oth Charlotte Brontë and Lewis Carroll infuse their work with elements of the fantastic: a fact evident in both Jane Eyre and Alice in Wonderland. However, a common use of the fantastic does not mean these authors strive for identical imaginative effects. From the moment Alice falls down the hole into Wonderland, many realistic constraints do not apply to her, not even the law of gravity. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, a great fall brings her no harm; in fact she has sufficient time to observe her surroundings while she tumbles. To represent the discombobulating nature of the way children experience life, Carroll creates an entire world in which reality appears slippery. Children move in and out of fairy tales. Indeed, they move in and out of their own skins, in a way that simply cannot be explained. In part, Carroll uses the fantastic in Alice in Wonderland to highlight the absurdity that underlies many supposedly rational adult behaviors.
Brontë incorporates fantastic elements into a more realistic narrative structure by weaving in references to fairy tales, prophetic dreams, mythic imagery and extraordinary plot twists. In part, she uses the fantastic to inform the reader of concealed emotional subtexts in the novel. Her prophetic dreams provide the reader with vital information regarding the state of Jane's emotional health. This use of the fantastic pplays a major role in Jane Eyre , which is not merely a parable or morality tale: Jane's success as a Bildungsroman heroine depends upon satisfying her emotional and spiritual needs, in addition to securing the safe domestic environment requisite at that time for female survival. Brontë's departure from a realistic plot might derive from Emotionalist moral philosophy, a school of moral philosophy which significantly affected nineteenth-century intellectual life in Britain. Brontë uses the fantastic to expand the parameters of societal conceptions of what is comprised by reality. Landow notes the implications of these ideas, "For psychology and theories of human nature: for the first time, philosophers no longer urged that the healthy human mind is organized hierarchically with reason, like a king, ruling will and passions. Reason now shares rule with feelings or emotions." By elevating the importance of emotion in Jane's maturation, Brontë creates a Bildungsroman not exclusively rooted in mastery of the external world, but focused as well on the vitality of the interior life.
Last modified 25 November 2004