The Development Of The Gothic Heroine

1570 words - 7 pages

The Development of the Gothic Heroine
Although it is not uncommon for a protagonist to grow throughout the course of a novel, for them to develop to the degree where they wholly realize their potential, and then utilize it, is another thing all together. This type of development, while atypical, is often found within the heroines of gothic fiction, particularly the heroines of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights by Charlotte and Emily Brontë respectively. While gothic fiction is typically remembered for combining the horror and romantic genres, it also contains some of the strongest heroines of 19th century literature. Much of the development done by gothic heroines can be traced into one generalized pattern. The heroine of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Cathy Linton, are no exception to this trend. In order for Jane and Cathy to wholly realize their potential and achieve a happy ending, they must first utilize their abilities to overcome great hardships.
To begin their journey towards complete development, the gothic heroines must first realize where their strengths lie. In the case of both Jane Eyre and Cathy Linton, their strengths lie in their compassion for others and their courage in the face of adversity. An example of Jane’s compassion can be found when she returns to the disabled Rochester and pledges to stay with him despite his disability. When asked by Rochester if she “‘will marry [him]? […] A crippled man […] who [she] will have to wait on?’ (453)” Jane replies with, “‘Yes sir’” (C. Brontë 453). Similarly, Cathy finds it within herself to forgive her abuser, Heathcliff, despite all the terrors he has evoked on her. She tells him, “Mr. Heathcliff, you’re a cruel man but you’re not a fiend. […] I don’t hate you. I’m not angry that you struck me. Have you never loved anybody in your life, uncle?” (E. Brontë 231) Both women use find it within themselves to show empathy towards others. Jane demonstrates this compassion by marrying a man who is below her status and who will require ongoing care and Cathy by forgiving the man who caused her so much grief. By utilizing their compassion, Jane and Cathy gain a rounder worldview and are able to face obstacles with more stoicism. Thus with this newfound perspective, the heroines continue on their journey to whole realization of their potential. However, their compassion is not their only skill they discover. Jane and Cathy also learn how to display their courage when faced with difficult situations. Jane realizes the extent of her courage when she stands up to the headmaster at her school who is being especially cruel towards her. After being humiliated in front of her entire school, Jane describes feeling courageous for the first time as; “the new feeling bore me up! […] I mastered the rising hysteria, lifted up my head and took a firm stand on the stool” (67). Additionally, Cathy attempts to escape from Heathcliff who is holding her hostage despite...

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