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Gender Roles in Gothic Literature


The genre of Gothic literature originated in the second half of the eighteenth century in England and is especially characteristic of the era of early romanticism. The genre of Gothic literature, created in opposition to the prevailing classicism and widespread rationalism in those distant times, gained wide popularity among many readers. This essay addresses the issue of gender roles, namely, the traditional views of women of the Victorian era, women and men’s behavior, stereotypes, and their reflection in Gothic literature on the example of the novel by the English writer Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre.

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During the late reign of King George III, the Victorian era was marked by significant historical events, such as the separation from the British crown of the colonies in North America, the Great French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. Moreover, King George himself had been having mental illness since 1789, and therefore, since 1811, his eldest son George, Prince of Wales, took over as regency. In England, the Victorian era was marked by a change in many spiritual and social values, making the basis of this hard work, thrift, piety and received its extreme expression of Puritanism in personal and family life, which, instead, led more to show and hypocrisy (Campbell 240). At this time, Charlotte Brontë, the author of the novel Jane Eyre, lives and works. To not experience the arrows of criticism and condemnation in excessive freedom, “unacceptable” for a woman-author, she publishes her first novel, Jane Eyre, under a male pseudonym. However, criticism still perceives it differently. Furthermore, it soon became clear to the public that the author of the work was a woman.

The status of a woman in the Victorian Era is a rather striking discrepancy between the position and life of English power, wealth, social conditions for women: a woman’s education was different from that of a man. A woman had to know only the necessary minimum to grow children and keep the house in order. The path to universities was closed. In other words, despite the industrial, scientific, technical, and social revolution taking place in the world, the position of women in England was crammed with Puritan beliefs, which were mostly ostentatious, hypocritical.

On the example of the life path of the novel’s main character, we see that after suffering hardships in the guardians’ house, due to a negative attitude since her parents’ marriage was unequal, Jane ends up in a boarding school for girls. Despite her craving for knowledge, she, like all the pupils, is pumped up with sanctimonious moral teachings about Christian humility of spirit and flesh, philanthropy, giving only a minimum of knowledge (Becker 115). At the same time, they were not worried about the fact that children are malnourished and freezing. Despite all the difficulties, she graduated from the boarding school with honors and even remained there as a teacher. But a calm, measured life in Lowood and a stable, boring routine was not enough for the heroine. She felt with all her heart that she needed something much more (Sutherland 77). What she has is far from the limit of her dreams. Jane Eyre was fond of drawing, the world attracted her, and the world itself seemed to be drawn to her. Although she did not have an attractive appearance, good manners, a strong, seasoned, moral character, and an engaging, lively mindset disposed people to her. Jane Eyre was undoubtedly a strong personality, despite the pressure of the prevailing ways and customs.

The type of Mr. Rochester represents the male character in the novel. His name was harsh and challenging: “Life hit the hero hard, losing faith in love, honor, dignity, Rochester does not allow himself to love. Jane brings confusion to his heart, and the hero reconsiders his attitude to the world around him.” Under the spell of the girl, Rochester changes. He is passionately in love with the girl, but he has a crazy wife. He cannot refuse his obligations to take care of her. Outwardly, the hero is like his gloomy castle, but inside, romantic life in it. Rochester is a traveler, and he is an engaging conversationalist. The desire to learn new things unites him with Jane.

In general, the author raises the topic of women’s independence, trying to convey the idea that because of love, people should not lose their minds and betray their priorities, desires, dreams, yourself. Defying the Victorian order, she says that a man should not restrict a woman. Life should not be limited only to complete submission to a spouse, raising children, and maintaining order in the house. By her life example, the writer proved her views, earning her living, without becoming someone’s spouse of convenience. The author also touches upon a woman’s freedom to choose a life path under the pressure of puritanical frameworks and restrictions. The novel’s heroine is not afraid to change the established way of life and way of life. Thanks to her firmness of character and strong-willed decisions, she seeks and finds the path to happiness.


To sum up, with his work, the author challenges the era of Puritanism, which was most of all ostentatious hypocrisy and hypocrisy to human life. He conveys the idea that despite the hardships of life and external circumstances, there is always an opportunity to change life for the better if the individual has character and desire for a decent life. Jane strives to create a family hearth, and despite all the difficulties, in the conclusion of the novel, finds it.


Becker, Susanne. Gothic forms of feminine fictions. Manchester University Press, 2017.

Campbell, Jessica. “Bluebeard and the Beast: The Mysterious Realism of Jane Eyre.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 30, no. 2, 2016, pp. 234-250.

Sutherland, John. Can Jane Eyre be happy? More puzzles in classic fiction. Icon Books, 2017.

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