The novel is heavily influenced by the gothic, a term used in the eighteenth century to describe any work of art which appeared fantastic or uncanny. Jane Eyre is filled with references to local folklore and superstitions, fairytales, ghosts and sprites. Jane is frequently referred to by Rochester as a "witch" and a "sprite", and she is eventually driven to find him again when mysteriously hearing his voice even though he was miles from where she was. The supernatural informs the novels otherworldliness, and this can perhaps go some way to explaining its lasting power for the reader. Brontes knowledge of folklore is revealed in the interaction between Jane and Bertha. When Jane sees herself in the mirror of the red- room she believes she is a ghost, and while Rochesters pet names are amusing and playful allusions to the supernatural, they worry the text when Bertha describes herself as a vampire. Linking with the gothic tone of the novel, these parallels intriguingly suggest that Jane could easily become like Bertha if she allows herself to give in to her passions.
Thornfield Hall is often identified symbolically with Rochester both in appearance and when it is later destroyed. Indeed, the tree dominating the grounds is a potent image. It stands as an omen: as a symbol of life we see Rochester propose to Jane beneath its boughs. But when it is split in two after a storm it forewarns us of the tragedies to come, with Jane filled with dread before her wedding day. When Rochester proposes to Jane for a second time at the end, he describes himself thus:
"I am no better than the old lightning-struck chestnut-tree in Thornfield orchard."
The tree is becomes a powerful and complex symbol of Jane and Rochesters relationship.
Much of Brontes imagery is drawn from literature. Shakespeare, the Romantics and the Bible all feature heavily in the book. However, Bronte also uses literature as a symbol to tell us about the characters and their situation. At the opening of the novel Jane is depressed, trying to escape a depressing November afternoon by reading Bewicks British Birds. Full of images of shipwrecks, storms, Arctic wastes, death and disaster, it reflects Janes feelings about her own life at Gateshead. She reads Gullivers Travels also as a means of escape, and the Arabian Nights in which she learns about magic. Contrast Janes reading with the book Helen Burns reads: Rasselas by Dr Johnson, a rather sober text that preaches that life must be endured passively. Janes reading reflects her need to feed her passions; Helens choice reveals her hope to learn about the real world and how to exercise self-control so that she can live happily within it.
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