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Bertha Mason- Jane Eyre

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AnnMarie Sykes Mrs. Brooks AP English Literature 29 August 2012 In Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Bertha Mason serves as both a warning and a savior to Jane. Though Jane has little empathy for her, she has much in common with the “madwoman in the attic. ” Though seemingly completely mad, Bertha Mason is still cognizant enough to know of Jane and Rochester’s marriage. Rather than being jealous, Bertha hopes to save Jane from impending doom of a marriage to Rochester. By tearing the veil, Bertha Mason is trying to warn Jane and keep her from Rochester.

Discovering Bertha Mason’s failed marriage with Rochester allows Jane the chance to escape Thornfield. If Bertha Mason had not burned down Thornfield and crippled Mr. Rochester, Jane would have ended up in the same locked-up, crazy situation. It is necessary for Jane to have leverage and power over Rochester in the end because otherwise they would not have been “equals”. When Bertha sets Thornfield on fire, she sacrifices herself and causes permanent injury to Rochester.

If Rochester had not be mutated and brutalized by the fire, Jane would always be submissive to Rochester and her independence would be wasted in vain. Bertha, too was one rich and even beautiful, so Jane’s wealth alone would not have prevented imprisonment from Rochester. Both Jane and Bertha were outsiders And though Rochester claims she “is mad; and she came of a mad family-idiots and maniacs through three generations (Bronte 350),” he isn’t exactly in a position to speak objectively.

Rochester could have easily said the same of Jane if he had locked her in the attic. If she had been locked up in the attic, it is possible she would have ended up as broken and insane as Bertha Mason. Bertha Mason and Jane share similarities in character, and because of her Rochester, rather than being abusive, is dependent on Jane. Jane cares for him “just as a royal eagle, chained to a perch, should be forced to entreat a sparrow to become its purveyor. (Bronte 511)”

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Bertha Mason- Jane Eyre

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Bertha As Jane's Alter Ego In Jane Eyre

Bertha as Jane's Alter Ego in Jane Eyre

"I resisted all the way," (chapter 2)  Jane says as she is borne away to be locked in the red-room of Gateshead, where she will experience a fit of rage that inevitably arises from her physical and emotional entrapment. Jane evinces her refusal to accept passively restrictive male standards as well as the female predilection towards anger early in the novel. That night in the red-room, Jane experiences a vehement anger that she describes as "oppressed" and "suffocated." From this impassioned rage Jane falls unconscious, and upon waking in the nursery, Jane finds herself prepared to challenge both the oppressive patriarchal society in which she is trapped and the anger this despotism incites. It is not until Jane reaches Thornfield some time later, that she is able to confront her own rage through her encounter with Bertha, Rochester's "savage" wife who has been locked away in the attic of Thornfield Hall for fifteen years. The two are aligned through the restrictions placed upon them by domineering patriarchs; their responses to these circumstances, however, make them antithetical counterparts. While Bertha kindles a fiery wrath toward her oppressor, Jane must learn to contend with her anger so that she will ultimately be free to live a life of true equality and love with Rochester. In the novel Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë draws distinct similarities between the red-room and the attic of Thornfield, suggesting the complex relationship between Jane and Bertha. While Brontë presents Jane as a woman who is determined to subsist in a patriarchal world without allowing her anger to consume her, she also offers Bertha as Jane's alter ego who is imprisoned by her own rage which ultimately destroys her.

To deepen the complex relationship between Jane and Bertha, Brontë creates parallel settings in which both of the characters harbor ardent and rebellious rage toward the patriarchal structures that dominate at this time. The novel opens with Jane's bout with John Reed, Gateshead's surrogate patriarch. Acting "out of [herself]" (page 5), Jane resolves to counter the tyrannical John Reed and as a result of her rebellion, she is taken to the red-room where Jane's only father figure, Mr. Reed, has died. It is inside this patriarchal death chamber that Jane gains a "transitory power; and Resolve" to "escape from [the] insupportable oppression" (page 9) she experiences as a child at Gateshead. Madly howling, Jane pleads to be released; however her cries are ignored and from her fit of rage she loses consciousness, only to awake with a sense of "doubleness" that will haunt and challenge her for the remainder of the novel. Throughout Jane's journey, she interacts with many characters who suppress their anger in a detrimental manner. She learns from Miss Temple to repress her anger in a lady-like fashion so as not to upset Mr. Brocklehurst, the "black column" of a man who...

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