by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Theme of The Supernatural
There are very few things in Jane Eyre that are actually supernatural, but the supernatural is still a major theme in this novel. How can that be? Over and over, events that seem eerie, uncanny, Gothic, or supernatural will be explained away by rational circumstances. But here’s the kicker: those rational explanations will turn out to be far more sinister than anything otherworldly. We’d tell you more, but we don’t want to spoil it. Oh, and those few things that are actually supernatural? Well, they add an interesting layer of ambiguity to the novel at the very beginning and the very end.
Questions About The Supernatural
- Are there any supernatural elements in Jane Eyre that don’t get explained away with rational facts? This is a source of some debate among critics, but we’ll give you a hint: there are two things, one toward the beginning of the novel and one toward the end, that could be genuinely supernatural. What are they and why are they important?
- Why does the novel explain away most of its seemingly supernatural elements? To think of it another way, why couldn’t Jane Eyre actually have the ghost of Mr. Reed appear and speak to Jane, or Bertha Mason really be Dracula’s cousin one bite removed?
- If Jane Eyre explains away almost all of the things that seem supernatural in the novel, then why are there supernatural things in it at all? Why does the novel tease us by making us think there might be ghosts or vampires or haunted houses when it turns out they aren’t there?
- Why is Rochester always calling Jane a fairy or an elf or a sprite? Is there anything about her that actually seems uncanny or otherworldly? Is he just being ironic because she’s so plain and down to earth?
Chew on This
Jane Eyre uses supernatural imagery, but not actual supernatural elements, in order to create a mood and tone of Gothic horror in the context of social realism.
Jane’s characterization in terms of elfin or fairy-like qualities creates a dark, eerie undertone to her usually staid and proper exterior.