AP English Literature
29 August 2012
In Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, 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...