Things Fall Apart: A Comparison of Plath, Dickinson, and Bronte

Throughout their poems, authors Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Charlotte Bronte convey their ideas regarding the despair they have felt throughout their lives, and in particular the concept that ‘thing fall apart’. Through a range of engaging stylistic techniques such as personification, repetition, symbolism, metaphor, alliteration, simile, homoioptoton, synecdoche, rhyme, and tone, each author, in contrasting ways, is able to explore the idea that life does not always go to plan, and things can very easily fall apart.

Through her poem Tulips, poet Sylvia Plath is able to convey her idea that when things fall apart, depression can play a major part in a person’s life, and often can evoke suicidal thoughts. Plath employs symbolism through the motif of the tulips, [flowers that [she] didn’t want, [she] only wanted to lay with [her] hands turned up and be utterly empty. Through this, Plath conveys how when things fall apart, often it’s hard to want to continue living, something that the tulips, full of life, remind the subject of. Furthermore, Plath personifies the tulips, stating that the vivid tulips eat up her my oxygen, demonizing them and conveying how the subject feels victimized by all the things in her life that have fallen apart. In a contrasting way, poet Emily Dickinson employs the techniques of capitalization and repetition to convey her ideas regarding the concept that things fall apart in her poem, I felt a Funeral, in my Brain. In fact, within the title itself, the words Funeral and Brain have been capitalized to place emphasis on these words to convey the idea that, like Plath’s poems suggest, when things fall apart in life often it is hard to think of anything other than death and despair. Dickinson’s use of repetition, which she employs in the line Kept treading – treading – till it seemed / That Sense was Breaking through also conveys the concept that when things fall apart in life, living with grief becomes monotonous and numbing, as though it has become meaningless. Indeed, through their respective poems Tulips and I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, authors Plath and Dickinson expertly convey the idea that when ‘things fall apart’ it can lead to depression.

Similarly, in her text Lady Lazarus, Plath through the use of simile and metaphor, conveys her own experience of suicidal thoughts which she was lead to through ‘things falling apart’ in her life. Plath employs several similes, including And like a cat I have nine times to die to convey her anger and sadness at not being able to succeed in dying as she is forced to return to the things that have fallen apart in her life. In a similar way, Plath employs metaphors, such as Out of the ashes/ I rise with my red hair to suggest that, like a phoenix, she is reborn each time she almost dies, and continues to destroy the others in her life as things keep falling apart. This greatly contrasts poet Charlotte Bronte’s ideas surrounding this statement within her poem Life, which encourages the reader to persevere through tough times through the use of alliteration and homoioptoton. Through the use of alliteration Bronte is able to communicate to the reader that even though in tough times sorrow seems to win, if you have hope and strength you can still find happiness even after ‘things fall apart’. In a similar way, Bronte utilizes homoioptoton, evident in the lines Manfully, fearlessly and gloriously, victoriously to suggest that strength when ‘things fall apart’ can often lead to becoming a better person and achieving great things. Certainly, through different techniques, Plath and Bronte are able to convey their contrasting ideas regarding the concept that ‘things fall apart’.Poets Dickinson and Bronte, through their texts Because I could not stop for Death and Winter Stores, also present contrasting views regarding the idea that ‘things fall apart’ through a range of stylistic techniques, Dickinson’s use of the personification of Death, [who] kindly stopped for [her] conveys the idea that when ‘things fall apart’, death can be inviting, and giving in would be like greeting an old friend.

Furthermore Dickinson romanticizes this idea of death in the face of challenging times through alliteration, evident in the line my Gossamer, my Gown/ My Tippet – only Tulle which presents the reader with an alluring and inviting image of death. In contrast, Bronte employs repetition and metaphor to suggest to the reader that ‘things falling apart’ is just a fact of life, in which we get both good times and bad times. The repetition of Alike the bitter cup of grief/ Alike the draught of bliss conveys that whilst things do fall apart, things also come together and it is these things that should be celebrated, rather than mourned, Bronte reiterates this through the metaphor of the sunshine of the heart which conveys the sense that happiness is always there for those who can persevere through grief. Undoubtedly, through their poems Dickinson and Bronte expertly convey their contrasting Ideas regarding how ‘things fall apart’.

Again, through their respective poems, Daddy and On the death of Anne Bronte, Plath and Bronte explore the deaths of their loved ones and how this has caused their lives to fall apart. Throughout Daddy Plath employs synecdoche to refer to her father, such as Ghastly statue with one grey toe to convey her anger that her father left her behind, and that he is not human, but rather parts of a cold, stone statue, Plath also employs the repetition of the German word Ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak to express the sadness she felt when her father, who was German, died when she was eight. Similarly, Bronte’s grief at losing her sister is conveyed through the saddened and forlorn tone, when she states that she is Wishing each sight might be the last. The idea that Bronte’s life has fallen apart following the death of her sister is also made evident through the lines there is little joy in life for me/ I’ve lived the parting hour to see, which supports the idea that her sister’s death has caused things to fall apart in Bronte’s life. Clearly, through the use of synecdoche and repetition in Daddy and tone and rhyme scheme in On the death of Anne Bronte, authors Plath an Bronte convey their idea that the death of a loved one can cause lives to ‘fall apart’.

Through the use of a large variety of techniques, including personification, symbolism, repetition, metaphor and many more, poets Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Charlotte Bronte brilliantly convey a wide range of ideas and concepts surrounding the themes of life and death, In particular, each poet presents a unique, view on the idea that, in life, ‘things fall apart’, and inspired by the tragedies and musings of their lives.

Understanding Jane Eyre Through Bertha Mason

One reason why Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, is a huge success is because of the intriguing narrator-reader dynamic. The narrator – Jane herself – develops a certain kind of intimacy with the readers throughout the autobiography. Although readers may feel as if they have a strong understanding of Jane, there are ambiguous moments in the text that leave the readers questioning the entirety of Jane’s character. While it is true that readers know quite a bit about her thoughts, they know very little about her subconscious desires. Using Freud’s notion of the subconscious, and Bertha Mason as the key to understanding the narrator’s deepest desires, readers can develop a complete characterization of the narrator. Hence, Jane Eyre is often acclaimed for its intimate characterization of its pinnacle character created through numerous asides with the readers, consequently developing a seemingly sophisticated understanding of the narrator. However, it appears that readers are intimate only with Jane’s conscious angelic self, and distant with her unconscious demonic half, thus begging readers to question if they can ever truly understand all aspects of the narrator. Although, if readers analyze Bertha Mason to achieve a complete understanding of Jane’s character, then they can form a hypothesis as to why she marries poor Mr. Rochester at the end of the novel. The intimacy between the narrator’s angelic side and the reader stems from Jane addressing the reader throughout her autobiography. In one instance, the narrator prays for the readers’ happiness. After suffering hardships, she says: “Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips” (Bronte 370). The readers have become like friends to Jane as she recognizes the readers as more than mere people following her story at this point in her story. She hopes that the readers do not feel what she felt that day, demonstrating her mindfulness for the readers, further developing the intimate relationship that has been building since the first time she addresses them. Subsequently, readers can see the angelic aspect of Jane’s character. She portrays the qualities of the Victorian angel of the house: loving and moral. Jane is not seen full of hatred for the world and blaming others for her misfortunes and suffering. Instead, she channels her sadness into kind prayers for the readers, making readers see her as an honest and lovable character. Hence, Jane addresses the reader to develop an intimate bond between her likeable self and the reader. It would be incorrect to say that the readers have a sophisticated understanding of Jane only by analyzing her angelic persona, as there is also her demonic persona to consider. Many readers may not even consider her sinister side because the narrator purposefully does not build intimacy with readers through her antithetical persona. Hence, readers are left in the dark and are lost when trying to understand her inner thoughts during ambiguous moments in the text. If, however, readers consider analyzing Bertha Mason alongside with Jane Eyre, then they may have a more comprehensive understanding about the entirety of the narrator. Bertha can be interpreted as Jane’s double because she can be seen to embody all of Jane’s subconscious desires, and also render those desires into concrete actions. Thus, the ambiguous moments in the text can be explained using Bertha as the key to understanding Jane’s true inner thoughts. For example, when Jane slowly wakes up from her dreams, she sees the ghost-like Bertha trying on Jane’s wedding veil. She then removes it from her head and rips it into two parts, trampling on it afterwards (327). Bertha taking off the wedding veil and ripping it apart reflects Jane’s inner thoughts. Her doubts about this sudden marriage materializes in the form of Bertha Mason. Jane is hesitant if she should marry Mr. Rochester at that point in time because deep down she knows that she has not completely matured enough in this coming-of-age story. She does not know “where was the Jane Eyre of yesterday . . . [and] where were her prospects” anymore (341). She later tells Mr. Rochester that “[she] must change too” and there “is no doubt of that” (346). Since she has not found her fully matured self yet, nor knows about her prospects in life, her subconscious manifests itself in the form of Bertha to destroy the wedding veil – thus metamorphically halting the wedding. Her leaving Thornfield further supports the claim that Jane is not yet ready to settle down and marry, but must instead continue to mature. Only when she has discovered herself, will her subconscious allow her to marry Mr. Rochester. Thus, using Bertha Mason as an outlet for Jane’s subconscious thoughts, readers can better grasp the entirety of the narrator’s character to decipher ambiguous moments in the text. Furthermore, Bertha can also be used to explain Jane’s strange dreams, providing readers a way to interpret her subconscious desires. For instance, Jane has a nightmare about Thornfield Hall in ruins the night before her wedding. She describes it as a “dreary ruin” where nothing remained but “a shell-like wall [that is] very high and very fragile-looking” (325). Jane wakes up from her dreams after losing her balance climbing up the crumbling wall trying to look for Mr. Rochester (326). Jane does not provide any possible reasons why she has a horrible dream of Thornfield Hall in ruins, nor does she ever go back to offer an explanation. Thus, readers are proven to be not intimate enough with Jane to understand all aspects of her character. However, analyzing Bertha can provide a possible interpretation of her dream. During Jane’s return to Thornfield, readers can see that Jane’s dreams become reality. She discovers that there was a great fire that destroyed Thornfield Hall. Bertha had snuck out of her prison when Grace Poole was asleep and set ablaze the hangings of the room beside hers, and then to the room Jane used to sleep in (492). During this unfortunate night, the house burns down with “an immense quantity of valuable property destroyed [with] hardly any of the furniture [being] saved,” which leaves Mr. Rochester poor (491). On the other hand, Jane is rich due to her uncle leaving her a fortune of “five thousand pounds” (501). She even offers to “build a house of [her] own close up to [Mr. Rochester’s] door” so that he “may come and sit in [her] parlour when [he] want[s] company [in the] evening” (501). In addition to the destruction of Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester becomes “blind, and a cripple” as he damages both eyes and loses a hand in the house fire, leaving him dependant on those around him (494). Due to Bertha’s embodiment of Jane’s subconscious desires, she intentionally destroys all Mr. Rochester’s property and cripples him. Her actions can be interpreted as Jane’s subconscious desire to be Mr. Rochester’s equal. Since the night of the fire left him poor, and her uncle left her rich, Jane is now on equal footing or higher compared with Mr. Rochester. She no longer has to rely on him paying her or supporting her through his income as she is “independent . . . [and her] own mistress” now (501). Thus, Bertha can again be seen fulfilling Jane’s subconscious desires, giving readers an insight on her covert demonic persona. Only after readers use Bertha as the key to understanding the narrator’s less intimate half, can they see why she chooses to marry Mr. Rochester in the end – answering the shocking line said by Jane: “Reader, I married him” (517). This line can be shocking to many readers because the narrator does not offer reasons as to why she marries him, especially since she is fully independent now. It could even be possible that she herself does not know exactly why she wishes to marry him. Although, after analyzing Bertha – Jane’s demonic half – readers can derive a possible explanation. At the time of their first wedding, Jane has not finished maturing in this bildungsroman tale and must discover who she truly is first. Readers can see that she has discovered herself when she says to Mr. Rochester “I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out – I am come back to you” (500). She comes back to him only when she can affirm her identity. Jane also desires to be independent and an equal to Mr. Rochester, which does happen with the help of Bertha setting fire to Thornfield Hall, as it leaves him poor and dependant on those around him. After satisfying both subconscious desires, Bertha – Jane’s demonic double – jumps off the roof and dies, metamorphically freeing Jane of any more sinister subconscious desires since they have been all fulfilled. Hence, the narrator forms an intimate bond with the readers through her angelic persona but avoids outwardly expressing her demonic aspect of her character. This misguides readers into thinking that they are truly intimate with the narrator. Thus, readers must do a close reading of Bertha acting as Jane’s subconscious to understand why she marries Mr. Rochester, while also developing a comprehensive understanding of the narrator. Therefore, readers should consider analyzing a character’s double to grasp a complete understanding of their primary character of focus.