The two books I am studying are ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte and ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. I will be comparing and contrasting the way Daphne Du Maurier and Charlotte Bronte both create a sense of tension and mystery in ‘Rebecca’ chapter 7, and ‘Jane Eyre’ chapter 20. They were written in different times, Jane Eyre in the 1840’s of the 19th century and Rebecca in the 1930’s of the 20th century. Both books draw many similarities and a story line focusing on one central character throughout, the young female heroine who is unsupported by family or wealth and hold no social position.
They are in search of identity and encounter many difficulties as both their characters develop. In Jane Eyre, she becomes a much stronger person towards the end of the book, whereas in Rebecca, the bride seems to lose her identity completely and is continuously haunted by another. They both contain great romantic, but mystic genres, and Jane Eyre in particular an unusual gothic theme.
Rebecca focuses on the story of a young shy female who has been taken in by a woman as her companion.
She is used to the idea of not having any power or position important to those around her, a role that is submissive and humble. As the book progresses, the romantic theme of the novel arises with an arrival of a widowed man Maxim De Winter, the owner of Manderley. Their relationship begins to develop, and they are soon to be married. After the marriage the unnamed bride is taken to Manderley where Maxim had spent his days with Rebecca, his previous wife.
The new bride is expected to fill the role of a strong minded and charming woman that Rebecca was, intelligent and popular.
However she found this difficult especially with the reaction of those around her, in particular Mrs Danvers. Tension is dawning and Rebecca’s influence became mysterious and haunting for those in the mansion. Slowly driving her into a neurotic, nervous state, her search for identity seems to be a failure and the thoughts and shadow of Rebecca still remains. Jane Eyre has quite a different story, but also shares the same status as an orphaned child with no real family or support. She is brought up in the cold charity of her aunt and cousins, who reject her and excludes her from the family.
She then decides to go to boarding school where she can get away from her aunt, but there is an unfortunate epidemic that occurs in the school, and causes the death of her only friend. She stays on at the school and becomes a teacher, but later she decides that she wants to leave and proceeds to make an escape and becomes a governess in Thornfield hall for Mr Rochester. Gradually, a relationship develops between them, and she falls into a love affair that is filled with secrets and mystery from Mr Rochester, as in Rebecca with Maxim De Winter.
When Jane is living there as Mr Rochester’s humble servant, she hears a continual scream that comes from the attic of the house, and becomes curious about the noises. Finally she discovers his secret and she leaves Thornfield Hall, but soon returns to wed Mr Rochester after a disastrous incident that occurs at the hall. There are many themes that are used in both novels, and other themes appear which are effective for each novel in its own. Both contain gothic themes and supernatural elements that develop throughout the book, which adds to the mystery and sense of tension that arises leading up to the two chapters I am studying.
This gothic theme produces images that are dark or hidden and effectively draws your attention to the mystery. Rebecca In ‘Rebecca’ the setting of the novel is first based in Monte-Carlo a vibrant and lively place, and there is a dramatic contrast that is formed from when she had spent her days there with her companion and the time when she reaches Manderley in chapter 7 of the book. From the time where they are driving towards Manderley, Maxim is being suspiciously positive about his return with his new bride and does not seem to be nervous about what to be expecting and how she will cope.
She however ‘dreaded’ the thought at arriving in Manderley, but did not consult him about this. She had thoughts about being ‘unsuitably dressed’ and was nervous about going to Manderley. Maxim made the place sound so wonderfully amazing and beautiful, but the description ‘the azaleas would be prodigal of scent, and the blood red rhododendrons in bloom’ and the use of ‘blood red’ rather than another word starts to create an image that is not so bright and possibly menacing.
When he locates Manderley to be in ‘the valley with the scrap of sea beyond’, the sea has a strange effect as it seems as though it is never ending, dangerous part of Manderley, as well as it being in ‘the woods’ a dark and idle area. The way she ‘gripped’ the seat as they pulled up on the drive and the use of words is effective in gradually building up tension. The ‘two high iron gates’ creates an image of those you see in a horror film, with the tall gates leading to a large abandoned house, the gates daunting and overpowering you.
Another example of this is when there are a ‘great colonnade of trees’ that made an ‘archway’ for them ‘above their heads’, and there would only be ‘little flickering patches’ of light that would come through the thickness of the leaves. Her ‘heart was beating quickly’ and she ‘shrank back’ in her seat as the children stared at her ‘through the dark windows of the lodge’, she is afraid and she had felt tension from the moment they arrived at Manderley. When they had reached the building, the gates shut ‘with a crash behind’ them and the ‘dusty high road was out of sight’.
This suggests feelings of entrapment, and the how the road is not to be seen, as if there is no other place to escape now that the gates shut upon them. Manderley was ‘very silent and very still’ and ‘there was no wind’. The sudden stillness of the place as they reach Manderley seems a bit superstitious and fallacious in its atmosphere. The phrase ‘blood red’ which is used to describe these rhododendrons is repeated many times after this and it is now described as a ‘wall of colour’, ‘reaching far above’ their heads.
This ‘wall’ also gives an idea of being trapped, and a sense that something is overpowering in ‘blood red’ that is ‘bewildering and even shocking’. They were ‘monsters’ as she described them. All the way towards Manderley, she feels that everything is large and overpowering, possibly making her feel claustrophobic and small. Daphne Du Maurier is very precise in her description and extremely vivid using similes and metaphors to create these images. She writes very precisely with a lot of detail, using words and phrases which evoke the sense of mystery, creating tension.
The first time that Mrs Danvers is mentioned, ‘Mrs Danvers’ orders’ her name is used with authority. Mrs De Winter’s first encounter with Mrs Danvers is the point in which you began to feel as scared as her by Mrs Danvers and her striking and hostile character. Her appearance, dark as she ‘advanced from the sea of faces, someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black’. She had ‘hollow eyes’ and her face is ‘parchment white, set on a skeleton’s frame’. This is a very detailed description of Mrs Danvers and has a prominent effect on the reader, as she comes across as a very strong and almost sinister character.
The way she is described is unpleasant and creates an image of a cold and evil woman, almost resembling a ‘witch like’ figure. She is ‘deathly cold’ and she creates a sense of tension towards Mrs De Winter when she first meets her. She forms a sense of discomfort when she is present, and the descriptions of her ‘hollow eyes’ another repeated phrase, adds to the mystery of this strange character. The author tends to repeat phrases, possibly to place emphasis on these descriptions and they are usually quite dark, for example repeating the words ‘cold’ and ‘lifeless’ when referring to Mrs Danvers.
More phrases that are used to describe her character that also emphasise her darkness, and mystery, ‘dark and sombre’, ‘dull and toneless’ and ‘harsh’. The reader is continually being reminded of these points that focus on the darkness and gothic themes of the novel, this all adds to the mystery of this chapter in particular, where there are many descriptions similar to these. The new bride ‘did not want to go alone, with Mrs Danvers’ and you sense that she fears her.
There is tension arising in the atmosphere due to this continual reference of being ‘alone’ with her and not knowing where she is being taken. At this point we are made to feel sorry for Mrs De Winter and we also fear for her. Mrs Danvers knows that the new bride is shy and uncomfortable with her, but she persists in making her feel uneasy and insecure. When she tells her that ‘this wing’ is never used, she makes it seem as though there is a reason why, but doesn’t tell her this making her feel uneasy about why she has been put in a room that is often unused.
When she asks her about getting a maid, ‘it’s usual, you know, for ladies in your position to have a personal maid’ she seems patronising and makes the shy new bride feel insecure as she is expected to be more powerful and not afraid of Mrs Danvers. However when she is talking to Mrs De Winter she is being quite polite and respectful towards her, which contrasts the image that she feels towards Mrs Danvers. This is another aspect that makes their relationship strange as you feel that Mrs Danvers is putting on a facade, when she speaks to her.
She is this ‘shadow’ that watches her, which is also the same word used to describe Rebecca later in the book. She was a character set aside from the rest, and adds a strong sense of mystery and tension later in the book aswell as making such a powerful impact from the moment she in introduced in this chapter. The atmosphere throughout this chapter is usually silent or still, and when she uses these words it emphasises the tension, as though you are building up to an expected climax that is loud and menacing.
The room that she is led into when she reaches Manderley has an ‘old and quiet smell’ and she never describes the house or the rooms to be vibrant, fresh or beautiful. There was always an uncertainty about everything in Manderley. The rooms and the walls were ‘dark’ or ‘heavy’ and she compared the room to a ‘silent church where services were seldom held’, somewhere that is abandoned or uncared for, ‘where rusty lichens grow’ and ‘ivy tendrils creep’. Already, Manderley is given this deep and mysterious image and atmosphere.
Whereas visitors of this mansion conceive it to be beautiful and are amazed by the grandness of Manderley, this draws up a heavy contrast between the way she feels being at Manderley and how it looks to others. The residents of the household are quiet and mysterious, including her husband who did not give clear answers or thoughts and there is always an awkward communication between them, which seemed impersonal and unaffectionate. There is a sense of something that is being hidden, something ‘unspoken’. He casually sits in the comfort of his own home, and he ‘did not look at her’.
There is a difference in their characters, while Maxim was to be described as ‘contented’ and ‘comfortable’, while his new wife is becoming more and more paranoid and insecure about being at Manderley. Rebecca is a constant reminder of her being unwelcome at Manderley, especially by Mrs Danvers and is always being shadowed by her. The pace of the novel speeds up towards the end of chapter 7 when her thoughts are quick and random, she can’t seem to control her feelings towards Rebecca and you begin to see her insecurity.
She is ‘sitting in Rebecca’s chair’, ‘leaning against Rebecca’s cushion’ and by now Rebecca had had quite a quick affect on her. We do not know much about Rebecca at all as she remains unspoken by the rest of the household, and no one speaks of her death. There is a strong sense of tension and mystery that evolves around Rebecca’s character in the book. Rebecca and Mrs Danvers has made such a strange impact on her, and yet the other members do not see that there is an issue, causing you to think that there must be a deeper meaning to explain this strange behaviour and to explain the way the new Mrs De Winter is feeling.
The author concentrates on these two characters and in her writing, uses repeated words and phrases as a constant referral to them. Daphne Du Maurier has managed to create a sinister and mysterious feeling around them and made Mrs De Winter feel insecure and vulnerable, to emphasise their power over her, but does not disclose as much information about their roles in the household and character so that they remain a mystery. Jane Eyre In Jane Eyre, the novel is set in many different places, but mainly in Thornfield Hall which is where she resides in chapter 20.
The atmosphere here is quite different from that in Rebecca, as she had been in Thornfield Hall for a long time now, and it was not a matter of coming somewhere new and the uncomforting process of it. The story line in this chapter is focused on the strange events that occur in the house and what Jane’s feelings are when the situation is confronted. The setting at the beginning of the chapter is during the night and the ‘moon, which was full and bright’ shone through her window. It was ‘awakening in the dead of the night’.
This is very visual description and has a particular gothic quality, when she describes it to be ‘silver white and crystal clear’ in the darkness that is very ghostly, and it was ‘too solemn’. The atmosphere from the start is calm and quiet, causing a strange feeling. After the first paragraph, the pace of the chapter seems to suddenly speed up with ‘Good God, what a cry! ‘ and this disrupts the stillness instantly. The tension begins to develop from this point. The cry is described to be ‘sharp, a shrilly sound that ran end to end of Thornfield Hall’, this suggests something that is loud and menacing.
There is a description about Jane’s feelings as her ‘pulse stopped’, her ‘heart stood still’, she is ‘paralysed’. There are concentrated thoughts here that are quick and sudden. There are the uses of short and sharp sentences that speed up the pace. She continually mentions the cry and describes it as a ‘fearful shriek’ something that was unpleasant. The origin of the scream is still unknown and it remains unspoken throughout the chapter. This adds to the tension and mystery of not knowing what this ‘thing’ is. The cries of ‘Help! Help! Help! ‘ such suggests that there is panic and there are many exclamation marks used in the beginning.
This is the first example of triptych used when the words ‘help’ are being repeated three times. There are a lot of quick and short exchanges between the people talking, but we still do not know what is happening and there is continual tension building because of this. ‘Someone ran’, ‘another step stamped on the floor’ this shows that we don’t know who is running around and who may be involved in what is going on and following on from this is ‘What is it? Who is hurt? What has happened? ‘ there are a lot of use of questions and there is uncertainty in the household.
The tension is building up as well as the mystery of the unknown. Bronte has tried to release tension in the narrative sense aswell as in the speech. Another reference is made to the ‘moon’ as she describes the atmosphere to be dark and still, while there is a contrast with the loud voices outside and the screaming. When the question is repeated about what is going on, Colonel Dent replies with ‘it’s a mere rehearsal of much ado about nothing’ and is mocking the event so that it distracts you from the mystery surrounding, even though this evokes it further.
Later he adds ‘a servant has had the nightmare; that is all’ which seems curious and causes more questions to be asked. It seems as though he is trying to conceal the truth by saying something so casual as a desperate excuse. He also tries to dissipate the tension by restoring conventionality with ‘gentleman, have the goodness to set the ladies the example. ‘ It is very mysterious once it reaches this point and there is a lot of confusion in what is going on. There has been no certain reply to the questions being asked and we are unsure of what has happened.
The pace here is very fast and we almost lose our sense of surrounding, the tension in Jane Eyre is built up very quickly from the start rather than gradually. Everything occurs abruptly and we are left with mystery. In Rebecca the tension is slow, but there is less mystery in the chapter. After these series of events, there is more description about the atmosphere now, where ‘no stillness returned’ and everything had now been disrupted. However, there were still ‘silent grounds and silvered fields’ and the ‘moon declined’. Here Bronte continues using these gothic qualities to create a sense of mystery.
Thornfield Hall was again as hushed as a desert’ it seemed strange that there is this sudden stillness which contrasts the screaming and hysteria previously. There is anticipation as Jane realises that ‘some event must follow the strange cry, struggle and call’. This is another example of triptych, and she uses this to emphasise the strange sound heard before. She repeats the words ‘darkness’ many times throughout the chapter and this is the same technique that Daphne Du Maurier used in Rebecca, repeated phrases and words.
The paragraph is calm and mysterious, but soon after there are another series of short exchanges between Jane and Mr Rochester. After a quiet atmosphere has been achieved, Bronte suddenly changes and there is panic and tension again with lots of questions and short sentences. The pace speeds up again and more questions are asked. There is a continuous pattern throughout the chapter where it is quiet in the atmosphere and is reflected to all the events elsewhere. The mystery of everything that is going on, is also being mirrored by the strange night and ghostly images that have been created in the grounds, pathetic fallacy is used.
This technique is used to emphasise what is happening in the novel, adding extra effects with the atmosphere. When she comes to help Mr Mason, she describes him to be a ‘a pale, bloody spectacle’ before her, and she is uncomfortable with the fact that she has to ‘dip here hand again and again in the basin of blood and water’. Lots of references to blood, suggesting an attack or horrific accident has been made on Mr Mason and we are still unknown to what it is. This holds the mystery in the chapter creating the tension. Conclusion
Both books use various techniques to provoke images and feelings of tension and mystery. Similar techniques that are used in both books are questions and repetition to emphasise the choice of words used which are usually ‘dark’ or ‘still’. They both use a similar choice of words and describe the setting in an overpowering and dangerous way. However Jane Eyre has a gothic theme to it, which the blood, the dark, the strange noises that come from the attic, threatening presence of this creature, which all combine together to create this mystery.
The tension in the books are evoked by the mystery, as it continues, more tension about what is going to happen arises. The pace of the chapters in each are not constant, in Rebecca it is the same from the beginning and reaches a climax at the end. In Jane Eyre it is very still and then suddenly the pace speeds up dramatically before slowing down again. There is a constant switching between what is going on, and then back to the description of the surrounding grounds and here feelings in contrast to the confusion. This effectively adds to the mystery, as we are not certain what is going on.
I found that in Jane Eyre and Rebecca, they do successfully create both mystery and tension all throughout the book and I have found many ways in which they have done this. However I feel that Daphne Du Maurier created a better sense of this mystery and tension rather than in Jane Eyre which I thought seemed to be more of a drama or horror. In Rebecca there are constant references to certain characters and things are said which are unknown to the reader at the end of the chapter, but in Jane Eyre you are able to work out what is happening even though not a lot has been explained.