From the start of this chapter, Jane’s fear and suffering is more about the pain she receives at the hands of her family than the effects of the paranormal. Although on the face of it, the vivid descriptions (‘every nerve I had feared him, every morsel of flesh on my body shrank when he came near me’) make the scenes feel very ‘Gothic’, in fact they are not, because they are not about ghosts and monsters, but real life (even though it is a ‘real life’ that many people today could not identify with).The scene is focused more on the facts of reality: Jane has no money, no possessions, and therefore, in the eyes of many, she is not important: ‘you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us’. There are many places in the chapter where the book adopts a Gothic feel, for example when John attacks Jane, and she fights back. John is depicted as a monster, ‘a tyrant’, and phrases such as ‘pungent suffering’ make the reader feel as though he is much more than just a nasty schoolboy.Jane loses control over herself; ‘I don’t very well know what I did with my hands’. She acts almost as though she is possessed, a theme that definitely belongs to the Gothic genre.
The lady’s-maid refers to her behaviour as ‘wickedness’, a word that has distinct connotations with the Devil, very much a part of the Gothic stereotype. Insanity is also referred to (‘she and Miss Abbot stood with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully on my face, as incredulous of my sanity’); also a dark theme, and perhaps a hint as to what is to come later with Bertha.The Gothic tone continues once Jane is confined to the Red Room, although there are still no real monsters, it is just Jane’s overactive imagination running away with her, even if it seems real to her, and, from Bronte’s vivid descriptions, to the reader as well. Jane’s imagination, dwelling on the morbid history of the room, begins to torture her with the idea of deceased her uncle returning as a ghost. After Bessie and Miss Abbot exit, leaving Jane with the threat that if she does not repent ‘something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away’, Bronte sets the scene, describing in depth the large, lonely bedroom.This emphasises the division between the real things that are there, that Jane can see and touch, and what is not. In her description, Bronte uses many words to set the forbidding mood of the room: ‘solemn’, ‘silent’, ‘lonely’.
She then goes on to explain what exactly makes this room so terrifying: ‘It was in this chamber he breathed his last’. Automatically, this makes the reader think of ghosts – exactly like Jane does.It is now that Jane’s wild imagination really gets to work, transforming a simple beam of light (as she points out in hindsight ‘in all likelihood a gleam from a lantern’) into a sign of the supernatural, perhaps the ghost of Mr Reed come to punish his wife for not carrying out his dying wish. The ominous silence of the room is broken by her ‘wild, involuntary cry’ as she tries desperately to escape from the terror that her own mind has created for her. The long sentences give the paragraph a fast-paced mood, creating suspense and mimicking the panic and fear than Jane feels.In some ways Jane is the typical Gothic novel heroine, she is strong and determined, but also able to be a ‘damsel in distress’.
Jane plays both parts, from the gutsy individual, resisting what her family inflict upon her, to the frightened little girl, fainting when everything becomes too much. The Gothic elements in the story certainly allow Bronte to display how Jane feels; the reader can understand her fear and empathise with her, even though they do not share her experience. The nasty manner in which Jane’s aunt and cousins treat her is made all the more apparent by the way that Bronte portrays it in the Gothic style.