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Analysis Of The Gothic Period

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Since the 18th century, Gothic Fiction has become a famous genre. As its popularity has increased during the decades it is still a well-known and much appreciated theme nowadays. Whereas many female authors were restricted to feminist novels and had the reputation of being unable to compose works valuable for everyone, the onset of Gothic writing bore a whole new prospect for them. A famous example for such female authors is Charlotte Brontë. When she wrote Jane Eyre in 1847 she enqueued herself to the list of successful women of that genre. Even though Jane Eyre contains several aspects of the classic Gothic novel it differs in the font of the uncanny. Whilst novels such as Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde allude to a supernatural matter and maintain surreal, Jane Eyre originates from an earthly reason. In this paper a brief definition shall be given of what Gothic Fiction is. The main part will deal with the Gothic elements within Jane Eyre in chronological order. In a final step special attention will be given to the uncanny as it is found during several incidents within Thornfield Hall and why it is different from the classic Gothic. This will be done with special attention to the character of Bertha Mason - the protagonist when it comes to the Gothic aspect of the novel.

Gothic Fiction is a literary field which emerged in the late 18th century. When it comes to defining its genesis, a precise point in time can hardly be given. Depending on the definition of what Gothic Fiction is, several literary periods bear elements of Gothic - from ancient prose to Shakespearean works, from post-medieval to post-Renaissance. However, the most defined period of time, when it comes to the British Isles and Europe, is from the 1790s until the early 1830s, evoked especially because of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The first work titled as "a Gothic Story" was Horace Walpole's The Castle of Ontranto in 1764. The theme became revitalized in the 1890s by Classics such as Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray or Bram Stoker's Dracula. During the 20th century Gothic was realized through media other than books: films, television, theatre and musicals. There is a wide range of Gothic Fiction by several authors and works of varying themes, thus it is difficult to give an exact definition. However, some guidelines can be found among the majority of works and therefore serve as an outline for Gothic Fiction. First, a Gothic tale usually is located in an "antiquated or seemingly antiquated space" (Hogle 2). Examples for this are castles, old houses, a prison, a laboratory or any other comparable place. Within this space, there are usually elements which haunt the characters. Those hauntings can be of any form, be it non-physical, such as mere secrets, or of a more specific presence, like ghosts, spectres or monsters. Thereby, Gothic tales generally connect earthly reality with the supernatural and raise the possibility that the boundary between them can be crossed, psychologically or even physically. This leads, for the most part, to the constant imminence of death. Secondly, an important aspect these works deal with is society and its different aspects. One aspect is class difference: on the one hand the high aristocratic class, on the other hand the lower working class. A third aspect is gender distinction. In many Gothic works "women are the figures most fearfully trapped between contradictory pressures and impulses" (Hogle 9) - they are either the protagonists coping with the terrors created within the story, or they are minor characters coincidentally trapped within these. Given that gender and Gothic accompany one another, there is also a distinction between female Gothic and male Gothic. Examples for female Gothic can be found in the vast twentieth-century by feminine Gothic romances such as duMaurier's Rebecca. As a great number of Gothic stories not only concentrate on female characters, but are also written by women, they have been and are still popular among the female readership. Male-oriented Gothics would be Shelley's Frankenstein and Stoker's Dracula. As a fourth and most important characteristic the term of "the Uncanny" needs to be given. Sigmund Freud examined this aspect in his essay Das Unheimliche. According to Freud, quintessentially uncanny "is the deeply and internally familiar as it reappears to us in seemingly external, repellant and unfamiliar forms" (Hogle 6). Such uncanny elements cause terror between both the characters of the story and the reader - they are threatened with horror. The uncanny is most often realized by characters other than human beings - creatures such as Frankenstein's monster, the aristocratic vampire Dracula or Mr. Hyde . They are cast off, criminalized and condemned, introduce sorrow and a dangerous atmosphere. Therefore, they terrorize the reader to an extend which is beyond comparison to any other literary genre.

The Brontës are located in two genres of literature: They are authors of feminist literature and also authors of Gothic fiction. Some of their works are categorized as the latter: Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Brontë's Vilette and Jane Eyre. While focusing on Jane Eyre, Gothic stances can be found throughout the plot of the novel. With hindsight to the previously mentioned characteristics of Gothic novels, Jane Eyre is predominantly effected by the uncanny. The first striking event is the so-called "red room incident". As the name already suggests, the dark room is painted in red, which is a symbol for blood. Given that Mr. Reed died in this room and Jane imagines to be haunted by his ghost, the connection between the supernatural afterlife and the earthly world is made. The second period is Jane's life at Lowood school. Jane has, amongst others, to face oppression, which can cause emotional injuries at children. A significant space of time is the typhus epidemic in school, accompanied by the presence of death. When her best friend dies of consumption she is again confronted with the death of a beloved person and forced to face the bleak occasion. This is just one instance which illustrates that Jane's life is constantly affected by dismal disturbing happenings. The most obvious and frequent incidents occur during her time at Thornfield Hall. Thornfield Hall itself is presented as a mysterious manor: dark and old with a large staircase - the imagery of the castle location is given and Mr. Rochester is the best-fitting proprietor to it. The physical world of Thornfield Hall reflects his interior state--the house, the landscape, and Bertha can all be seen as external manifestations of his dangerous secrets. These Gothic elements suggest that the story will lead to death or madness rather than the happy occasion of a wedding. Within it several



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