of impending horror- whilst Jane may be naïve, the
reader in general is not. Jane relates of “a pale and bloody
spectacle”, of a mystery that breaks out “now in fire and now in
blood”, creating a “web of horror” in which the reader is
firmly ensnared. Gothic texts use gloomy settings, along with a
sinister and eerie atmosphere to create both horror, and also
mystery. Jane's continual references to secrets, mystery and the
supernatural keep the reader in suspense throughout the chapter.
However, Jane cannot see through the veneer that Thornfield, and also
house is a mere dungeon: don't you feel it so?'
'It seems to me a splendid mansion, sir.'
'The glamour of inexperience is over your eyes'”.
cannot see Thornfield in its true light, and neither can she see
Rochester. His secrets stand between them, and they cannot be