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Module 1: Gothic Symbolism and Rebellion

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Gothic Symbolism and Rebellion – Lesson Summary

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Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels became classics of English literature. Her novel 'Jane Eyre', was published in 1847.

Plot of Jane Eyre
The novel begins with Jane living at her aunt's, Mrs Reed. Mrs Reed and her children are very cruel towards Jane and one night Mrs Reed locks Jane into the 'Red Room', a supposedly haunted room in the family home. Mrs Reed sends Jane to Lowood School where the headmaster, Mr Brocklehurst, is also cruel towards Jane. Conditions are very poor at the school and Jane's best friend, Helen Burns, dies of consumption. Jane later becomes a teacher at Lowood.
Jane applies for a governess position at Thornfield Hall and gets the post. She becomes governess for Adele. Jane begins to fall in love with her employer, Mr Rochester.A fire breaks out at Thornfield, nearly killing Rochester as he sleeps. Jane saves him. Rochester claims it was Grace Poole, a servant, who started the fire, however Jane doesn't think it was.
Jane is shocked when Rochester confesses his love and desire to marry her. She thought he wanted to marry Blanche Ingram. On the day of their wedding, a man turns up at the church to declare that Rochester cannot marry as he is already married. Rochester reveals all about his marriage, claiming his wife Bertha, is mad and he still wants to be with Jane
Jane cannot be with Rochester when he is still married so she runs away, becoming homeless and then sick. The Rivers family take her in and nurse her back to health.Jane inherits her uncle's wealth and estate. She finds out that the family that took her in are actually her cousins. St John Rivers asks Jane to join him in his missionary work abroad and be his wife. She nearly accepts but when she hears Rochester calling her in a dream, she decides she cannot marry someone she doesn't love.
Jane returns to Thornfield. When she arrives, she discovers it has burnt down and Rochester is now living at Ferndean, his usual retreat, and is blind. Jane rushes to him and they marry. The novel concludes with Jane and Rochester married with children. Rochester also regains his sight in one eye.

Imperial Gothic and Jane Eyre
In Jane Eyre, dark, mahogany furniture and crimson decorations take precedent, adding another layer to the haunting qualities of the story as it echoes the colonial death and destruction that made this furniture possible.

Thornfield Hall
Thornfield is undeniably the most ‘Gothic’ of all the residences in the novel to a much more marked degree than Gateshead or Lowood. It becomes the cradle of the unpredictable, the disruptive and the terrifying.

Bertha Mason and Gothic Rebellion
Bertha appears to represent a world of Rebellion and Sexual freedom which has been circumscribed by her incarceration within Rochester's house. This theme of incarceration refers back to Jane’s incarceration in the Red-Room.