THE ELEMENT OF PARA-GOTHICISM IN CHARLOTTE BRONTE’S JANE EYRE AND EMILY BRONTE’S WITHERING HEIGHTS
Background to the Study
This research study will be dealing with the subject matter of the para-gothicism in the novels of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. It will be very necessary to give the basics of the subject matter, before the broader look will be given the subject matter in the review of literature.
It will be very necessary to first of all make an absolute definition of what a gothic novel is. Gothic fiction, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. Gothicism’s origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled “A Gothic Story”. The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole’s novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole.
Generally, the tone and mood of gothic novels are brooding and somber. Often, female protagonists find themselves in the midst of conspiracies, in the clutches of mysterious or sinister people (usually men), and people tend to harbour (dark!) secrets. The male protagonist, who may be the romantic interest, is often brooding and charismatic. The landscape and/or climate are often inhospitable, and the author may use pathetic fallacy to good effect. Buildings, dwellings, and architecture are often scary or mysterious–there may be secret rooms, or rooms with special significance.
Narratives revolve around the macabre, the supernatural, and death quite a bit. People are sometimes ‘haunted’ by memories of dead loved ones. Other times, the supernatural element is explained away, though. i.e., the main characters think there’s a ghost, but a rational explanation for seemingly supernatural events is revealed. Protagonists’ psychology is important too: a lot of the times, these stories are rooted in some deep fears of death, sex, etc., and so a lot of the terror may be in their imagination–which does not necessarily make it less terrifying.
Para-Gothicism is not a rediscovery of the gothic, but rather a rebirth of that style; it is also a modern name for Gothicism. According to The Merriam Webster Dictionary, it is defined as relating and constituting the revival or adaptation of the Gothic, especially in literature or architecture.
The Gothic motifs and forms are imitated. This genre could be said to be broad and hybrid in nature. It covers three genres:
- The Gothic novels – This utilizes the mysterious, the supernatural, the horrific, and romantic.
- The romance novel – This lays emphasis on love and passion and represents the notion of two lovers destined for each other.
- The Bildungsroman – It is a narration of a character’s internal development as he/she undergoes a succession of encounters with the external world
In architectural terms parallel to the ascendancy of the neo-Gothic styles in the 19th century in England, interest spread rapidly to the continent of Europe, Australia, South Africa, and America. The number of Gothic revival and structures built in the 19th and 20th centuries has exceeded the numbers of authentic Gothic structures that had been built previously. Today for instance, the Gothic style of architecture has been imitated in churches, military academies and university buildings.
Also, Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published in London, England, in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. with the title Jane Eyre. An Autobiography under the pen name “Currer Bell.” The first American edition was released the following year by Harper & Brothers of New York. The Penguin edition describes it as an “influential feminist text” because of its in-depth exploration of a strong female character’s feelings.
The novel merges elements of three distinct genres. It has the form of a Bildungsroman, a story about a child’s maturation, focusing on the emotions and experiences that accompany growth to adulthood. The novel also contains much social criticism, with a strong sense of morality at its core, and finally has the brooding and moody quality and Byronic character typical of Gothic fiction.
It is a novel often considered ahead of its time due to its portrayal of the development of a thinking and passionate young woman who is both individualistic, desiring for a full life, while also highly moral. Jane evolves from her beginnings as a poor and plain woman without captivating charm to her mature stage as a compassionate and confident whole woman. As she matures, she comments much on the complexities of the human condition. Jane also has a deeply pious personal trust in God, but is also highly self-reliant. Although Jane suffers much, she is never portrayed as a damsel in distress who needs rescuing. For this reason, it is sometimes regarded as an important early feminist (or proto-feminist) novel.
Also taking a look at Wuthering Heights, it is a novel by Emily Brontë published in 1847. It was her only novel and written between December 1845 and July 1846. It remained unpublished until July 1847 and was not printed until December after the success of her sister Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. It was finally printed under the pseudonym Ellis Bell; a posthumous second edition was edited by Charlotte.
The title of the novel comes from the Yorkshire manor on the moors of the story. The narrative centres on the all-encompassing, passionate but doomed love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and many around them.
Today considered a classic of English literature, Wuthering Heights was met with mixed reviews when it first appeared, mainly because of the narrative’s stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty. Although Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was generally considered the best of the Brontë sisters’ works during most of the nineteenth century, many subsequent critics of Wuthering Heights argued that it was a superior achievement. Wuthering Heights has also given rise to many adaptations and inspired works, including films, radio, television dramatisations, a musical by Bernard J. Taylor, a ballet, three operas (respectively by Bernard Herrmann, Carlisle Floyd, and Frédéric Chaslin), a role-playing game, and a song by Kate Bush.
However, in the proceeding chapter, a broader look will be given to the subject matter and also we will be looking at what other writers have got to evaluate on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Statement of the Problem
There was a time in the last decades of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, reflected dimly in the prints, paintings and surviving relics of that era, which effectively symbolises our deep-rooted yearning to escape from the mindlessness of modern existence through its portal where glimpses of a beautiful, unpolluted world with clean, graceful architecture starkly contrasts with the smoke-discoloured edifices of concrete in today’s wilderness of ugly buildings set in a wasteland of dying forests. Such vistas, such colour and the pleasure they produce are of different orders to anything we now experience. So much so, that were we to glimpse, feel, smell and taste how life once was (against the natural background sound of birds, brooks and horses’ hooves instead of the cacophony of airplanes, industry and motor vehicles) we would probably think and indeed dream differently.
However, the problem of this research study is to unfold the Gothic genre and the romanticism, the demonstration of the finite and tragically self-consuming nature of passion in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
The following questions will help guide the research study to achieving its objectives.
- What is Gothicism?
- What is para-gothicism?
- What are the para-Gothic element in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre?
- What are the interrelationship between in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre?
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to examine the following:
- To understand the nature of Gothicism in its various context.
- The Gothic element in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
- And to also explore into interrelationship between in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
Significance of the Study
The importance of this research study cannot be overemphasized, by virtue of the fact that it is going to elucidate into an area that has long existed and has remained in diversified sense.
This study is highly significant in the sense that it will help the readers of this work especially students in the field of languages to further understand the diversifying nature of Gothicism.
Also, the novels whose Gothic nature is been poised into will be better understood and easily comprehended by the readers of this research study.
And to crown it all, this research study is also significant taking cognisance of the fact that it will also explore into the themes of the Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and will elucidate on the relationships that does exist between these two Gothic novels.
Scope of the Study
This research study will be limited in scope only to the works of Charlotte Bronte and Emily Bronte novels, that is, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights respectively and to the review of related literature.
Operational Definition of Terms
Gothicism: is a genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance.
Para-Gothicism: The combination of three genres (that is, Gothic, Romance, and the Bildungsroman).
Supernatural: is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to existing above and beyond nature.
Protagonist: Protagonist means the main character of a story.
Proto-feminist: Proto-feminist is a term used to define women in a philosophical tradition that anticipated modern feminist concepts.
Romance: Romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe.