Beneath the vampire's shadow
May 16, 2007 | 1 comment
Image Credit: sxc.hu
Child, Mother, Sister, Lover.... All of these images have one connection in common; they are all motifs used in the Charlotte Bronte classic of Romantic Literature, Jane Eyre. However, the one most popular (though latent) archetypal image discovered (and well maintained) throughout the novel, Jane Eyre, is also an image which was beginning to emerge as a favorite literary device of the American authors of the time. This favorite archetypal image discovered, not only in works by a variety of other authors, but also in Bronte's "Jane Eyre," was the dark, imposing image of the vampire. In the classification of Romantic Literature, "Jane Eyre" is catagorized as a 'Gothic' Romance. The following description of a work of Gothic literature is introduced by Kathryn Falk, in her How to write a Romance and get it published (1989). A Gothic novel follows the "Jane Eyre" plot; often implies the occult, and has elements of terror; a gloomy mansion, creaking stairs, and a light in the attic; plus an eerie setting, such as the north coast of England (or New England) in an earlier time period. (p.25) It also seems that by using the vampire image within her novel, Bronte was psychologically using her own motivations for assuring herself that her novel of feminine revolt against a patriarchal society would be--if not widely accepted--at least, she could have been rationalizing, it would be widely read by the masses of society. Therefore, Bronte herself, planted that first germinating seed of psychological 'deep' thought and consideration to her readers.
To further the exploration of Gothic imagery within a literary context, Elizabeth McAndrew expresses her own theory in J. Gordon Melton's, The Vampire: an Encyclopedia of the Undead (1994) that: Gothic Literature evolved out of explorations of the inner self, with all of its emotive, nonrationaland intuitive aspects. Thus it emerged as a form of romanticism, but confronted the darker, shadowy side of the Self. At its best, gothic works force the reader to consider all that society calls evil in human life. (p.263) She also goes on later to explain in more detail why works of Gothic Literature seemed to gain an almost 'instant' popularity among writers. Gothic novels call into question society's conventional wisdom, especially during the Post--Enlightenment period when special emphasis was placed on the rational, orderliness and control. Gothic authors have challenged the accepted social and intellectual structures of their contemporaries by their presentation of the intense, undeniable and unavoidable prescence of the nonrational, disorder and chaos. (p.263) Therefore, Bronte used her own motivational behaviors to direct her readers--whom may very well have been a targeted female audience--to read deeper meaning into her novel that they, as females, were indeed (italics)< more >(italics) than prized possessions to be owned and adored by the over bearing and powerful men of the patriarchal society of the times. Successfully, she shows this ability to make individualized choices, by creating the unique individualized character of Jane Eyre.
Jane is seen as a child, at first, showing respect and obedience to her elders; as a child within the first growing stages of psychological development would demonstrate. But she is also is wanting to develop and express her own individual self. However, this 'fictionalized action' was viewed as taboo of a single female in society at the time. Within Melton's "The Vampire," Elizabeth McAndrews supports the concepts that: These chaotic and disordered ideas (though cleverly disguised within literary devices and images) were most often pictured as uncontrollable forces intruding from the sub conscious in the form of supernatural manifestations of the monterous and horrendous. The most dramatic sequences of the story tended to occur at night and often during stormy weather. Integral to the plot, the characters attempted to function amid an older but disintegrating social order. It was a literary device that subtly interacted with the reader's own sense of disorder. The energy of the story often relied on the combined attack on the naive innocent and the defenders of the present order by momentarily overwhelming and incomprehensible supernatural forces in the forms of ghosts, monsters, or human agents of Satan. (p. 263)
Therefore, Bronte utilized not only the 'ghostly' image of Grace Poole and the 'monster' image of Rochester--who could also be referred to as a vampire. Bronte, however, successfully uses the vampiric image of Bertha Rochester as the subcon science, inner wanting and desiring aspects of Jane Eyre's societally supressed, psycho-sexual self. This would also correspond to Abraham Stoker's literary creation of Lucy Westerna symbolizing the suppressed wants, desires, and curious sexual stirrings within the personality of the Mina character in his own Literary Classic of Dracula. In The Living Dead: a Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature (1981), James B. Twitchell's theoretical essay on " Jane Eyre," is summarized as saying essentially in the work of Charlotte Bronte, the vampire (archetype) was variously used (sym bolically) to personify the 'force' of sexual suppression To fully imagine either Bertha Rochester or Rochester, himself, as the single vampire would be an injustice within a literary analysis; for truthfully, both characters, individually, exhibit some true characteristics of the folkloric vampire. However, the persona of Bertha Rochester seems stronger in her vampiric image and actions. Regarding Bertha Rochester, Helen Moglen, in her work, Charlotte Bronte: The Self Conceived (1976), summarizes that she considers Bertha "...the mon sterous embodiment of psycho-sexual conflicts which are intrinsic to the romantic predicament." (quoted from Twitchell; p. 67) Accordingly, Sandra M. Gilbert stresses in her own article, "Plain Jane's Progress" that Bertha is viewed as Jane's dark double ....an agent of Jane's desires, as well as a monitory image. (qtd from Twitchell; p. 67) So then, "To Jane Eyre, Bertha Rochester IS a vampire." This is according to Twitchell.
However, if we are to consider that Jane's 'moral' self (ie: the 'self' which wants to conform to socirty and follow its rules) is constantly fighting within herself (her darker, desiring self as a developing female creature of human nature). Then, we, as readers, are expected to suspend our analytical beliefs and consider Bertha truly as Jane's "other self;" possibly, we might also even take into consideration that Bertha may be a representation of a dual personality within Jane. For if we, as a reading audience, do not believe that Bertha is a vampire image in Jane's eyes, we have only to refer to the scene in the novel, in which Jane explains to Rochester that as she awoke from her uneasy dreams, she heard a rustling in the closet and looked up to see a phantasmic creature (referring to a phantom or ghostly apparition) handling Jane's wedd ing veil; the veil being representative of Jane's con jugal future. Indeed, Bertha could then be seen as a psych ological 'manifestation' of all of Jane's sexual anxieties about the thought of entering into a 'union of souls,' in which she is not only anxious at the thought of having to express physical acts of intimacy with her husband, but also, her anxieties could be based in a psychological fear of letting herself--as a woman--be totally 'possessed' and controlled--body, heart, mind and Soul-- by a man. This theory would then strongly support Bronte's latent literary affirmation to her readers that they did indeed have the choice of either asserting themselves and becoming individualized, female persons in their own right, or also having the choice of surrendering themselves--and their individ uality--to the complete 'possessing' control of a man.
In opposition to this idea, Twitchell, in "The Living Dead," says that essentially.... " Bertha HAS to be sequestered in the attic lest her libidinal desires destroy the men folk. For Bertha is libidinal, not at all seductive, not at all symp athetic. She is, instead, the wretched impediment to the heroine's happiness." (p.66) In a sense then, Twitchell seems to be latently supporting the thoughts of an earlier time period when "Women should be seen and not heard," as well as the idea that "A woman should only speak when spoken to." However, this type of single- minded thinking only further supports the idea that if a person, male or female is forced to suppress any thought, or basic psychological need (according to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid), that if the 'need' is suppressed over an unusually extended period of time, these suppressed thoughts, feelings, needs, etc.. can eventually mainfest themselves in a person's thoughts, motivations, and behaviors in which the person will either begin to exhibit socially amoral, immoral or criminal behaviors; or the suppression will eventually lead to partial or complete mental deterioration of the mind. In the most simple terms, a complete, mentally, nervous breakdown. So then, it could also be viewed that by having Bertha reside in the attic, Bronte is literarily (and Literally) implying that thoughts, ideas and 'animalistic urges' of a sexual nature, which are normally supressed, reside primarily (& Primally) within a person's mind (where logic and rational thought processes are also located to be used). So, in utilizing the popular vampire myth poetically, Charlotte Bronte, in "Jane Eyre" successfully demonstrates how psychologically powerful an analogy for aberrant energy transfers, complete possession and controlling power (if an individual person by another) the intriguing embodiment of the vampire as mythic archetype and supernatural literary motif could be........and is........