The Supernatural in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Three main factors contributing to the supernatural in Jane Eyre are Jane's intuition and E.S.P., Bessie's tales of unearthly spirits, and the haunting setting of Thornfield.

Bessie's stories influence a young Jane on a conscious level (at least she thinks this looking back on the youthful imagination), and as she grows, the stories become part of her unconscious mentality. The descriptive observations she makes continuously reflect her superstitious beliefs. While Jane is locked in the Red Room, she realizes that Bessie's tales are affecting her thinking. She sees, or imagines, a tiny phantom that is with her in the room. She recollects the tales set in the ferny dells and moors in which such imp-like creatures appear. This image is brought to her courtesy of Bessie, and her wild imagination is set in motion by hearing such fantastical tales.

Jane has an innate sense about what forces are at work around her; sounds and sights, the wind, the rain, and what seems to be supernatural. She is very aware about things that make her alert to the supernatural. Many words associated with the supernatural are used in Jane's descriptions. She thinks in a paranoid way, hinting of spiritual and macabre things. Her train of thought often strays to the darker side of what could happen. For instance, when she sees the light that illuminates the darkness of the Red Room, she thinks it is some conjured apparition. When she looks back upon the event, she realizes that in all likelihood it is just someone carrying a lantern across the lawn. At the time she lets her mind visualize a ghostly apparition, as many children do. She even sleeps with a comfort doll after, as she puts it, she makes sure "nothing worse than myself haunted the shadowy room…." But even as an adult, Jane sees things from those childish eyes: she interrogates Mrs. Fairfax during her tour of the house and is disappointed to find there are no legends, ghosts, or spirits.

The setting at Thornfield reminds me very much of the typical Gothic mansion (both in literature and in film), such as the house in “The Fall of the House of Usher” and the film “The Others”. My imagination is left to conjure the metaphysical set of gothic houses in literature, but more and more in movies I view houses in situations meant to be supernatural. Were I in Thornfield, I would most certainly imagine it being haunted or inhabited by any number of paranormal beings. The supernatural situations in Jane Eyre are supernatural because of the descriptive method Jane uses to portray them. She sees things with a touch of awareness and I get a feel for her awareness through her choice of words and thoughts. This awareness lends credibility to her psychic abilities and E.S.P.

Having an innate sense of supernatural things makes Jane even more curious to such things that are characteristically abnormal. When the 'gypsy' pays a visit to Thornfield, Jane is very curious, not timid like the other women who go to hear their fortune. Without a hint of trepidation, she talks to the strange 'woman'. She wants to be told something; instead, she is disappointed about not being given any paranormal observations. She wants to have contact through a window; the 'gypsy' provides to the realm that so fascinates her. If only she would realize that she is already standing right in front of such a window, that the little paranoid feelings she gets are valid, that the macabre observations she makes are all too close to reality.

Jane's E.S.P. goes from small everyday mystic occurrences to hearing Rochester's cries when she is proposed to by St. John. She is very connected with what is happening all around her, so much that somewhere in her relationship with Rochester, she becomes connected with him too. The fact that she does not tell Rochester that she heard him illustrates that she keeps her supernatural observations to herself.

Jane's intuition leads to how I am to first interpret new characters. She often demonstrates her sixth sense to me to get an idea of a person's demeanor before she knows them well. This intuition is used to foreshadow later events. Some supernatural events are used to foreshadow, and sometimes Jane observes this, and sometimes she does not. When the chestnut tree splits in two, Jane does not see it as a sign to be wary of her upcoming marriage until later. I attribute this to the glee she feels upon the upcoming event of her wedding. But Jane is superstitious, and I expected her to connect the chestnut tree's wound to some omen of her relationship to Rochester.

The supernatural is prevalent in Jane Eyre. The fact that Rochester is hiding his secret wife in the house the whole time while Jane is there and falling in love with him is very frightening. I have a vision of Mrs. Rochester sitting in a rocking chair in a dark room, rocking back and forth, while, downstairs right below her in a bright sitting room, Jane and Mr. Rochester sit and talk. Mr. Rochester hears the rocking. Jane does not.