The word “Gothic” comes from the Middle Ages. The Goths were East Germanic people. They were violent and brutal. They were not civilized. Goths played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire. When we think of the 18th century we can see two things; one is The Enlightenment and the other is Neo-classism. In those times classical values were reestablished. When we think of classical values we think of rationality, reason, harmony and balance. Gothic literature is like a respond to the idea of rationality. It is opposite of the classical values. It is about dealing something that rational world cannot deal. Gothic fiction can be defined as a style of writing that includes horror, fear, death, the idea of sublime, supernatural elements, the battle between good and evil, dark isolated places and excessive emotions.
Neo-classicism is all about the order, balance and how the things come together in harmony. However, Gothic novels are about disorder and disharmony. Gothic novels are not about what you think; they are about how they make you feel. Gothic also deals with the unconscious mind it is like exploring people’s dark sides ,fears and terror. We see Gothic elements in lots of books and some of them are more effective showing Gothic elements. I chose two books one is Jane Eyre and the other is Wuthering Heights and this thesis demonstrates that Wuthering Heights is more gothic than Jane Eyre in terms of setting, characterization and plot.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte has lots of Gothic elements to begin with setting the story takes place in many places for example Gateshead, Lowood School, Thornfield, Moor House and Ferndean. They are isolated places and the atmosphere is dark, spooky and mysterious. She lived in Gateshead Hall throughout her childhood. She was not welcomed there her cousin John Reed was very cruel to her. The red room in Gateshead is a symbol of death because Jane Eyre’s uncle died in that room. Jane Eyre was locked in red room because of her bad behaviors. Jane Eyre heard stories of room being haunted by the ghost of her uncle. She is locked in the room all night and she was afraid and then she sees something Gothic in the room.
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, Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers. I returned to my stool. (21)
After seeing the “strange little figure” she faints and she becomes hysterical. Red room becomes a prison for Jane. Not only physical but also mental prison. After this event her aunt sent her to Lowood School. The school becomes another prison for Jane. She couldn’t go out of the school for 8 years. This was a place of loneliness and poverty. Lowood School was also an isolated place far away from civilization. The atmosphere was full of sadness because of the girls and there was sickness. These bad feelings are one of the elements of gothic fiction. After Lowood School Jane goes to Thornfield to work. In gothic elements there is a mystery and in Thornfield the mystery comes from Rochester’s hidden past and the mysterious hysterical laugh that comes from the hallway. The Moor House becomes another prison for Jane Eyre.
In Gothic novels there is an evil villain and innocent, pure, angelic woman figure. In Jane Eyre the evil villain is Edward Rochester and innocent girl is Jane Eyre. Rochester considered as a villain because of his anger and his secrets. He is very angry man the servants and even Adele scares of him. He creates fear and horror people near to him. He makes fun of Jane all the time which also makes him villain. He has so many secrets. Jane Eyre doesn’t know anything about his past. He even hides his wife. Although he is married he tries to tempt her. He offers her to be his mistress. Rochester is not the only villain in the novel. John Reed is also a villain. When Jane tries to read a book he hits her so badly and he makes her locked in the red room. Another villain figure is St. John Rivers although he is a Saint he becomes another oppressor figure in Jane’s life because he wanted to marry her not for love and he also wanted to keep her with him like a prisoner. We have an innocent girl who is Jane Eyre. She has suffered throughout her whole childhood. She was tortured first in her aunt’s house and then in Lowood school and then in Thornfield. She is pure she doesn’t talk to any man except from her cousin. So Rochester is the first man she sees and interacts in her life but on the other hand Rochester has travelled the world but we don’t know his past experiences about women.
In Jane Eyre Bertha Mason represented as a Gothic figure. So in the novel one of the Gothic elements is represented through Bertha. At the beginning of the novel we don’t know who Bertha is but Jane hears hysterical laughter at nights. She thinks that it might be a ghost or something. After she goes to see Bertha she sees that she seems like a ghost. She has dark face, she acts like a crazy person and she also attack people so the characterization of Bertha creates gothic figure in the novel. We can think of her as a victim of evil villain because she becomes a crazy person because of Rochester. We have another innocent figure who has abused by Rochester which is Adele. She seems to be a bastard child of Rochester but he cannot be sure whether the girl is his or not. She is growing up without love of Rochester he locks her in the Thornfield he barely sees her.
In Gothic novels gothic elements created from the Gothic plots in Jane Eyre there are lots of events that we can consider as Gothic. This was a demoniac laugh—low, suppressed, and deep—uttered, as it seemed, at the very keyhole of my chamber door. The head of my bed was near the door, and I thought at first the goblin-laugher stood at my bedside—or rather, crouched by my pillow: but I rose, looked round, and could see nothing; while, as I still gazed, the unnatural sound was reiterated: and I knew it came from behind the panels. (280)
This is the moment that Jane heard a demoniac laugh. It was an unnatural sound. It creates sense of mystery and horror because she thinks that the sound might come from a ghost.
What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it groveled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face. (559)
It is a description of Bertha Mason. She is described as a beast. The description of Bertha Mason is a gothic description. She is a demonic figure in the novel because of her Gothic appearance and her hysteric laugh. She is an embodiment of violence and animal-like figure. For some of the critics Bertha Mason is a representation of future Jane because both of them are restless souls. She is like a darker version of Jane Eyre. Madness is one of the themes that we see in Gothic novels and in Jane Eyre madness plays big role in the description of Bertha Mason. Extreme emotions of characters are another Gothic element for example the big hatred between Rochester and Bertha.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte has lots of Gothic elements. Setting is very important to create Gothic atmosphere. There are Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Wuthering Heights represents wildness and Thrushcross Grange represents civilized society. Wildness of Moors reflects wildness within Catherine and Heathcliff that’s why we have a kind of wild nature. Wuthering means storming weather it fits with the Gothic idea of storming, thunder lightening but also it refers to stormy and passionate people. There is also pathetic fallacy in the novel it means the weather reflects person’s inner feelings. The weather reflects character’s inner feelings so we have stormy weather and stormy feelings. We have extremes of weather like rain and storming. In Wuthering Heights there is a grotesque carving and they have wild animals. Wild animals give a sense of danger. Even their dogs are not friendly. “On that bleak hill-top the earth was hard with a black frost, and the air made me shiver through every limb” (7). The weather is bleak, cold and dark to create a gothic atmosphere.
In Gothic novels we have evil villain and innocent, pure, angelic woman figure. In Wuthering Heights the evil villain is Heathcliff and innocent girl is Catherine. Gothic novels have this dichotomy of villain and innocent girl. By creating this dichotomy we have a sense of fear and suspense because evil villain always tries to chase innocent girl. He is considered as being an evil villain because of his excessive emotions and his violence. When he was a child Mr. Earnshaw brought him to Wuthering Heights and after he dies the son of Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley, started to abuse him and he treated him as a servant. Heathcliff loved Catherine so much and he wants to marry her but she decided to marry Edgar Linton instead of Heathcliff after these events he started to take revenge on Hindley and Catherine. Heathcliff has excessive emotions like seeking revenge and his obsession to Catherine. He doesn’t stop loving her even after she dies. He goes her grave and kisses her. It is not a love it is obsession. It is another quality of him being an evil villain he has powerful emotions. As well as evil villain Gothic novels have innocent characters. In the novel it is Catherine Earnshaw. She is an important figure in the novel even after her death. She is a figure of damsel in distress. She is stuck between two men and she didn’t know what to do. She is loved by Heathcliff but she is also became the victim of him. She died because of the fight between two men. We don’t know anything about Heathcliff’s past, we don’t know where Heathcliff came from. We only know that he has dark skin and he has black eyes. His past and his origins are mystery for us. England was dominated by class and respectability so knowing your origins are important but he has no origins so he can’t find a place in society because he doesn’t know anything about his parents or his country.
The idea of Heathcliff’s origins remain mystery makes him mysterious and it creates sense of suspense. Heathcliff is not a friendly character. He is an outsider. Heathcliff and Catherine are outside of Christianity. They have wild enjoyment of nature. Edgar and Isabella are spoiled children but Heathcliff and Catherine are the children of nature. Heathcliff and Catherine have a relationship but it is not a normal relationship it is a very intense relationship. It is a story of love goes wrong and it is a destructive love. Even after her death Heathcliff continues to love her obsessively. It is related to extreme emotions of love, hatred and jealousy. Another gothic theme in the novel is revenge. Heathcliff has a desire for revenge. Hindley wants to send Heathcliff out of the family and he says you can stay here but only as a servant. It is the reason that Heathcliff wants revenge. Hindley treats him so badly and he also drops him in his class. He is not a middle class anymore he is now working class.
Wuthering Heights has a Gothic plot line like the ghost of Catherine, violent actions, macabre, supernatural actions, unpleasant things, extreme emotions that leading them horrible events and death. Lots of people die; Earnshaws, Lintons, Catherine, Hindley, Heatchliff and Isabella. Gothic usually has romantic plot at the end Gothic elements disappear and story becomes more romantic. Gothic is also about transgression.
[…]Knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch: instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand. The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in—let me in!”
It is a supernatural element. The ghost of Catherine is knocking on the window. Lockwood doesn’t know whether he is dreaming or sleeping. “What can you mean by talking in this way to me!” thundered Heathcliff with savage vehemence. “how- how dare you, under my roof- God! He is mad to speak so!” And he struck his forehead rage”. In this part of the book we see Heathcliff’s violence.
Now, fully revealed by the fire and candlelight, I was amazed, more than ever, to behold the transformation of Heathcliff. He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man; beside whom my master seemed quite slender and youth-like. His upright carriage suggested the idea of his having been in the army. His countenance was much older in expression and decision of feature than Mr. Linton’s; it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation. A half-civilized ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of roughness, though stern for grace.
He still has passion but he is transformed. He has money now. It is never explained how he gets money. As we don’t know his origins we don’t know where he gets money from. It also creates mystery.
She rung the bell till it broke with a twang: I entered leisurely. It was enough to try the temper of a saint, such senseless, wicked rages! There she lay dashing her head against the arm of the sofa, and grinding her teeth, so that you might fancy she would crash them to splinters! (93)
This is completely Gothic. She acts like a mad woman. She started to harm herself.
She could not bear the notion which I put into her head of Mr.Linton’s philosophical resignation. Tossing about, she increased her feverish bewilderment to madness, and tore the pillow with her teeth; then raising herself up all burning, desired that I would open the window. We were in the middle of winter, the wind blew strong from the northeast, and I objected.
She is in a rage and in these quotations we see the madness theme. It is an violent behavior and this kind of violent behavior mirrors Heathcliff’s violent passionate behavior. Heathcliff kills Isabella’s dog to upset her this event is also cruel and Gothic. Heathcliff marries Edgar’s sister Isabella and after he marries her he started to torture her. Heathcliff forbids her to go Thrushcross Grange she has nowhere to go she is stuck like a prisoner so it is again an example of damsel in distress and male oppressor. Isabella terrified of Heathcliff because he is a violent man. I repeat it till my tongue stiffens – Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you – haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!.
Catherine dies and even after her death Heathcliff has intense feelings towards her. Heathcliff doesn’t want her to rest in peace. He wants her to hunt him. “he dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears” this was very Gothic description Catherine was biting pillows and now Heathcliff is dashing his head. There is violence in their actions. Gothic novels usually have macabre and necrophilia in Wuthering Heights Heathcliff goes to Catherine’s grave and opens the grave and he takes Edgar’s hair out and he puts his own and he kisses her. Their love is like obsession. He goes beyond the grave and he wishes to lay beside her. Even he is a horrible person driven by revenge he is haunted by his love. At the end of the story we see Heathcliff and Catherine are finally together it is also supernatural idea.