Mythological Level and Suspense in Jane Eyre
The supernatural elements and events involving them are an important facet of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. Many mythological creatures are referenced, and omens are used as symbols throughout the novel, making up some of the instances where the supernatural is involved. The supernatural air that is subsequently given to the novel serves to compete with the religious emphasis, and also to create a feeling of mystery and suspense throughout the book. There’s also a slight relation between the basic tale of Cinderella and the journey that Jane takes from the beginning of her life to get to where she ends up.By looking through the mythological lens to examine Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, you are able to examine both the supernatural and its effects, as well as the parallels to myths that exist within the book.
The red room and the supposed ghost sighting that Jane experiences in it is one such example of the supernatural in Jane Eyre. In the red room, Jane thinks she sees her uncle’s ghost returning because his final wishes have not been followed, and she faints. Not only does this serve to affect the mood of the novel, but it also helps affect Jane’s personality for most of the novel. The mood it sets is that of suspense and mystery, with this being the first time that mood is being introduced. It comes up later various times, especially at Thornfield Hall. The mood serves to make the reader feel like Jane feels- that something bad must be happening. The reader is made to question with Jane whether or not it is her uncle’s ghost that she is seeing, despite Bessie and Miss Abbot saying it was just a gardener. Jane herself claims that the event had a lasting effect, “No severe or prolonged bodily illness followed this incident of the red-room: it only gave me nerves of shock; of which I feel the reverberation to this day. Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some fearful pangs of mental suffering,” (Brontë, 13). Seeing her uncle’s ghost gave her severe anxiety when it came to supernatural-esque events, and also made her more easily swayed by the omens that came in her dreams.
Another example is the constant mention of fairies, elves, and goblins, and more. These mentions usually come up in Jane’s conversations with Mr. Rochester, or in Jane’s walks alone around Thornfield Park. With Mr. Rochester, it comes up usually in the form of Mr. Rochester accusing Jane of being some sort of mythological creature of the type mentioned above, and of enchanting him somehow. While these references are mostly made in jest, it gives us some insight into how he sees Jane. He sees how different she is from other people, her passion and her stubbornness/ strength of will, and while most people would dismiss it as a bad thing, he doesn’t. He acknowledges it as her strength, even when it isn’t to his advantage, just in a way that pokes fun at it as well. This is more than most people would do, certainly more than St. John would do.
Omens are another big part of Jane Eyre. Jane is exposed to these omens through her dreams. Sometimes they take the form of a crying, distressed child- sometimes the child is docile, or even sick. Other times it isn’t even a child at all, but a dream about Thornfield Park being in ruins and Jane being turned away by Mr. Rochester. These dreams are a way of foreshadowing the future without giving anything away explicitly. Sometimes they spur Jane into action, but most of the time she does nothing, simply recognizes the omen and is anxious about it. These omens are also important because the reader learns to recognize that something is going to happen, and is able to anticipate an event- thus building up suspense before an event happens.
The final supernatural occurrence in Jane Eyre is when Jane hears Mr. Rochester’s voice calling to her while he’s at Ferndean Manor and she’s at Moore House. Though Jane doesn’t tell Rochester that she heard him, he attributes her coming to God.This is an interesting situation, because it’s one where Jane for once knows it to be something other than Divine Providence- it was just yet another strange occurrence in her life that compelled her to go find Rochester. However, he’s recently found God so she decides not to tell him what really happened to her while she was talking to St. John that night. She would rather have his faith remain stout, increasing it if possible, and retain her own devout faith, rather than fancy any ideas about the supernatural, despite the fact that odd supernatural events have been occurring around her throughout her life. This helps us see into her character a bit, and lets us see how much she values her faith over being completely honest with him, as well as allowing us to see how Rochester has changed through his own experiences and become more devout.
Jane Eyre is also similar in some ways to the story of Cinderella. In Cinderella, a young girl with a stepmother and step-sisters that despise her and make her do all the household chores is able to go to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother, and falls in love with the prince. She loses her slipper when she runs away at midnight, he searches the entire kingdom to find her, does successfully find her eventually, and they live happily ever after in the end, etc., etc. We all know how Jane Eyre goes, but there are some important similarities between the two stories. Jane spends the first part of her life with the Reeds, who despise her and mistreat her, much like how Cinderella’s step-family mistreated her- though Jane isn’t forced to really clean or do household chores except for in her nursery. Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester, who is very rich and much sought after, like the prince, though he is not young or handsome like the prince of Cinderella. Jane eventually runs away from Mr. Rochester, like Cinderella runs away from the ball, but Jane is running for a much more complicated reason than that the magic turning Cinderella’s pumpkin into a carriage is going to run out at midnight. Rochester does search for Jane like the prince searches for Cinderella, but in the end it’s Jane who finds Rochester not the other way around, because Rochester is forced to give up his search. However, finally, despite the fact that Rochester is now handicapped, Jane and Rochester do end up together and they get their “happily ever after” just like Cinderella and the prince. These similarities are important because they’re part of what helps the reader to make connections with the book, and they show that Brontë drew on sources that were familiar to her, i.e. fairytales that everyone was familiar with. It also allows for a different understanding of Jane and her situation- someone fated to go through bad things at first in order to find her happiness and rise above those who hurt her. `
The supernatural events in Jane Eyre all serve in some important way within the book, whether that’s affecting and building Jane’s character or creating suspense for the readers. The comparison that exists between Jane Eyre and Cinderella is also important because it helps the reader connect Jane’s story to a story that they already presumably know. The competing religious and supernatural themes also serve as a backdrop for an internal struggle within Jane. All of these things together help build up the reader’s experience of Jane Eyre, and make it a book able to be viewed from many angles.
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