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What type of novel is "Jane Eyre?" Is it a Gothic novel?I was told the the Gothic was...

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majo1485 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 10, 2008 at 5:00 AM via web

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What type of novel is "Jane Eyre?" Is it a Gothic novel?

I was told the the Gothic was a sub-genre of Romanticism, and as "Jane Eyre" was published in the Victorian Period, I wondered whether it was a Gothic novel or not.

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 10, 2008 at 11:19 AM (Answer #2)

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I always felt that “Jane Eyre” was a romantic novel.   According to e-notes, “Jane Eyre, because of its powerful writing, and because of its concern with moral and social issues beyond the immediate plot, Jane Eyre is not generally considered a Gothic novel as such.  However, it makes use of many of the elements found in the Gothic genre popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester might be seen as a Gothic hero. However, Bronte has made him a rounded character, not a stereotype. His circumstances are Gothic; they are imbued with a moral significance. Thornfield Hall might seem a Gothic residence, but apart from the mysterious presence of Grace Poole and Bertha, it is a comfortable house. The facts surrounding Bertha's presence at Thornfield are highly Gothic, as is Bertha herself. “Some experts believe it is more of a Bildungsroman, which is a German term that means "a novel of formation": that is, a novel of someone's growth from childhood to maturity. About a third of Jane Eyre, for instance, is concerned with her childhood.  So Jane Eyre is more of a compilation of three genres, Romantic, Gothic and Bildungsroman.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 10, 2008 at 11:49 AM (Answer #3)

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Jane Eyre is a romance with autobiographical tendencies.  I would not classify it as Gothic since these works typically are more gloomy and Poe-like.

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majo1485 | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 11, 2008 at 5:55 AM (Answer #4)

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Is it correct then if I say that "Jane Eyre" is a Victorian romance novel with elements of Gothicism? Victorian because of the presence of social concerns and the authorial intrusion; Romantic because of the romantic love between Jane and Rochester and the "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending"; and with Gothic elements such as Bertha, the attic, etc.

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gplatt | High School Teacher | Honors

Posted November 19, 2008 at 1:35 PM (Answer #5)

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I think it would be correct to call it a novel with elements of Gothicism.  This, after all, is what many critics have found so intriguing about the novel:  it defies facile labeling.  Consider that Bronte's novel includes: 1. references to the supernatural (Jane's prophetic dreams, Rochester's psychic 'voice' heard across many miles), 2. a dark, mysterious, and forbidding setting (the house has battlements!), as well as, 3. danger at every turn (a knifing, an arsonist, a sadistic minister)--not to mention 4. the obligatory insane person.  These are some of the hallmarks of Gothicism, though in Bronte's novel the gothic setting serves at least partially as a representation of Jane's struggles in a very real world full of very mundane dangers (like social class barriers and the limited powers and expectations of a woman in Victorian society)

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 28, 2010 at 6:36 AM (Answer #6)

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I think you are right in identifying the gothic influences on the novel. The Thornfield chapters with the "madwoman in the attic" and the use of nature and setting as in the symbol of the chestnut tree have definite gothic overtones, but I also think it is wrong to limit the novel as just being a Victorian Romance. It is that, but also so much more, and really Charlotte Bronte is playing with a series of genres and combining them in one novel. It is first and foremost, in my opinion, a bildungsroman, which traces the development and education of the main protagonist as she faces the challenges of life and eventually adopts her place in society. It is also a Romance (with a capital R) in its focus on feeling and emotion. It is also realist in its depiction of the social position of governesses in Victorian times. It is also Gothic with the architecture and appearance of Bertha Mason. Gothic literature had a major impact on a number of Victorian novelists, and so we see definite Gothic "echoes" in novels like Wuthering Heights and Northanger Abbey. However, for me, pigeonholing or labelling novels as "Gothic" or any other title prevents us as readers from appreciating the full richness contained therein.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 30, 2010 at 4:32 PM (Answer #7)

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There are certainly Gothic elements throughout the novel, from beginning to end.  Consider the rather imposing and frightening homes in which Jane spends time.  How about the ideas of a mystery in the attic which turns out to be madness personified.  Yet it is also not a classic Victorian novel.  While there are certainly the Romantic leading man and the eventual grand romance, the story is just too dark to fit comfortably into a classic Victorian romance.  I'm certain you're supposed to label it, but to me it's like trying to label a chocolate and vanilla twist cone as either chocolate or vanilla.  It's both.

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evolutionaryme | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:43 PM (Answer #8)

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There are certainly Gothic elements throughout the novel, from beginning to end.  Consider the rather imposing and frightening homes in which Jane spends time.  How about the ideas of a mystery in the attic which turns out to be madness personified.  Yet it is also not a classic Victorian novel.  While there are certainly the Romantic leading man and the eventual grand romance, the story is just too dark to fit comfortably into a classic Victorian romance.  I'm certain you're supposed to label it, but to me it's like trying to label a chocolate and vanilla twist cone as either chocolate or vanilla.  It's both.

is classic victorian different from victorian itself? I really don;t know.

Wuthering Heights is considered victorian yet it shows elements of gothic fiction so I think JE is no different from this one. It's just that some scholars would not want WH to be accepted as victorian because it shows contradictions with the characteristics of victorian women or at that time WH is not highly regarded.

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vivisa | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM (Answer #9)

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wuthering heights and Jane eyre both had gothic elements

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