Gothic fiction pulls off a mood of eeriness that is very rarely accomplished in modern day horror. The use of lightening and remote locations and forlorn situations are tied together in such a way that suspense is added to a simple situation that would otherwise be quite normal. I have recently read Uncle Silas and Rebecca. Here is my simple breakdown of what makes a novel Gothic given the small sample I have read.
- A life situation that makes one lonely and vulnerable (widow-Rebecca, orphan- Jane Eyre and the Uncle Silas)
- A remote location (a forlorn house-Rebecca,Uncle Silas, Jane Eyre)
- A mystery (Uncle Silas-Uncle Silas, the mystery woman-Jane Eyre, and Rebecca- Rebecca)
- A strong constitution that allows the main character to face difficult situations (Mrs. De Winter, Jane Eyre, Maud Ruthyn)
- Horrible caretakers that make the characters lives miserable (Uncle Silas and Madame de le Rougierre- Uncle Silas, Mrs. Reed- Jane Eyre, Mrs. Van Hooper-Rebecca)
I love mysteries, I love psychological suspense, I love strong heroines, I love rambling old houses. What's not to love about gothic mysteries!? It just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover and you can't judge a story by the category that you lump it into. I was thoroughly engaged with the story of Jane Eyre and desperately wanted to know what was going to happen. The novel has all the elements of good story telling and a suspense that makes it a page turner.
One thing that makes me extremely uncomfortable about the love story in Jane Eyre is the age difference of Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. I teach about age of consent and Sexual Exploitation as part of my job and I just can't get over the fact that very little concern is brought up about the age difference in this story. On the plus side, the novel is not glorifying two beautiful people who just so happen to find each other across the distances. It is a love story for your average individual. I don't think you would find a true-to-novel hollywood version of this story since both the characters are described as having very little going for them in the looks department. In fact, I just googled Jane Eyre to see the movie versions of the novel and found that the movies are filled with beautiful people.
I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to novels. I like my books to have a point and I like to feel enlightened when I read them. Nothing, however, will ever take the place of a just plain good story. I suppose for that reason Jane Eyre deserves a place in history.