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Though neither text would be considered explicitly gothic in nature, both contain various pieces of gothic imagery, many of which are consistent even between them. For example, both novels contain as a key setting a gothic mansion; in “Jane Eyre”, there are several. The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” gives gothic detail about the house her husband John rents for her recovery, such as describing it as ‘ancestral halls’, ‘a colonial mansion, a hereditary estate’ and the poignantly obvious ‘haunted house’.
The mysterious and ominous musings of the narrator of the house being ‘let so cheaply’ and having had ‘stood so long untenanted’ as she feels ‘there is something queer about it’ and ‘something strange about the house’ contribute to the feel of this setting. A great deal of attention is given to its isolation from society, ‘standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village’, all of which combines to set a classically gothic scene.
A similar image is given of both the mansion of the Reed family and that of Mr. Rochester, the latter of which contains the ‘beast’ Bertha; reaching a height of gothic imagery with this idea of a monster lurking within, made even more explicit by Bertha’s vampiric attack on Mr. Rochester’s neck, and also her brother. Both novels feature a bed prominently in a section of the narrative – in “The Yellow Wallpaper” the ‘heavy bedstead’ is a definitive feature of the room containing the titular yellow wallpaper, and in “Jane Eyre” the Red Room is consumed by ‘a bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep-red damask’, which is described as ‘a tabernacle in the centre’ of the room.
The bed can be a sign of sleep and regeneration, or birth and therefore life – but the aforementioned gothic nature of the house settings creates a much more sombre interpretation: that of the bed as a symbol of death. Indeed, in chapter 2 of “Jane Eyre”, it is revealed that ‘it was in this chamber [Mr. Reed] breathed his last’, creating a direct link between the image of the enormous bed, and death. The wallpaper ‘is stripped off…
in great patches all around the head of [the] bed’ in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, which is an image inviting the reader to infer circumstances under which this could of occurred – most of which would certainly involve some kind of pain, suffering or desperation. There are a great many similarities between the novels “Jane Eyre” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” despite their differences in genesis and purpose, and simultaneously many differences caused by the same.
There is a wealth of imagery common to the two which highlight interesting ideas, such as the link between zoomorphism and the literary presentation of insanity, as well as the inherently patriarchal nature of Victorian society which is key and consuming in “The Yellow Wallpaper” but is in fact overcome in “Jane Eyre” when the heroine marries a blind and partially crippled Mr. Rochester, therefore in many ways giving her more power over him than he has over her.
The differences in the texts are equally as worthy of note and interest as the similarities, as when the two texts are compared the exact nuances of each become more explicitly clear and both texts are enriched.