Funhouse Mirrors: Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason

Topics: Victorian era, Jane Eyre / Pages: 7 (1707 words) / Published: Nov 28th, 2011
Tim Bartlett
ENG 396
March 23, 2011
Funhouse Mirrors: Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason “Jane Eyre” is a book centred around female duality. In a time when females were still expected to fulfill their “womanly duties,” Charlotte Bronte wrote a novel dealing with a woman’s view on morality & sexuality, passion & sensibility, and conformity & insanity, among other themes. This motif of duality plays a strong part in the dynamism that makes up the book, and is not limited to the themes, but is also used to relate many of the characters to the titular Jane. In “The Mystery at Thornfield,” Valerie Beattie makes claims that the character Bertha Mason’s insanity is a representation of rebellion toward the limitations of Victorian women. Not only is Bertha a symbol of the Victorian woman, but also a reflection of Jane herself. Thus, this shows that not only is Bertha a personification of women in the patriarchal society of the Victorian period, but so too, is Jane. As a child, Jane shares many characteristics with Bertha, but when she comes of age she begins to conform in order to thrive in a male dominated society. Bertha, on the other hand, is incapable of such reason and lashes out at the limits that bind her. Through the contrasts and similarities of Bertha Mason and Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte conveys a view on the position, and potential, of Victorian women. As a child, Jane shares many commonalities with the character of Bertha Mason in relation to dealing with a male dominated society. Though at first Jane holds in her passions, despite her oppression by John Reed and Mrs. Reed, Jane eventually asserts herself against John in a physical and violent way. This is comparable to Bertha’s violent outbursts and temper toward Mr. Rochester and those occupying his home. In Jane’s case, the outburst seems more justified; she is simply acting out against her abusive cousin. However, when examined closely, Bertha’s violent attacks on Mr. Rochester are simply backlash from



Cited: Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre . Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 1999. Print. Beattie, Valerie. "The mystery at Thornfield: representations of madness in 'Jane Eyre '." Studies in the Novel 28.4 (1996): 493+. Academic OneFile. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. Fry, Catherine. "Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason: Differing Reactions to Patriarchal Oppression." University of Michigan-Dearborn. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. .

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