Essay on Doubles in Jane Eyre

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The use of “the double”, or “second self” in literature is a tool often used to represent hidden or repressed aspects of the main character’s identity. “The figure of the literary double proceeds from the Romantic period to the present. It has developed from supernatural origins, harbingers of evil and death, to an element of individual psychology and a domestic feature” (Miller 416). By examining the doubling between and within the characters in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre I consider the various representations of the female gender and how Jane’s doubles, Bertha Mason, Helen Burns, and Mrs. Reed contribute to the construction of Jane’s gender. Jane Eyre’s quest for love can be seen as a measure of establishing her identity as a woman …show more content…
Bertha then, is a reflection of Jane’s emotional and psychological self, not only “acting out Jane’s secret fantasies” but also providing Jane with “an example of how not to act; not only acting for Jane but also acting like Jane” (Gilbert & Gubar 361). As Miller points out, doubles are comprised of both the conspicuous physical appearances that show from the outside as well as the subtle appearances that come from the inside (Miller 416). Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar see Bertha as Jane's double because she expresses anger that is within Jane but cannot be expressed. They write: “Every one of Bertha's appearances . . . has been associated with an experience (or repression) of anger on Jane's part…Jane's apparently secure response to Rochester's apparently egalitarian sexual confidences was followed by Bertha's attempt to incinerate the master in his bed. Jane’s unexpressed resentment at Rochester’s manipulative gypsy-masquerade found expression in Bertha’s terrible shriek and her even more terrible attack on Richard Mason. Jane's anxieties about her marriage, and in particular her fears of her own

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