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The Gothic Setting of Jane Eyre


            The gothic genre of literature originated in Germany and became popular in England during the late eighteenth century. The combination of supernatural occurrences, melancholy mystery, and remote scenery painted a drab backdrop for Jane Eyre in the midst of Europe's almost romanticised tuberculosis epidemic during the Victorian Era. Jane Eyre's gothic setting sets up the theme for perseverance and female rebellion in a time of Victorian Patriarchy, as well as illustrating the main barrier between Jane and Mr. Rochester.
             One of the first gothic elements we encounter in the novel is the red-room, the position of exile and imprisonment imposed on Jane as punishment for her supposed fault in fighting her cousin. In this eerie room belonging to her late Uncle, Jane looks at herself in the mirror. “Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp,”(1.2.24). Struggling to live with her distant cousins as a young girl and an orphan, Jane sees herself as a representation of what Ms. Reed tyrannically imposed on her. However, understanding that this is not her real self, Jane realises that her cousins have been treating her wrong and that she must prove it to them somehow. As she ponders about this, she fantasizes about how her dead uncle would have treated her more kindly but quickly wipes her tears fearing an emergence of his ghostly “comfort” in the room. A ghostly light from outside almost confirms his presence, signifying a spooky acknowledgment of her sorrow. By use of the red-room, gothic imagery is used to support the growth of Jane's self-esteem.