Funhouse Mirrors: Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason Essay

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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
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Although Bertha’s seclusion is a result of her insanity and unacceptable behaviour, Jane’s isolation seems to be the cause of some mental illness, throwing her into a panic attack in the red room where she believes her Uncle Reed’s ghost dwells. It must be noted, though, that Jane is a child at this point in the novel, with an active imagination. Bronte may be making a point then, that children should not be shunned for their inventiveness and imagination, as was so common in her day. However, there is a fine line, and socially acceptable age, that separates a healthy imagination from madness. There is a clear lack of this knowledge in Bertha, whom does not appear to have a firm grip on reality. Madness, however, does not merely deal with concepts of reality in “Jane Eyre.” Jane has bouts of uncontrollable speech, in which she must say what comes to her mind. Jane first loses control of her tongue in chapter IV, in which she accuses Mrs. Reed of wishing her dead, and later exclaims “I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare, I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed,” and goes on to evaluate the terrible treatment Mrs. Reed has given her, and the lack of love and compassion she has been shown while at Gateshead. In this instance, madness works in Jane’s favour. This temporary bout of mania allows Jane to finally express the
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