Love, morality, and determination are tested to its farthest limits in Charlotte Brontë’s classic Victorian novel, Jane Eyre, due to several situations and characters. One character in particular, Bertha Mason, is an eminently unrealistic character yet she can be considered one of the more capital characters that influences other much more plausible elements and actions in the story, especially those of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. Bertha Mason, an insane and overly aggressive wife that Rochester had hidden away for many years in his attic, was just one of the boundaries Jane Eyre and Rochester had to overpass, but possibly the most important. She creates many awkward and unrealistic actions in the story that consequently make her, as a whole, an unrealistic character.
Jane Eyre never lost her sense of morality even when she found herself in love for the first time with the only man who provided her a sense of security and a home in Thornfield. One of Bertha’s unrealistic actions would be when she goes into Jane’s room at night, days before her wedding, and stands at the foot of Jane’s bed only to take Jane’s veil and tear it apart. Although she was supposedly “insane”, Bertha seemed to be very conscious of everything going on around her which was not very credible considering they depicted her as a complete lunatic. After that incident, Bertha Mason became a symbol of downfall and reality in Jane’s life; a symbol that brought her down to Earth after spending most of her time, as Jane had said, “an ardent expectant woman – almost a bride” (Brontë, 345). Bertha Mason managed to turn Jane Eyre back into the desolate and bleak girl she used to be, as seen on page 345, “My hopes were all dead – struck with a subtile doom, such as in one, fell on all born in the land of Egypt. I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay stark, chill, livid corpses, that could never revive”. Bertha was an insight into their newly destroyed confidence and the fact that Jane thought that she was never truly loved, perhaps it was just a “fitful passion”. Aside from that, Bertha Mason also made Jane Eyre realize the wrongdoing she was about to commit in marrying her true love. To Jane, it didn’t seem morally right for her to become Rochester’s mistress, even if he didn’t see it that way. It was a moral realistic decision Jane chose to make in order to free herself from any rash decisions she might make due to her love for Rochester and Thornfield. Bertha Mason was an obstacle in Jane’s path; all in all, she impeded Jane’s happiness.
Edward Rochester is by far the most affected by Bertha Mason (as shown on page 360, “That woman who has so abused your long suffering, so sullied your name, so outraged your honor, so blighted your youth –“). One of Bertha’s unrealistic traits was her violent aggressiveness and manner. She attempted to attack and kill Rochester numerous times and even attacked her own brother Richard Mason. When Bertha attacked Richard Mason at Thornfield it seemed to be foreshadowing something dark and morose in the book; it seemed to be as if Rochester was slowly losing his control over the situation he had kept’ well hidden. In the beginning, before the reader is informed of Bertha Mason’s existence, he seems to carry a weight on his shoulders; he mentions that he believes he has many faults and just as many past sins. One could conclude that one of his faults or sins involved marrying Bertha Mason. Bertha Mason was a symbol of unhappiness and failure in Edward Rochester’s life. To him, Bertha failed to be the wife he had married in the beginning; instead he married a woman who went completely mad. He was convinced he was tricked into marrying the lunatic. For the most part, Bertha Mason was a burden for Rochester and when she was exposed, it cost him a newfound love. As much as he supplicated, he could not convince Jane to stay, “’I am a fool!’ cried Mr. Rochester, suddenly, ‘I keep telling her I am not married, and do not explain to her why. I forget she knows nothing of the character of that woman, or of the circumstances attending my infernal union with her’” (355). This event is much more conceivable considering that most women would not consent to bigotry or lead a life as a mistress when the man’s wife is still alive, just as Rochester had almost led Jane into and failed to mention to her. It also relates to the lies and secrecy Rochester maintained in the beginning of the book, which was far more plausible than Bertha Mason because many people would lie to avoid any unwanted attention and talk. Ultimately, Rochester knew the consequences of exposing himself and Bertha Mason to the world, but was not able to conceal his secret sufficiently. Although Bertha Mason seemed uncannily unrealistic, she was the cause for most of the more plausible events in the story which affected most of the characters. As unrealistic as her actions and character were, she gave more understanding onto Rochester’s and Jane’s actions and choices. She was a correlation onto the more credible components of the book and characters which in turn helped develop the story better.