“There was an unspeakable charm in being told what to do, and having everything decided for her”–George Eliot, The Mill on the FlossThe feminist literary critics, Gilbert and Gubar, claim, in their famous essay on Jane Eyre in The Madwoman in the Attic, that Jane tries different modes of escape from the imprisoning patriarchal Victorian society that is the setting of the novel. “Escape through flight, escape through starvation… [and] escape through madness,” (Dialogue 341) are the three they outline. In the traumatizing red room scene, Jane tries all of them, and then, as the novel progresses, each is given an entire section. She uses flight to escape from Gateshead, starvation to escape Lowood, and madness (via Bertha, Gilbert and Gubar argue) to escape from Thornfield Hall. But where is Jane aiming to go when she escapes? Gilbert and Gubar don’t quite answer this, they say she is simply escaping from “the strictures of a hierarchal society” (Dialogue 369). They claim that Charlotte Bronte could not “adequately describe a society so drastically altered that the matured Jane and Rochester could really live in it” (Dialogue 370). This conclusion defines Jane as an ultimately negative heroine. That is, she is not trying to get to something, she is just trying to get away.Until the end of the novel, it is true that Jane herself does define her existence in terms of negatives. At Gateshead, her aunt, cousins, and the household servants, call her a “rat” (15), a “bad animal” (17), and a “mad cat” (18). By verbally degrading her, the child Jane does partially succumb to the labels. The narrator Jane admits that she “didn’t very well know what I did with my hands” (17). Much as an animal simply behaves without thinking, so does she. She plays the role cast onto her and then rebels against it. In leaving Gateshead, she is essentially asserting that she is not an animal, despite what they all say. However, at Lowood, the boarding school to which she is sent, Mr. Brocklehurst, the school’s primary owner, tries to pull her back down into the position of an animal when he visits and publically humiliates her. “This girl,” he says, “might be one of God’s own lambs” but instead carries on as an “alien” (78). Thus, at least, he gives her a choice. Knowing already that she is not an animal, and having already succumbed to and dismissed that lowly guise, Mr. Brocklehurst’s words propel Jane into trying the other option. Even her good Christian friend, Sarah Burns, dismisses the possibility for Jane to be human by saying that “you [Jane] think too much of the love of human beings… besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits” (81). Likewise, when Jane has the pleasant experience of tea with Miss Temple, she describes them as having “feasted on nectar and ambrosia” (85). Again, the positive suggestion, though not explicit, from Miss Temple is along the lines of the supernatural and unearthly. Jane must be either an animal or supernatural, according to the few authority figures in her narrow life, and because she knows empirically that the first is horrid, and because both Sarah and Miss Temple reccommend the latter, while the unkind Mr. Brocklehurst reccommends the former, she opts for the supernatural route.In this state Jane arrives at her new place of “servitude,” Thornfield Hall. Appropriately, she falls in love with a man who incessently calls her by a variety of spritey names. From the first time they meet outside, Jane, he thinks, is a creature with powers to “bewitch” his horse and make him fall off it. Later he furnishes her with the nicknames “elf,” “shade,” “dream,” “fairy,” “mermaid,” “angel,” and other such fantastical presences. Much as the people of Gateshead placed her beneath the level of human, Rochester elevates her to a position equally distant, but above or parrallel to human. He does the same to himself at one point, saying that Jane must think him an “ogre” or a “ghoul” (303). This furthers the message he is already sending her that she is not human because it says that the man she is in love with isn’t either. In two consecutive love scenes between Jane and Rochester, Jane realizes and asserts that being above or next to human is also not what she wants. “I am no bird” (284), she says in the first, thereby dismissing yet again her initial state. Then, a scene later, she says, “I am not an angel… and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself” (292). Within a few pages she has realized and moved past two of the roles that have secured her since the begining. But, it is not yet time for her to assume her humanity. As the book has three volumes, so she too has three experiments before finding herself. Therefore she continues on from her assertion that she is not an angel to say, “I had rather be a thing than an angel” (292). Simultaneously, she has already been turning her lover into a thing. She admits that before their marriage plans went sour she already “could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol” (307). Likewise, she says that in the church he was “like quarried marble” and unable to “recognize in me [Jane] a human being” (324). As soon as the break occurs, she too becomes a thing, saying that she “mechanically” took off her wedding dress (330). A bit earlier, Jane poses the question, “Do you [Rochester] think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings?” Although they are supposed to be rhetorical (self-evidently answered, ‘of course not’), in a way, she answers the questions in the affirmative herself when she leaves him. She would rather be a thing than an angel because a thing is closer to what a human is, as humans are God’s “things.” The last line of her time at Thornfield is marked by the line, “never may you [her reader], like me,… be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love” (361, emphasis added).In this inanimate state of mind, Jane goes to Marsh End where she meets St. John. He is completely cold as God’s evangelical instrument, giving “marble kisses” such as Jane did not think possible to give (444). In the same vein, he “was in reality,” she says, not “flesh, but marble; his eye was a cold, bright, blue gem; his tounge, a speaking instrument — nothing more” (457). At first, Jane falls into him and his way of acting to a large degree. But, when he finally tries to pull her all the way in by having her marry him, go with him to India, and force her to give up the other half of her nature, as she says, she again escapes. She will not abandon her ultimate desire to be human. She sees that when St. John asks her to marry him that he “prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon” (450) and alternately as a “useful tool” (463). By becoming a thing, Jane moves closer to her ultimate goal of becoming human because humans are God’s tools, but it is not complete, because in being only God’s tool she would have to exorcise her more passionate emotions, which are also an aspect of her human nature. Accordingly, Jane leaves St. John in search of Rochester, who she hopes will be able to, at this point, help her to progress.She is right in looking for it in him, and Jane’s final transformation into her human self happens with Rochester, where they assist each other into self-realization, like Beauty and the Beast. When Jane first sees Rochester, she imagines he is a “wild beast or bird… an eagle” (479), then she sees him as a “sightless Samson” (479), after this, she watches him turn “mechanically” (481), and finally, she goes in and undertakes to “rehumanize” him (484). In this short space, Rochester passes symbolically through all the stages Jane herself went through, emerging human in Jane’s presence. Mary and Rochester initially take Jane to be what she used to be in their presence, supernatural: Mary looks at Jane as if she were a “ghost” (480) and Rochester immediately calls her a “dream” and a “fairy” (485). But Rochester soon dismisses this and looks to the present. He gives her the opportunity to say what she truly is for the first time, just as Jane takes it upon herself to humanize him, he takes it upon himself to humanize her. “You are altogether a human being, Jane?” he asks, and she replies, “I conscientiously believe so” (486). What is so uplifting about the ending is that Jane finally realizes the positive assertion she has been trying to make throughout, that “I am a free human being” (284), and have it be acknowleged by another. Gilbert and Guber would like to say that the emotional and psychological significance of their union is in that it is at last “equal” (Dialogue 369), but that doesn’t describe why there is a necessity for their assertions of one another’s humanness for their reunion to be complete. Jane chooses at last to live in the secluded Ferndean not because, as Gilbert and Gubar say, she must escape from the existing patriarchal society, and so she settles for the fern-filled lack of society, but rather because most humans do not act according to their true, natural humanity, and Jane only wants to be around that which is true in her maturity. She aims to be human all along because that is what she is. No further explanation is needed. Nature necessarily acts according to how it is. Ferndean particularly is an unaffected place, there are “no flowers,” and “no garden beds.” Jane also revels in the company of those who are true humans, namely, the maimed Rochester, the faithful servants, and her two cousins, Diana and Mary, who she visits regularly. The last words of the novel are written by her rejected suitor, St. John, and, though he chose the path of “thing” in his life, he illicits from Jane “human tears” (502), and thereby she holds respect for him in helping her to be true.At the same time, Jane has been hurt by those who are not true in her formative years, and these are the types she will be able to avoid in her anti-social lifestyle. Her aunt and “benefactress,” Mrs. Reed lied to Jane about the existence and social standing of her other relatives (specifically — Jane’s Uncle John). Similarly, Mr. Brocklehurst lectures Lowood’s students about the Christian need to “mortify the flesh” while his own family dresses “splendidly… in velvet, silk and furs” (78). These same models, both duplicitous in their own rights, turn around and call Jane a “liar.” She fully shows the reader that she is not by surrounding herself only with truth when she finally settles down. But, it is not that she is just defining herself as what they said she wasn’t here. Here, she is taking hold of what she is. It happens to be the opposite of what Brocklehurst and Reed called her, but that only further demonstrates their own abilities to lie. In the colnclusion of the novel Jane doesn’t say she “isn’t a liar” because she is clinging to what she is. Unlike her fits of earlier (at Gateshead where she screams that she’s not a slave all the way up to the red room, at Thornfield when speaking to Rochester, and says she’s not a bird or an angel, and at Marsh End where she exclaims repeatedly that she will not marry St. John), at Ferndean she refrains from such negative claims. It stands out that for once she is not entangled cornered into a fit of denying. Unfortunately, the non-human parts Jane plays are assumed by other characters in the novel who then disappear with them, usefully allowing Jane to move on to being human. It’s important that they do this so we, the readers, can see what could have become of Jane if she didn’t persist in her quest to be human. Bertha, Rochester’s insane first wife, assumes the animal role. “What it [Bertha] was,” says Jane of her first meeting with the woman, “whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell” (327). Bertha conveniently disposes of this aspect of Jane by “springing” off the roof of the burning Thornfield Hall and killing herself. Needless to say, Bertha’s jump is connected with the very word “spring” to Jane’s animal-like behavior in the red room in her early childhood (“my impulse was to rise [from the stool] like a spring,” she writes(19)). The unmaimed, though psychologically tainted, early Rochester takes the supernatural part off Jane by “walking just like a ghost around the grounds and in the orchard” (475) after Jane leaves him but before the fire cleanses him. Finally, St. John carries the ‘God’s instrument’ way of living to India, and he, along with it, die there.Jane Eyre certainly makes many “escapes” in attempting to align herself with her innate humanity. But, escape is not an end in itself as Gilbert and Gubar imply, that is too negative a formulation of the cathartic completion of this book. Instead, Jane stops allowing herself to be cast into unnatural roles and becomes what she is — a human, who is positively “free,” as she herself defines humans, from those artificial categories.BibliographyBronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London, Penguin Books Ltd.: 1996. (Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Michael Mason).Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane’s Progress from The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination. Yale University Press: 1979. pp. 336-371.
“Reader, I married him,” proclaims Jane in the first line of Bronte’s famous conclusion to her masterpiece, Jane Eyre (552). The reader, in turn, responds to this powerful line by preparing for what will surely be a satisfying ending: the fairy-tale culmination of a Cinderella-esque novel. Thankfully, Bronte does not disappoint in this regard, as both Jane and, consequently, her readers are swept up in a cloud of matrimonial bliss and unparalleled happiness. “I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth,” declares Jane of her dear Rochester (554). Emotion and passion abound in the first few pages of the conclusion. Love, it seems, is everywhere, and sweet fulfillment is granted to both Jane and her faithful readers. Indeed, only one thing can distract the reader from this final note of happiness; only one person can possibly shift the reader’s focus from the pervasive sense of joy. Indeed, only St. John himself can mar the last couple of pages.In the last two pages of the novel, the story of Jane and Rochester is interrupted by the appearance of the frigid St. John. This sudden disruption leaves readers surprised, disappointed, and perhaps even a bit annoyed. Why did Bronte end her passionate love story with the appearance of St. John and a revelation from the Bible? Likewise, if conclusions exist in order to aid readers in their interpretation of the rest of the novel, why does Bronte conclude by saying of St. John, “Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus!”? These questions loom over the reader like a dark cloud intent on ruining a sunny day. A satisfying reading of the classic novel can be garnered only after one grapples with the role of the final two pages in the novel as a whole.Upon closing the book, the reader’s mind immediately begins to cycle around the notion of religion in the text, and what the closing lines may or may not say about the importance of spirituality. Indeed, the reinforcement of religion in the novel’s ending could be Bronte’s way of indicating that religion is a main theme, and should not be overlooked. If this is true, we must consider whether the ending portrays religion in a positive or a negative manner. On the other hand, perhaps the notion of fate is the resounding message, one that has far more to do with the fulfillment of individual destiny than with religion as a whole. All possibilities must be examined before any sort of a conclusion can be reached.Before jumping to the end, we must briefly examine the ways in which religion is presented throughout the novel. Bronte weaves religion throughout the text, infusing spirituality into the characters of Helen Burns, Mr. Brocklehurst and, of course, St. John Rivers. Each character represents a different aspect of religion, a different way for Jane to view the paradoxical (and often patriarchal) Christian faith of the time. Helen Burns is influential thanks to her extreme Christian views, which espouse tolerance and forgiveness at all costs. “The Bible bids us return good for evil,” states Helen to Jane (117). While Jane rejects this form of Christianity as overly passive, she nonetheless absorbs its lessons and takes from it what she pleases. The second glimpse of religion is offered to Jane in the form of Mr. Brocklehurst. While Jane considers some of Helen’s views, she seems to wholeheartedly reject Brocklehurst’s evangelic hypocrisy and self-righteous speeches. As head of Lowood, he preaches about the value of sacrifice and deprivation while simultaneously enjoying a rich lifestyle: “my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh” (127). Though this view of Christianity is outwardly rejected by Jane, she quietly accepts the plain way of living at Lowood. These two early impressions of religion resurface time and time again and remain in the reader’s mind throughout the novel.While Helen and Mr. Brocklehurst influence Jane as a child, St. John Rivers is the dominant Christian model in her adult life. Rather than being passive like Helen’s beliefs or hypocritical like Mr. Brocklehurst’s views, St. John’s brand of religion is rejected by Jane on the grounds that it is too detached from the passions of life. Often compared to ice, St. John is devoted to Christianity at the expense of every worldly pleasure, including his one true love: “A missionary’s wife you must shall be,” states St. John to Jane. “You shall be mine: I claim you not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service” (501). St. John rejects pleasure and prizes Jane “as a soldier would a good weapon” (504). Jane is forced to choose between divine love and human love, a division which seems both arbitrary and unnecessary. Recognizing that she cannot deny the passion within her, Jane proclaims, “If I join St. John, I abandon half myself: if I do to India, I go to a premature death” (503). Jane rejects St. John’s notion of complete religious devotion, opting instead to follow her own heart and spirituality.With these three different versions of Christianity permeating the text, the last two pages on the life of St. John stand out as more than a mere summary of what has happened thus far. Indeed, Bronte appears to intend the conclusion of the novel to be read as a final comment on religion. “Firm, faithful, and devoted; full of energy, and zeal, and truth, he labours for his race,” states Jane of St. John, “he clears their painful way to improvement” (555). She goes on to praise him as “chosen” and a “good and faithful servant”: qualities that uplift him, his work, and his undying devotion to religion. In this sense, bringing St. John back in the end of the novel creates a sense of praise, a celebration of those who give everything that they have to religion. Just as Jane admires Helen Burns, she apeears to admire the devout nature of St. John. Similarly, St. John seems to embody a “true” sense of religion, particularly in comparison to Mr. Brocklehurst, since he actually lives his life as he says he will and suggests that others follow his example. While Jane is happy in love, relegating St. John to the conclusion of the novel seems to suggest that his divine love stands on a more elevated level, a level that most people – including Jane – can only strive for. Indeed, while Jane and Rochester will someday have to face judgment, “no fear of death will darken” St. John’s last hour, as “his mind will be unclouded; his heart will be undaunted; his hope will be sure; his heart steadfast” (556). If the reader chooses to leave the novel with these thoughts in mind, the ending can be read as portraying St. John as an ideal religious figure, and Jane as merely too weak to follow him.A different reading of the ending can lead readers to a far different conclusion, one in which religion does not fare quite so well. In one light, the ending portrays Jane and Rochester as a happy couple, complete with children and a home, while St. John lies alone on his deathbed. Both St. John’s assumed death and Helen Burns’ actual death are associated with suffering and isolation from the outside world. “St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now,” states Jane. “Himself has hitherto sufficed to the toil; and the toil draws near its close” (556). The somber tone of the last few paragraphs has the potential to leave readers with a negative, almost sacrificial view of religion. Jane, choosing her own spirituality and human love over the structure and sacrifice of devout Christianity, ends the novel happy and in love. The religious characters, in contrast, fare poorly throughout the novel, and the end can be seen as a mere extension of their sad fate. Helen, of course, dies of consumption at the depressing Lowood boarding school. Brocklehurst is “discharged of his duties by gentlemen of rather more enlarged and sympathetic minds,” leaving the hypocritical evangelist without a high position. St. John presumably dies alone in a foreign country, distant from the pleasures and realities of the human world. In this sense, the end can be viewed as a critique of structured religion, favoring individuals like Jane who strike a balance between this life and the next over those who, like St. John, give all that they have to God.While one can see both the positive and negative interpretations of religion offered by the ending, neither analysis is wholly satisfying. The novel, after all, is the story of Jane Eyre and her search for spirituality and fulfillment, not a definitive judgment on religion. Viewing the ending as offering a concrete stance on religion leaves readers unsatisfied, as the great love of Jane and Rochester seems almost diminished by the appearance of the religious St. John and his Biblical wisdom. Indeed, one could argue that a truly satisfying interpretation of the novel can be achieved only when the role of destiny – both human and divine – is placed above the importance of the novel’s religious theme.”God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate,” proclaims St. John to Jane long before he tries to persuade her to accept a life of servitude (457). The line echoes throughout the novel, becoming a main theme in the text. Although Jane rejects the three dominant representations of religion, she never abandons her faith in God and spirituality. Jane’s personal faith in both God and in herself guides her actions, and it is this combined fate that ultimately leads her to where she is meant to be. Whenever Jane is faced with a moral or physical challenge, she looks to God for strength and guidance. For example, she turns to God for the strength to leave Rochester after finding out about the disgraceful situation he has put her in: “I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity looked for aid to one higher power than man: the words ‘God help me!’ burst involuntarily from my lips” (394). Likewise, when Jane finds herself poor and starving after she has left Rochester, she comments that she feels “the might and strength of God” (416). Jane uses her unique relationship with God to curb her overwhelming passions, rather than to deny them altogether like St. John. Ultimately, she is able to garner courage through her faith.On a similar level, she sees that she must leave Rochester once she realizes that he has become a god to her, blurring the balance between the human and the divine. “My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven,” proclaims Jane. “He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol” (361). This idea that Jane needs both the divine help of God and the powerful force of human love is integral both to her spirituality and to her character as a whole. While Jane knows that she cannot deny her love for Rochester, she appreciates the fact that she cannot happily exist without doing what is right and moral in the eyes of God. This sense of living morally drives her away from Thornfield, but in the end her passions bring her back after the moral stain – Bertha – is removed from the equation, allowing Jane to live both morally and passionately with her beloved.God’s work and destiny seem to go hand in hand in this novel, as the characters attribute the end results of their lives to divine destiny. Jane, for example, believes that God led her in the right direction after she left Rochester: “I feel now that I was right when I adhered to principle and law, and scorned and crushed the insane promptings of a frenzied moment. God directed me to a correct choice: I thank His providence for the guidance” (455). While she is the one who made the decision to leave, she still credits God with the outcome of her decision. Even Rochester attributes Jane’s return to him at the close of the novel to an act of God: “Now, I thank God!…Yes, I thank God” (551). Similarly, St. John’s decision to devote his entire life to God is portrayed as God’s will, evident in the fact that St. John sees himself as “chosen.” “I know my leader,” claims St. John, “that He is just as well as mighty; and He has chosen a feeble instrument to perform a great task” (501). This notion of God dictating the actions of men can also be witnessed in the fact that each volume of the novel ends on a religious note, suggesting that it is God who is directing the lives of each character towards a good and just end. Thus, the book can be read as a reinforcement of faith and morality, rather than as a judgment on religion as a whole.The reader can view the conclusion as a fulfillment of individual destiny: the workings of God and man allow each person a hand in choosing his or her own fate. Just as Rochester and Jane fulfill their destiny by becoming a married couple, St. John fulfills his fate to be a missionary for a God he cannot deny. Looking at the novel in this way, the question of whether the religious characters have happy endings to their lives is irrelevant, as each character makes decisions guided by a desire to follow their own destiny – a destiny shaped by both human and Divine workings. Arguably, reading the ending in this manner makes for a more satisfying experience than reading it from a typical, religious viewpoint. Rather than an endorsement of one way of life or one form of religion, the ending indicates Bronte’s belief that each person – St. John included – receives the life he or she has prayed for. Indeed, the novel ends with the line, “Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!” as a means of praising God for watching over the lives of Helen, Jane, and St. John, for guiding them through life to their ultimate destiny (556).Works CitedBronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2002.
In the novel Jane Eyre, author Charlotte Bronte places great importance on the appearance of her characters, repeatedly evaluating their attractiveness through narrative descriptions and dialogue. Her heroine, Jane, is mentioned countless times as plain, small and unpleasant looking. Jane’s rival, Blanche Ingram, is described as the opposite; she is beautiful and ornate, heavily adorned with jewels and bright colors. Rochester chooses to marry Jane over Blanche, and by doing so he emphasizes the importance of a heroine’s female authenticity, or worthiness of trust, belief and reliance. In Jane Eyre, Bronte uses Blanche and Jane’s differences in beauty to illustrate female authenticity, or lack thereof. Jane is unadorned by jewels and fancy colors, reflecting a more genuine, direct person. It is Blanche’s construction of beauty that impairs her authenticity; her ample decorations, colors and even her way of speaking are conventionally beautiful, but are merely adornments that disguise her true self.Even in the beginning chapters when Jane is recalling her childhood, Jane’s unattractiveness is clear. Jane is excluded from playing with Mrs. Reed’s children unless she achieves ” – a more attractive and sprightly manner” (1). When Jane falls ill, she overhears a servant declare ” Poor Miss Jane is to be pitied too – If she were a nice, pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for a toad such as that” (58). Even Jane herself reflects that had she been “a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child – Mrs. Reed would have endured my presence more complacently” (47). Jane fails to improve as she ages; she is still plain and simple when she arrives at Thornfield.Jane is no competition for Blanche Ingram. From the moment she is introduced as Rochester’s intended bride, the novel is filled with descriptions of her perfection. Jane describes Blanche as “moulded like a Diana – the noble bust, the sloping shoulders, the graceful neck, the dark eyes and the black ringlets were all there” (201). Mrs. Fairfax recalls her first impression of Blanche, saying “Miss Ingram was considered the belle of the evening,” and although most of the women present were handsome, “Miss Ingram was certainly the queen” (188-189). Overall, Blanche Ingram’s appearance is superior to all around her, especially Jane.Aside from Blanche’s obvious physical attractiveness, she is beautifully decorated as well. When characters describe Blanche, they immediately are drawn to her appearance. When Mrs. Fairfax recounts her first encounter with Blanche, the details she remembers most clearly are the colors and aesthetics of her clothes. She was “dressed in pure white, an amber colored scarf was passed along her shoulder and across her breast – she wore an amber colored flower, too, which contrasted well with her jetty mass of curls” (189). When Jane is watching Blanche from the window, the first thing she notes is that “her purple riding-habit almost swept the ground, her veil streamed along the breeze – “(196). Blanche is nothing short of picturesque at every moment, armed always with attractive, striking colors and perfect robes.However, it is interesting to note that both Mrs. Fairfax and Jane initially comment on the colors of Blanche’s various outfits, not actually Blanche herself. In fact, Blanche is most often described through the clothing and colors she wears. When Rochester purchases a carriage for her, he declares “won’t she look like a Queen Boadicea, leaning back against those purple cushions?” immediately picturing Blanche according to her possessions (273). It is significant that Bronte also includes Blanche in the charade, and each of her costumes is described in careful detail. In the first scene, Blanche is adorned with “a long veil on her head, and a wreath of roses on her brow” (212). In the next, she wears “a crimson scarf tied round her waist” (213). Finally, at the end of the charade Rochester mimes the presentation of “magnificent bracelets and earrings”(213). Blanche’s adornment is a central to her character, she is continuously described according her ornaments.In contrast, Jane dresses very simply, often comparing herself to a Quaker because of her plainness. She wears a broach once at Mrs. Fairfax’ suggestion, beyond that she is unadorned. When she meets Rochester for the first time, she takes care to mention that “I – replaced my black stuff dress by one of black silk; the best and only additional one that I had, except one of light gray” (151). Jane dresses only in serious, colors: black and gray. When Jane and Rochester becomes engaged, Rochester attempts to buy Jane half a dozen dresses in vibrant colors to replace her old ones. Jane refuses, convincing him to settle on ” a sober black satin and a pearl gray silk” (296). As a result of Jane’s plain clothes, she is not immediately defined by what she wears. Throughout the novel, clothing and decoration are never central to Jane’s character; her clothes do not attract attention as they do with Blanche.Blanche’s attractiveness is also conveyed in the way that she speaks; she has learned to speak with wit and sharpness. As a lady, Blanche does not always say what she means; she speaks with coyness and subtleties that cloud her words. Jane describes Blanche, saying “she laughed continually: her laugh was satirical, and so was the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip” (202). Blanche meets Adele for the first time and is equally haughty: “Miss Ingram looked down at her with a mocking air, and exclaimed, ‘Oh what a little puppet!'”(202). Although Blanche behaves outwardly as she should, her voice is layered with her true opinions, which are mocking and condescending. Blanche acts ladylike and speaks as a woman is expected to speak, but she lacks sincerity and authenticity in her words.Jane, again, is the complete opposite of Blanche. Her language is clear and direct; she is never facetious or sarcastic. In fact, the plainness of her speech is one of Jane’s flaws; She fails to cloak her strong opinions with ambiguous language. During one of their first meetings at Thornfield, Rochester asks Jane whether she finds him attractive. Jane reflects: “I should, if I had deliberated, have replied to this by something conventionally vague and polite; but the answer somehow slipped from my tongue before I was aware, ‘No Sir'” (162). In the same vein, Jane does not use coyness as a female ploy. When Rochester proposes, her shock is genuine; it is not manufactured or belabored for the sake of being modest or cute.As a result of Jane’s simplicity she is left more exposed. Blanche, however, is protected because of her construction of beauty. Just as she layers her language with sarcasm and coyness, her appearance is likewise layered through all her fancy gowns and striking colors. It becomes impossible to distinguish where Blanche lies amid all her decorations and her many faces; it is herein that her authenticity fails. Blanche cannot be worthy of trust, belief, and reliance because her true beliefs are too indistinguishable by the many parts of her appearance. Ultimately, Blanche is not a kind person; her attempt toward outward beauty caused her to appear one way and then act another, solidifying her lack of authenticity. Jane states that Blanche “gave to a spiteful antipathy she conceived against little Adele – sometimes ordering her from the room, and always treating her with coldness and acrimony” (215). Later, Blanche accosts a servant, shouting “cease that chatter you blockhead! and do my bidding” (222). In the end, she is easily disposable because her heart was never involved: she quickly vanishes when she believes Rochester no longer has money.However, Jane’s female authenticity is not the result of merely being a good woman. Jane possesses authenticity because she is a sincere woman. Throughout the novel, Jane presents nothing but herself: there are no gorgeous gowns and jewelry to attract the eye or create the faÃ?ade of beauty, her words cannot be interpreted to mean anything else except what they are literally stating. Jane’s responses are at times harsh and blunt, but they are always honest. When watching Blanche with Rochester, Jane comments: – she need not coin her smiles so lavishly, flash her glances so unremittingly, manufacture airs so elaborate, graces so multitudinous, It appears to me that she might, by merely sitting quietly and looking less, get nigher to his heart (216).It is female authenticity that Jane is suggesting: If Blanche had acted with more genuineness she would be more likely to succeed in winning Rochester. Her actions, although acceptable female behavior, are excessive and false, and thus not worthy of trust or belief. Ironically, Jane suggests for Blanche what ultimately is the reason for her own success; Jane’s appearance and behavior are more believable purely because they are not contrived.If Rochester had been evaluating his potential brides solely on their physical attributes, Blanche would have been the clear winner on every account. However, Rochester chooses Jane, the woman of lesser beauty. Because Bronte contrasts the women with such detail and attention, Rochester’s action becomes much more significant. Blanche’s beauty, from the way she dresses to the way she behaves, is exquisitely crafted, but it remains too manufactured. Jane’s plainness in her appearance and speech reflects a greater simplicity: a clear presentation of character. In having Rochester choose Jane, Bronte chooses authenticity over the ornate.
“Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting.” –Jane Eyre (9)There is something extraordinary and spiritual about Jane Eyre’s artwork. In her story, Jane’s solitary pastime sometimes operates as an outlet of past or present pain, and often offers her a chance to deal with unpleasant memories and emotions. Jane’s art transcends her isolation by bringing her into contact with others who see it; it serves as a bridge over the chasm between her desire to be alone and her need for companionship, which is demonstrated by key scenes in the novel that include a viewing of her art. This struggle between isolation (“hidden self”) and companionship (“public self”) upholds the restlessness of the novel, for Jane’s art is her own, marking her as her own woman. Her art offers a means of charting her growth to maturity. The epigraph above is from Jane’s comments on Bewick’s History of British Birds, Jane’s first artistic influence at the beginning of the novel, and is spoken by a young girl whose self is also “undeveloped” and “imperfect.” There are five scenes in the novel that define the importance of art to Jane’s growth: her three watercolors viewed by Rochester at Thornfield, the miniature of Blanche Ingram that precedes their meeting, her unconscious pencil sketch of Rochester during her return to Gateshead, Rosamund Oliver’s request for a portrait at Morton, and St. John’s viewing of her work, which leads to the discovery of her identity near the end of the novel. These scenes occur throughout the novel, giving her art a prominence in the story, and there are also several references to her unique artistic ability.When Jane confronts her jealousy of Blanche Ingram, the focus of Rochester’s affections when Jane first arrives at Thornfield, she immediately decides to draw a portrait of her based on Mrs. Fairfax’s verbal description (169). She claims that “it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them,” and resolves to reject imagination and resign herself to reason; at that point, she decides that she could never be the object of Mr. Rochester’s affections (168-9). Jane treats herself as her own pupil, and criticizes herself for abandoning “sense and resolution” and vows to have them for the moment, after which she falls asleep easily (170). This scene is curiously like the first time Jane resolves to produce art while a young girl at Lowood, except the focus of that former moment was strictly on the imagination, where Jane was content to imagine “the spectacle of my ideal drawings,” after which she also fell contentedly asleep (78). Because Jane does not want to abandon sense and reason, her portraits at this point are based on reality; she uses Mrs. Fairfax’s descriptions in conjunction with socially constructed native theories of the time to develop what she thinks Blanche Ingram should look like. In other words, one of the biggest conventions of this novel regarding Victorian women is brought out in the moment Jane paints this portrait?conventional views of how they should look, and, in reality, what Jane is not. She is not allowing herself to have dreams of a better life with Rochester, much like St. John not able to bring himself to envision marriage and happiness with Rosamund Oliver. Jane envisioning a portrait of herself and Rochester would have been more ideal, but reason steps in and she shrinks away only to think of her position as “‘[g]overness, disconnected, poor, and plain'” (169-70). This is reinforced by her description of Blanche Ingram as an “‘accomplished lady of rank,'” which is a status Jane cannot achieve (169-70). Given the “conflicting messages” that a governess traditionally lived with, namely that “she was and was not a member of the family, was and was not a servant,” it is no wonder that Jane seeks solace in an isolated world (338).Still, Jane’s heart wins out over reason. When she returns to Gateshead to witness her Aunt Reed’s final days, she finds herself in the company of her cousins Eliza and Georgina–two disagreeable women (244). Because their presence, along with her unforgiving aunt, gives her no comfort, her art is her comfort and offers “occupation and amusement” during her stay, where she allows herself to follow the “ever shifting kaleidoscope of imagination” (244). Her imagination is in power once more, and from that power she later produces a sketch of Mr. Rochester, and declares: “There, I had a friend’s face under my gaze: and what did it signify that those young ladies turned their backs on me?” (244-5). Rather than an act of reason to counter feelings of jealousy and resentment, here Jane executes an automatic drawing, unplanned, unforeseen, and unconscious, which leaves her “absorbed and content” (245). The imaginative mind is the source of content for Jane, not reason. This literal “escape from reality” for Jane serves, too, as an escape for the reader from the reality of the novel. The portrait is reminiscent of Rochester, who, when Jane begins to muse about him, serves as a sort of “Prince Charming” to Jane. The reader, too, is reminded of the fact that Jane and Rochester are equals; the portrait allows Jane to “capture” Rochester on paper and border him in with lines. In this sense, there is a contradiction in Jane’s (and the reader’s) feelings that is symbolic of the relationship between Jane and Rochester.In contrast to herself, however, Jane believes Rosamund Oliver is a more balanced lady. She meets Rosamund while living and teaching at Morton, and she also shows an interest in Jane’s drawings and paintings. Though Jane sees her in a more favorable light than her cousins, Jane explains that Rosamund is “not profoundly interesting or thoroughly impressive,” (388). It is her beauty, not her intellect, that attracts Jane and causes her to feel “a thrill of artist-delight at the idea” of painting her portrait (388). This portrait presents a stark contrast to the portrait Jane painted of Blanche Ingram. A contrast is observable in the way Jane approaches the two different portraits. While Rosamund’s is at her own request, Blanche is unaware that Jane paints her portrait. Blanche’s portrait is executed as a remedy for Jane’s emotions, and Rosamund’s is created by Jane’s own desire to paint it, for she has no animosity toward her. Another difference is that Rosamund is able to see Jane’s artwork, which leads her to make the request for a portrait in the first place. Rosamund ironically declares to her father that Jane “‘is clever enough to be a governess in a high family,'” which is a thoughtless, though true enough, comment on Jane’s position in society (389). This comment is noticeably shrugged off by Jane, who says, “I would rather be where I am than in any high family in the land” (389). This statement reveals a sense of self that is confident and maturing. She no longer needs the position at Thornfield, for she has changed since leaving there. This change is reflected in her attitude toward her art, which is no longer an act of desperation but a comforting pastime.The last viewing of her drawings in her presence proves to be another major change in Jane’s life. For St. John, Jane’s drawings are a deterrent to loneliness for her, and a better distraction than being lost “in thought” (390). When his gaze is diverted toward her drawings, he is surprised to find the portrait of Rosamund. His surprise is manifested in how he “sprang erect again with a start” when he sees the work (390). St. John is quite taken by how striking a likeness the portrait is to Rosamund. His interest eventually leads to the discovery that Jane has inadvertently written her real name on a piece of paper used to cover the portrait (396). This discovery leads to Jane’s inheritance, and the realization that St. John, Mary and Diana are her first cousins. Through her name, her art reveals herself, and her dream of a family. This should send red flags up all over the reader’s mind, because in literal reality, Jane (Charlotte Bronte) is writing this novel under a pseudonym, Currer Bell, which is an obvious contrast to what is happening with this portrait. She seems to be breaking conventions again by saying that women, too, have extensive artistic skills (both written and artistic), and very much good may come out of the lack of anonymity.Once Jane is restored to the arms of Rochester, her art is no longer prominent. It no longer has usefulness, for Jane has achieved her life long goal of family, marriage, and independent wealth. Rochester’s blindness for the first two years of their marriage makes it impossible for him to view her works as he once did, so Jane shifts to painting pictures in his mind through her voice (475). The most significant of these mental pictures are the ones Jane creates of St. John provoking Rochester’s jealousy prior to their renewed engagement, which is reminiscent of her own jealous feelings toward Blanche. Jane is aware that Rochester is jealous, and plays along with his suffering for the jealousy “gave him respite from the gnawing fang of melancholy” (465). Jane’s artistic skill extends well beyond the actual pencil here, and her portraits “painted with words” become so vivid to blind Rochester that Jane is able to arouse extreme jealousy in Rochester. This is Bronte’s way of turning the knife in the wound, so to speak?she’s already used Jane’s art to say that the skills of women artistically are just as good as those of men, however, now she is taking it one step further by saying the works can even transcend blindness. Jane’s increased confidence and maturity manifest themselves in her ease in dealing with Rochester’s jealousy. She also exhibits maturity in that her art is no longer a prominent outlet for her once she arrive at Ferndean. She eventually chooses marriage, even though Rochester is maimed, and her independent personal fortune indicates that she makes this decision of her own free will?a will that was, in part, nurtured by her art.
In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the setting is used as a tool to reflect the hardships its protagonist, Jane Eyre, experiences. The locations Jane resides in play an integral part in determining what actions she is to take next. Her transient residencies demonstrate her restless desire to find a purpose in life while respecting the nineteenth-century social codes that restrict her. She strives to maintain her self-respect, but is aware of the conventional subservience of woman she is expected to uphold in the Victorian-era England. The constantly changing setting is a manifestation of Jane Eyre’s struggle to find a permanence that satiates her desire for self-fulfillment. It is from Gateshead Hall, the home of her prejudice and insensitive aunt, where Jane begins her journey. The opening of its gates is symbolic of her casting off into the world to experience life independent of guidance. She leaves at the break of dawn and “whirl[s] away toÖremote and mysterious regions”, signifying the beginning of a new life unrestrained by familial ties (35). Her arrival at Lowood, a restrictive boarding school, begins during a bitter winter “stiffened in frost, shrouded with snowÖ[with] mists as chill as death” which mirrors the miserable loneliness of adjusting to the school’s oppressive routine. As the years pass, Jane realizes that experiences essential to her aesthetic needs “lay all outside the high and spike-guarded walls” (68), and that she must break with her life of uniformity to “seek real knowledgeÖamidst [the world’s] perils” (77). The change of scene, the “quiet and lonely hills [that] embrace Thornfield”, where Jane is a governess, offers hope in her search for self-fulfillment (91). The lack of formality under the proprietor, Rochester, allows her candor to be expressed without consciousness of restraint. The “splendid Midsummer [with] skies so pure, suns so radiant” reflects the contentment she feels at Thornfield Hall as an equal with Rochester (234). She is shaken from her complacency, however, with the discovery of his first wife, who is plagued with insanity. As the madness of Rochester’s wife slowly spreads its influence over Thornfield, so too the “black clouds were casting up over [the sea and] the moon was setting in the waves, broad and red, like a hot cannon-ball” (293). Jane decides to leave because “the more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained [she is], the more [she] will respect [herself]” (302). In search of a happiness that does not transgress the laws of God, she departs from Thornfield with the rising of the sun, symbolic of another life she must move on from. After leaving Thornfield, Jane’s transitory dwelling is Whitcross, a stone pillar where four roads meet. This crossroads represents Jane’s aimlessness and uncertainty of where her life might lead her, as well as the vulnerability of her situation; she realizes that until this point she has been financially dependent of others. Moor House, where her three cousins live and where she takes up residency, is a humble abode “very plainly furnished, yet comfortable” (328). Its modesty contrasts with the grandeur of Thornfield, but Jane is able to “comprehend the feeling, and share both its strength and truth. [There were] so many pure and sweet sources of pleasure” (334). She develops an intimacy with Moor House, its inhabitants as well as its pastoral land. Jane’s last residency is in the manor-house of Ferndean, where “so thick and dark grew the timber of the gloomy wood about it” (411). The manor-house, where she cares for a handicapped Rochester, is secluded within “a heavy frame of the forest” (412). This final dwelling reflects the closure of her journey, the permanence she has been searching for since her departure from Gateshead.Jane Eyre’s constant movement reflects her inner struggle to preserve personal integrity in her search for a self-fulfilling happiness. Her mobility finally leads her to a marriage with Rochester in a heavily secluded manor-house. It is here that she at last discovers “what it is to live entirely for and with what [she] love[s] best on earth” (431). She has found her happiness in being with Rochester, and it is with this conviction that her journey in search of permanence ends with the closing of the forest’s iron gates.
What means does Charlotte Bronte employ to create mystery and suspense in Jane Eyre?
Mystery and suspense in Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre provides a crucial element to the reader’s interpretation of the novel, allowing Bronte to subtly aid the reader in foreboding coming events. Bronte successfully creates mystery and suspense in her novel through the use of both features of plot and narrative techniques. Bronte’s features of plot which allow her to create mystery and suspense are the esoteric nature of Grace Poole, the visit of the fortune teller at Thornfield, and the fire in Rochester’s bedroom and the subsequent mystery of what is in the attic. Bronte’s narrative techniques are the use of literary symbolism and dreams, both of which are used to convey a Gothic and supernatural setting. Through the use of these literary devices, Jane Eyre becomes both cabbalistic and prophetic.
Bronte’s character Grace Poole is surrounded by an obscure haze from the reader’s first introduction to her, an effective device used in order to create a mysterious atmosphere in the novel. Jane first learns of the occult Grace Poole upon hearing her laugh upon being shown the attic by Mrs Fairfax. Bronte first creates an ambience of mystery through the initial description of the setting. The attic is described by Jane as being “black as a vault” (chapter 11, page 122) and the leading passageway as “narrow, low, and dim” (chapter 11, page 122). Jane observes all the doors being shut, which allows the reader to interpret the third story of Thornfield as inaccessible and isolated, perhaps intentionally attempting to conceal something, much likened to “Bluebeard’s castle” (chapter 11, page 122) in which behind the locked doors was hidden the deadly secret of the castle. The laugh which Jane hears is described by Jane as being “a curious laugh; distinct, formal, mirthless” (chapter 11, page 122). The peculiarity of laugh, it not being cheerful nor delighted, perplexes Jane as well as the reader, this intimating that the origin of the laugh is not of the typical sort. Jane’s curiosity prompts her to ask of Mrs Fairfax the origin of the laugh. Mrs Fairfax’s vague answer does not satisfy Jane, even less so after hearing the laugh once more, it being “tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard” (chapter 11, page 123). That another inquisitive remark made by Jane is again answered vaguely after which the subject of the conversation is soon changed only adds to the suspense of the incident. Following the fire in Rochester’s bedroom, Jane observes Grace Poole the next day in the room. The circumstances in which this occurs are largely ordinary. It is morning and Grace is dressed in her usual attire, her expression showing “nothing either of the paleness or desperation one would have expected to see marking the countenance of a woman who had attempted murder” (chapter 16, page 176). The extreme ordinarity of her provokes the reader into thinking past her exterior appearance whilst simultaneously adding to the suspense of the situation. Bronte again uses the outwardly evident normalcy of Grace Poole in contrast to the earlier mysterious descriptions of her to further develop the suspense surrounding her character as Jane recounts to Rochester her dream of the unknown figure in her closet who tears her wedding veil. Jane’s fear is momentarily subsided by Rochester’s “solving of the mystery” (chapter 25, page 319) in a way which does not nearly satisfy the reader’s curiosity due to Jane’s vivid description of the event and her horrifying fear. Bronte uses Grace Poole to create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense through vivid descriptions of the ghostly atmosphere which emanates whenever she is present as well as a contrasting ordinarity which further compels the reader to see Grace Poole in light of a an “enigmatic character” (chapter 16, page 178).
The use of a fortune teller at Thornfield by Bronte allows her to add mystery and suspense through the mystic and strange nature of fortune tellers of that time. Bronte initially establishes a suspenseful ambience through Jane’s remark; “and the Sybil – if Sybil she were” (chapter 19, page 221) which suggests to the reader that her character is perhaps doubtful and she may not be who she at first seems. The reader is made eager to hear the fortune of our heroine through Jane’s apathetic indifference as to whether it is read or not; “I don’t care about it, mother; but you may please yourself” (chapter 19, page 221). Possibly the most mysterious and suspenseful feature of plot is the fortune tellers precisely accurate account of Jane’s predicament; “You are cold, because you are alone: no contact strikes the fire from you that is in you. You are sick; because the best of feelings, the highest and the sweetest given to man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because, suffer as you may, you will not beckon it to approach; nor will you stir one step to meet it where it awaits you.” (chapter 19, page 222). This description of Jane’s circumstance both compels the reader to trust the source, it being rather accurate, whilst also creates suspense as to what shall become of Jane and Rochester, which the reader is well aware that such is what the fortune teller is alluding to. Upon her mention of the enigmatic Grace Poole, both Jane and the reader are startled. The reader is again drawn into the abstruseness of the situation through the fortune teller’s astounding knowledge of Jane’s habits, and even more so by her subtle but discernible quest for some sort of information, neither the reader nor Jane knowing what exactly it is she wants to hear, however this adds to the suspense in our desire to know. As the subject of Mr Rochester is brought up it seems as if the fortune teller has struck her chord. However it is with her revelation of his forthcoming marriage which more interests the reader. A climax of suspense and mystery is reached as Rochester steps out of his disguise. Although it can be said that the divulgence of his identify somewhat solved the mystery, it is even more accurate to say that this revelation merely added to the mystery, his intended purpose still to be discovered. Rochester’s apparent disturbance at the knowledge of Mason’s residence at Thornfield provokes the reader’s attention, creating suspense as to his purpose and coming events. Bronte leaves the reader ill at ease with Jane’s closing comment; “the gay tones set my heart at ease” (chapter 19, page 230). The reader is well aware that this will be no peaceful nights sleep. Bronte has successfully created tension and suspense as to the almost certainly tragic impending events.
The fire in Rochester’s bedroom not only forms a sense of mystery regarding Thornfield, but also alerts the reader as to the enigma of what is in the attic. Prior to the the fire, Bronte establishes a supernatural and ghostly setting; “the night was drearily dark; my spirits were depressed” (chapter 15, page 167). The hushing of the “vague murmur, peculiar and lugubrious” (chapter 15, page 167) and Jane’s anxiously betting heart creates a tense and suspenseful atmosphere. Bronte creates a setting much alike some sort of horror story through Jane’s descriptions; “my chamber door was touched; as if fingers had swept the panels in a groping way along the dark gallery outside” (chapter 15, page 167). Very successful in adding to the tenseness of the situation is Jane’s frequent calming; “The idea [that the sound may be Pilot] calmed me somewhat: I lay down. Silence composes the nerves” (chapter 15, page 167) which is ultimately followed by another startling sound, even more frightful that the preceding one; a dream scarcely approached my ear, when it fled affrighted, scared by a marrow-freezing incident enough” (chapter 15, page 168). Jane’s response to the laughter which rings at her chamber door perturbs the reader; “my first impulse was to rise and fasten the bolt” (chapter 15, page 168). Jane’s continual reference to the origin of the laughter as “something” and not “someone” alerts the reader as to the nature of this origin. Bronte again establishes a suspenseful tension this time though Jane’s preoccupation with the fire and her momentary disregard of the laughter which the reader is eager to know more about. Upon the fire having been extinguished, Rochester resolves to “pay a visit to the third storey” (chapter 15, page 170). Rochester’s instructions to Jane not to move nor call anyone alert the reader to impending danger. As time passes the atmosphere in which Jane sits calms, no noises being heard and the night growing cold. Rochester returns, in an equally calm state, setting the reader ill at ease. Rochester’s failure to say more on the subject of the fire adds suspense, his vague answers bearing no satisfaction. As the suspense of impending danger fades, a new suspense mounts, the latter of Jane’s unresolved feelings for Rochester and their consequences.
Bronte’s use of literary symbolism is a highly effective means by which she is able to subtly warn and inform her readers of impending events in order to establish a degree of suspense in the novel. Upon Jane having accepted Rochester’s proposal of marriage, Jane tells her reader’s that the great horse chestnut tree at the bottom of the orchard had been struck by lighting in the middle of the night, half of it having been split away; “I faced the wreck of the chestnut tree; it stood up black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre, gaped ghastly” (chapter 25, page 309), a clear reference to Jane and Rochester’s separation. At Ferndean upon Jane and Rochester’s unity, Rochester refers to himself as; “no better than the old lighting struck chestnut tree in Thornfield orchard” (chapter 37, page 493) however Jane assures him that “plants will grow about your roots” (chapter 37, page 493), this being a clear providential warning of their future children. Another source of suspense for the reader is Bessie’s ballad at Gateshead in which “a poor orphan child” (chapter 3, page 29) is described wandering through the moors thinking of “hard-hearted” (chapter 3, page 29) men. This is a direct prophecy of Jane’s wanderings after leaving Rochester prior to her arrival at Moor House. The ballad describes the presence of God who is with the orphan child, much like Jane remembered God during her wanderings and struggle for survival. Just before his intended marriage to Jane, Rochester plays for Jane a love song in which may symbols and prophecies can be found. The song describes a man who’s lover’s “parting was my pain” (chapter 24, page 304), alluding to Jane’s forthcoming fleeing of Thornfield. The man pressed to her “As blind as eagerly”, a subtle yet later obvious reference to Rochester’s blindness. At the end of the song Rochester sings how “My love has placed her little hand with noble faith in mine, And vowed that wedlock’s sacred band our natures shall entwine” (chapter 24, page 305), alluding that he and Jane will eventually be wed. Through these hidden prophecies Bronte creates suspense for the reader through the subtle warning of forthcoming events.
Throughout the novel, Jane experiences many dreams, particularly in Thornfield. These dreams allow Bronte to create suspense through foreboding warnings of impending events and also to establish a mysterious and supernatural atmosphere. Just before Bessie is called to the deathbed of her dying sister, Jane dreams of a child. Jane remembers her childhood and Bessie saying that “to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble, either to one’s self or one’s kin” (chapter 21, page 248). Soon after, Jane herself dreams of a child for “seven successive nights” (chapter 21, page 248). Due to Bessie’s tragic experience following Jane’s first dream, the reader is drawn into a tense atmosphere where there is surely to be some impending event. The next night, Jane is visited by Robert from Gateshead who informs her of John Reed’s death a week before and Mrs Reeds imminent death. These drams of infants not only warn the reader of events to come but also allow Bronte to establish a Gothic and supernatural ambience of mystery. Just prior to Jane and Rochester’s wedding day, the night before when Rochester kept Jane to her promise of staying up with him, Jane tells him of two of her dreams. In the first, Jane remembers a Gothic and mysterious setting; “a dark and gusty night” (chapter 25, page 315) whereby Jane “experienced a strange, regretful consciousness of some barrier dividing us” (chapter 25, page 35). This allusion to Bertha and all she represents is possibly one of Bronte’s most explicit providential warnings to her readers. Jane goes on to describe herself “following the windings of an unknown road; total obscurity environed me; rain pelted me” (chapter 25, page 315), this also candidly referring to Jane’s wanderings after her leaving Rochester and Thornfield. In her second dream, Jane sees “Thornfield Hall was a dreary ruin” (chapter 24, page 316). This reference to the impending fire at Thornfield allows Bronte to reach the climax of her prophetic warnings. Jane remembers “the wall crumbled” (chapter 24, page 316) much like it did following Bertha’s jumping from the battlements. Like Bertha did in reality, Jane in her dream “lost my balance, fell, and woke” (chapter 34, page 316). These dreams create a mysterious sense of foreboding as well as add to the Gothic and supernatural setting of the novel.
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre opens at dreary Gateshead Hall, where the orphaned title character is compelled to live with her wealthy aunt. Here the young Jane appears reserved and unusual, a girl who says she can be “happy at least in my way” (9), implying that her brand of happiness is different than the traditional, and whom the reader does not yet understand. As the novel goes on, Jane migrates to a series of locations that help develop her true character. The settings of Gateshead, Lowood, Thornfield, Moor House, and finally Ferndean Manor shape Jane and eventually give rise to her true independence.Bronte opens the novel in Gateshead Hall, where Jane’s aunt, Mrs. Reed, imprisons Jane temporarily in the manor’s “Red Room.” The description of this room is more detailed than of any other at Gateshead: “This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchens; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered” (14). The room is like Jane’s personality at this point in the novel – isolated and morose. Jane’s distance from her family members, humorless existence, and cold attitude toward Mrs. Reed when she finally confronts her are qualities that reflect her surroundings.When Jane migrates to Lowood she leaves childhood behind. Initially she remains isolated at Lowood, but the description of the place and her reaction to it are not so gloomy: “…The building spread far.—with many windows, and lights burning in some; we went up a broad, pebbly path, splashing wet, and were admitted at a door; then the servant led me through a passage into a room with a fire, where she left me alone” (42). Though left alone in a foreign place, Jane accepts the solitude without fear – a sign of maturity. Conditions at Lowood are poor and daily life tightly structured, and Jane is able to conform to her surroundings because she does not yet have a clear self identity. We have seen only glimmers of her tough, independent character by this point, as when she confronts Mrs. Reed.At Lowood, Jane meets her first real friend, Helen Burns. While Jane is still impulsive and short-tempered, Helen is patient and accepting, with strong morals and religious conviction. For example, Jane comments fiercely on the way a certain teacher punished Helen: “And if I were in your place I should dislike her: I should resist her; if she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose” (55). Helen replies calmly to Jane’s outburst: “It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you—and, besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil” (55). Though Helen dies soon thereafter, it is clear that her presence at Lowood made a strong impression on Jane and calmed her fiery tendencies.The novel’s next setting is Thornfield, where Jane is hired as governess and where her greatest character development takes place. The way Bronte describes Jane’s arrival at Thornfield shows that the place will be transformative: “I followed her across a square hall with high doors all around: she ushered me into a room, whose double illumination of fire and candle at first dazzled me, contrasting as it did with the darkness to which my eyes had been for two hours inured; when I could see, however, a cozy and agreeable picture presented itself to my view” (95). Jane’s brief visual impairment recalls the darker days from which she has emerged, the candle represents a brighter future, and the “cozy and agreeable picture” suggests just that – which, as the reader will learn, also stands for the infatuation with Rochester that will soon emerge.The challenging, unusual relationship that develops between Jane and Rochester eventually forces Jane to let her guard down. He tells her to listen to the nightingale singing in the wood, and Jane states that “In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I endured no longer. I was obliged to yield; and I was shaken from head to foot with acute distress. When I did speak, it was only to express an impetuous wish that I has never been born, or never come to Thornfield” (252). Finally Jane admits emotion to herself and recognizes the influence – good or bad – that one’s setting and relations can have upon her.When Jane flees Thornfield she is at her weakest, alone and literally penniless. This temporary penury shows how relentlessly she seeks independence and refuses to settle for anything less than the utmost respect. When she sees Moor House for the first time, the description is no more promising than that of any other place Jane has lived: “Entering the gate and passing the shrubs, the silhouette of a house rose to view; black, low, and rather long: but the guiding light shone nowhere. All was obscurity” (331). Yet this time, the dark place turns out to hold family and fortune. Jane feels complete here, able to overcome old insecurities. She is finally rewarded for her goodness and helps teach the disadvantaged. Her stay at Moor House allows Jane to become a whole person, and to prepare her for meeting Rochester again, this time feeling like an equal. Jane finds Rochester at Ferndean Manor. Bronte takes a page to describe the place, adding to the suspense of Jane’s situation. It is another dark, isolated place that hints not at Jane’s situation, this time, but at Rochester’s. Like the desolate manor, Rochester is now debilitated and despondent . Only Jane’s nurturing can revive him, putting the two on even ground for the first time. In one of the final passages, Jane describes her care for Rochester: “I caressed, in order to soothe him; but dared not. As he turned aside his face a minute, I saw a tear slide from under the sealed eyelid, and trickle down the manly cheek. My heart swelled” (444). Finally the two balance each other and truly love.Each setting in Bronte’s novel shaped its heroine, as Jane gradually left isolation and repression to attain respect , love, and independence. Jane came fully into herself at Moor House and, once prepared, helped Rochester become his own best self at Ferndean. The darkness that characterizes each setting at some point finally dissipates, and one is left feeling that Jane has surely found her home.
Jane’s relationship with Mr. Rochester is marked by uncertainty in equality and independence in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Using the Gothic elements of disguise in the gypsy scenes, Mr. Rochester assumes an ambiguous role of gender and class inferiority. By breaking gender barriers, Mr. Rochester finds a way to come out of his shell, speak his true feelings about Jane’s character, and overcome restrictive obstacles placed by social barriers in the 19th century world of the Victorian novel. Mr. Rochester disguises himself, blurring class and gender lines. This is necessary to efface Jane and Mr. Rochester’s differences in order for them to have a more honest relationship.In the Victorian period gypsies were looked down upon, and their role in society ambiguous. In accordance with characters of Gothic fiction and Gothic themes, the gypsy woman’s entrance is unexplainable and supernatural. Masquerading as a gypsy woman, Mr. Rochester wields a magical power over not only Jane, but the rest of the guests as well. Under this disguise, he controls the emotions of the young single women present. This scene also reveals how much he dictates Jane’s emotions. When it is Jane’s turn to see the gypsy, she is not frightened, but rather, interested in and excited by the hype. Unlike the rest of the guests, Jane Eyre is skeptical of the gypsy’s authenticity, although when she enters the dream-like state, it appears she believes Mr. Rochester’s disguise of both his gender and class.The sinister Gothic elements of Jane Eyre are abundant throughout the story, but especially rampant in the gypsy scene. Peculiar things happen behind closed doors at Thornfield Manor. Disguise, the color red, the strange gypsy, and the elements of darkness and fire all add to the auras of paranormal mystery. The allure of what cannot be seen, of disguise and secrecy, is explored as the strange but enticing Sybil draws in the female guests present at the Manor. Her origin is unknown and her dress peculiar; she delights the single women one by one behind closed doors, except for Miss Ingram who receives unwanted information. Dressed as an “ugly old creature… almost as black as a crock,” the guests perceive Mr. Rochester as a “real sorceress” (Bronte, 164). Once Mr. Rochester is in disguise, he is able to share an intimate setting with the females of the party when their fortunes are revealed in this otherwise conservative society. In this element of the Gothic, Mr. Rochester’s disguise brings the party to frenzy—excitement overwhelms the guests as “mystery, animation, expectation rose to full flow” (164). Even Jane, usually emotionally subdued in the company of these high-class society members is “glad of the unexpected opportunity to gratify [her] much-excited curiosity” (166). The thrill of this surprise guest invokes fearfulness and awe in the room, common themes of the Gothic. The party guests are unaccustomed to associating with people of the same class as the woman at the door.There are issues of class ambiguity from the beginning. The gypsy’s comfort in a setting more grand than what a street gypsy would be accustomed to and her brashness in confronting Jane, a woman of higher social status than she, is surprising. When Jane enters the library, she notices the gypsy’s confidence as the old woman is “seated snugly” and confronts Jane with a “bold and direct gaze” (167). Here, Mr. Rochester puts himself in a social status he is unfamiliar with, although he plays the role with ease. The gypsy character is almost too at ease though, making Mr. Rochester’s class disguise inauthentic. He cannot let go of his class status—he is too naturally invested in it at this point in the novel, a characteristic also seen when Mr. Rochester overwhelms Jane when he tries to dress her up like a doll in fine jewels and gowns in preparation for their wedding (Chapter 24). Jane is not weighed down from status incongruity when Mr. Rochester decreases his stature from the male role and master of the house to a lowly street woman. Thus, through a shifting of status roles, Jane is not less powerful financially. Their roles are recalibrated as Jane gives Mr. Rochester money as opposed to being given money by him. Ultimately, this recalibration is necessary to the success of them having a true relationship.The eerie setting perfectly fits the strange situation of Gothic format, while also highlighting social differences. Jane is young and beautiful compared to the old and ugly cloaked hag. Jane watches as “she stirred the fire, so that a ripple of light broke from the disturbed coal: the glare, however, as she sat, only threw her face into deeper shadow: mine, it illumined” (168). Jane’s face is “illumined” and the gypsy’s face in a “deeper shadow” (168). The juxtaposition of light and dark correlate with the social differences set up in this scene, but, later Jane kneels before the gypsy, setting up another disparity. This back and forth adds to the ambiguity already present. The social roles between Jane, Mr. Rochester, and the gypsy are skewed and since they are fluid depending on the scenario, dependencies and questions of equality between them are unclear. Mr. Rochester invokes an identity of lower class in his gypsy costume, but there is blurriness in his depictions, suggesting he still cannot let go of his class status, making his role as a gypsy inauthentic. Social position boundaries are too tightly set for Mr. Rochester’s disguise to be taken seriously, and Jane’s feelings about her position as a woman and as hired help in Mr. Rochester’s manor make her very aware to the power implications of their situation. The gypsy is deliberately presumptuous as she deals with Jane, telling her, “‘You are cold; you are sick; and you are silly’” (167). These harsh words juxtapose the laughter and gaiety the other women experienced before Jane’s turn with the gypsy, but Jane retorts back in her usual confident but careful manner demanding an explanation. Throughout the scene, the gypsy flirts with Jane, encourages her, and provokingly challenges her. The gypsy compliments Jane at the beginning, pointing out her uniqueness—“You could scarcely find me one” (a girl like Jane) (168). The gypsy encourages Jane by stressing Jane’s specialness and potential—“If you knew it, you are peculiarly situated: very near happiness; yes; within reach of it. The materials are all prepared; there only wants a movement to combine them” (168). Here, the gypsy is foreshadowing the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester. Later, the gypsy states, “I wonder with what feelings you came to me tonight. I wonder what thoughts are busy in your heart during all the hours you sit in yonder room with the fine people flitting before you like shapes in a magic lantern” (186). The word “heart” indicates the gypsy wants to know more than what is going in on Jane’s platonic or passing thoughts. The gypsy wants to know how her heart feels, what her heart is passionate about, what she feels romantically. Here it seems like Mr. Rochester just wants to get inside Jane’s head, since she is so private and reserved. Although she has a passionate disposition, she cannot let her guard down in front of Mr. Rochester, and posing as a gypsy, it appears he wants to dig further into her psyche. Her feelings are important to her, and Mr. Rochester wants to know what is going on in her head—both ordinary thoughts, and thoughts of romance, as the word “heart” suggests. The gypsy describes the guests as “flitting” past her, noting their ephemeral state, whereas Jane is like a member of the house, a more permanent fixture than the guests, who include Blanche, the attractive socialite whom Mr. Rochester is scheduled to marry. Since “flitting” is transitory and he uses it to describe everyone except for Jane, he is revealing emotions through his disguise, hinting he may desire her stay to be more permanent. These flirtations betray Mr. Rochester’s attempts at femininity, since although he is trying to act as a gypsy woman, he still ends up flirting with Jane.The dream-like state Jane had been in is broken once she fully realizes it was Mr. Rochester under the red cloak and black bonnet. She passes his test, admitting, “I had been on my guard almost from the beginning of the interview” (173). The word “guard” suggests a feeling of formality and discomfort, distancing her from the intimacy of the prior exchange. Mr. Rochester’s gender and class transformation in his gypsy-state should allow Jane a place to reveal things more freely than when confined by these barriers since she is in front of a stranger who will not pass judgment or reveal her thoughts, but cleverly, she does not completely expose herself, since many times, women feel more comfortable sharing more personal thoughts with other women, rather than men, and similarly, someone in a particular class status may have more in common with another person of that class status, making them more likely to be less on their “guard,” like Jane was.The gypsy suggests it is chance that allows Jane’s good luck: Your fortune is yet doubtful: when I examined your face, one trait contradicted another. Chance has meted you a measure of happiness: that I know. I knew it before I came here this evening. She has laid it carefully on one side for you. I saw her do it. It depends on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up; but whether you will do so, is the problem I study. 171 Here, the gypsy challenges Jane to rise up and grasp what chance has allowed her. After showing Jane what her potential is, the gypsy leaves it up to her to seize opportunity. Personifying chance proposes seriousness to the situation, since this chance is now in Jane’s power. The word “measure” indicates a limited amount, warning Jane that happiness is not handed out on a silver spoon, but that because of chance, an amount will be given to her if she chooses to “stretch out her hand” (171). The gypsy figure is concerned Jane will not take advantage of the happiness chance is allocating, saying it is a problem she “studies” (171). This word choice hints at the man beneath the cloak, one who has had opportunity to study Jane Eyre’s situation and disposition. Rochester has his own agenda with each woman passing through the library doors. Miss Ingram comes out distressed, since Mr. Rochester knows she loves him for “his purse” (171). The other girls giggling and excited, are carefree and impressed with the gypsy’s knowledge of their pasts and secrets. With Jane, after he comes out of disguise, he confides in her and they warmly share their trust in each other, and their dependence on each other’s support. Rochester says, “‘I wish I were in a quiet island with only you: and trouble, and danger, and hideous recollections removed from me,’” and Jane replies, “‘I’d give my life to serve you” (174). This open declaration of devotions would not have been possible without Rochester first breaking down the social and gender barriers he carried out while under cover.
As the cult of domesticity grew during the nineteenth century, society began to fixate on the proper role of a woman. Jean Rhys examines the contradictions and consequences involved in setting such standards through documenting the decline of Jane Eyre’s “madwoman,” Antoinette Cosway. Forever the victim of alien ideals, Antoinette struggles to reconcile her exotic, passionate behavior with the pristine reserve valued by the European world. Yet, although convention discouraged sexuality, Rochester lusts after the Caribbean women, further aggravating Antoinette’s moral confusion. Ultimately, Rochester fears Antoinette’s explosive passion and eradicates it through suppressing her exotic heritage. Rhys creates a world of cultural tension in which Antoinette fails to resemble either the quintessential Caribbean or European woman.The females in Antoinette’s life promoted several disparate lifestyles, crippling Antoinette’s ability to develop as a woman. Christophine epitomizes one facet of the Caribbean woman; single and independent, she believes that a dependency on men leads only to heartache and danger. Christophine detests the man assumed to be Rochester, and advises Antoinette, “Woman must have spunks to live in this wicked world” (60). Antoinette matures under Christophine’s authority and therefore cannot ever fully accept a docile role as wife. Antoinette is simultaneously influenced by her mother’s sensuality. She is captivated by Annette’s dancing and watches from afar as Mr. Mason “kisse[s] her—a long kiss” (17). Antoinette’s almost voyeuristic behavior reveals her innate sensuality, one that Rhys associates with the islands throughout the rest of the book. However, as the Caribbean and European cultures clashed, so did each culture’s respective perception of women. At the convent, Antoinette envies the “aloof” and “even-tempered” de Plana girls (33). While the Caribbean is personified as ardent and capricious, the European world shares the characteristics of the pristine de Planas. Antoinette desperately desires to resemble the a de Planas, and therefore constantly vacillates between European and Caribbean ideals. “When I grow up I want [my hair] to look like yours,” Antoinette tells Hélène de Plana (32), exposing her need to reflect European standards. Antoinette feels the urges of the Caribbean woman, yet nonetheless strives to become a paragon of European femininity. Rochester’s contradicting actions towards her further complicate her perception of herself as a woman.Antoinette’s marriage to Rochester intensifies her internal struggle between independence and obedience. Antoinette first submits to Rochester through simply agreeing to wed him; when Rochester asks Antoinette if her qualms were merely a mistake, she “only nod[s],” revealing Antoinette’s position in a weak limbo between defiance and acceptance (47). She humbly accepts the European standard and strives to gratify Rochester. However, Rochester taints Antoinette’s innocent desires with his own impure ones. Antoinette cannot fulfill Rochester in the traditional European sense, for he “was thirsty for her, but that is not love” (55). Therefore, sexuality melds with submission, creating an impure amalgamation of European and Caribbean behaviors. In her endeavors to become an accommodating wife, Antoinette loses her chastity, paradoxically isolating her from European standards of domesticity. Simultaneously, Rochester separates Antoinette from her Caribbean nature. Antoinette laments that he “never calls [her] Antoinette now,” because he “found out it was [her] mother’s name” (68). In effect, Rochester chips away at Antoinette’s link to fiery womanhood while polluting her attempts at achieving gentility. “[The Caribbean] is as indifferent as… God,” Antoinette laments, for she understands neither Caribbean cultural standards nor those of Europe (78). Although Antoinette struggles to identify herself as a woman even initially, it is Rochester who truly fragments her femininity, or lack thereof.After recognizing the consequences of his behavior, Rochester attempts to restore Antoinette’s identity through robbing her of her ancestry. The passionate Creole that Rochester previously lusted after transforms into a “red-eyed wild-haired stranger” (88). After observing the futility of pursuing a docile role, Antoinette descends into an extreme form of the “tropicalized” Creole woman (33). Rochester fears this madness. While Antoinette slides to one extreme, he desperately attempts to drag her to the other. Rochester seals his wife within a “cardboard world,” one that resists all unpredictability or fervency. Ironically, only when Rochester forces a boring, domestic reality upon Antoinette does she fully awaken to her true position as a woman. Antoinette’s red dress demonstrates this awakening, for it represents Antoinette’s “intemperate and unchaste” past in the Caribbean (110). However, although Grace Poole attempts to force a dull gray wrapper around Antoinette, Antoinette observes that “it was if the fire had spread across the room” from her dress (110-111). The simple sight of her red dress reignites a symbolic fire within Antoinette, reminding her of her innate sexuality and passion. The extreme circumstances within Antoinette’s cardboard world reveal her true, unadulterated role as a woman. Ultimately, Antoinette identifies with the fierce independence of her mother and chooses her heritage over sterile British femininity.In the final moments of her life, Antoinette manages to cast aside the desires and needs of others in order to discover her true passion and autonomy. This maturation renders her suicide not a tragedy but a victory. Antoinette’s prophetic dream revolves around fire, which Rhys utilizes as a symbol of Antoinette’s true ardor. Antoinette watches symbols of her crippled womanhood burn. When an orchid, found in Antoinette’s own “Garden of Eden,” blazes, Antoinette’s tainted sin chars and disappears. Antoinette’s dollhouse disappears within the inferno, and with it goes Antoinette’s memories of being Rochester’s “marionette” (92). Freed from the painful roles that she played as a woman, Antoinette can be consumed by her own pure passion. When Antoinette finally awakens, she has awoken not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. Antoinette moves into the night towards what readers of Jane Eyre recognize as her suicide, but with the flame of a candle. This physical fire leads her through the darkness, suggesting that ultimately, Antoinette’s inner fire led her to her true role as a woman; one of fervor, liberty, and unwavering love for those around her.
Two popular feminist theorists, Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, have said in their essay “The Madwoman in the Attic” that there is a trend in literary history that places women characters into one of two stereotypes: either the “passive angel” or the “active monster”. The “angel in the house” image is one of a domesticated woman whose ultimate goal is to please and tend to her husband (Gilbert 55-57). Jane Eyre, while often described as a strong female character, obviously sets herself well into this stereotype. Early in the novel, she is sent to be educated at the Lowood Institute and earns an education in feminine submission, no doubt, as later she seeks employment as the ultimate example of domestic subservience—a governess. It is obvious that Charlotte Brontë intends to convey Jane in the role of the “angel” as Jane willfully engages in her governess role and tends to Rochester’s wishes to gain his acceptance. The more Jane falls in love with Rochester, the further he plays with her emotions, and any feminist ideals she may have demonstrated as a rebellious child begin to give way to inferiority and compliance. Jane fully takes on the role of the angel as she essentially believes herself to be weaker and unworthy of his love. This is common throughout the novel, as Jane is often placing upon herself a mental stigma that she is a lesser person and does not deserve happiness. Some particular “angelic” instances of Jane’s are demonstrated through her subservience to Rochester throughout the fire scene, Mr. Mason’s being bitten and the commands she is given to care for him, and the end of the novel in which she aids him back to health. (Brontë ch.15, 20, 38) Rochester’s role in the novel, and in Wide Sargasso Sea, is that of the classifier of images, as he literally refers to Jane as his “angel” and utilizes his patriarchal power as a way to label her. The monster, in the case of Jane Eyre, would be the character of Bertha Mason. In most cases, the stereotype of the “monster” is actually representative of the darker side of the angel. (Gilbert 359-361) In the case of Brontë’s novel, Bertha Mason provides the binary to nearly every characteristic of Jane’s personality—she is the rage to Jane’s repression, the rebellion to her tolerance, the “big woman…of virile force” to the “poor, obscure, plain, and little” Jane (Brontë ch. 26, 23). Even their respective marriages to Rochester are opposing—Bertha’s for sex and money and Jane’s for love and equality. Bertha essentially is the psychic split between the woman who submits to the patriarch and the lunatic who rebels. According to Gilbert and Gubar, the “madwoman in the attic” stereotype is achieved when a woman character rejects the role to be subservient to the husband and society and is “sexually fallen” (Gilbert 355-356). This demonizes the woman and disavows her place in society. Bertha dramatically exemplifies this as she refuses to play into the “perfect wife” role for Rochester. In return, he strips her of her humanity, places her under the image of an animal, and literally locks her away from the world. Rochester’s chief role as setting the stereotypes for these two women through labeling is accomplished in Bertha’s instance as he willfully alters her given birth name. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Bertha is actually introduced as Antoinette Mason. However, in attempting to place his patriarchal power over Antoinette and to tame her “monstrous” tendencies, Rochester dehumanizes her and gives her a name of his own creation. In accepting this new moniker, Bertha is acquiescing to her role not only as the “madwoman in the attic”, but also as the colonized other. (Spivak 249-251) Rochester certainly utilizes his power of patriarchal sexual desire over her as his relationship with Antoinette is largely based on erotic relations. “I watched her die many times in my way, not in hers,” he says regarding their communal relations (Rhys 55). The fact that most of their relationship was conducted through sexual communication demonstrates Rochester’s arching of power over Antoinette, now Bertha, through sexual dominance. Furthermore, it solidifies her placement as the “monster” in that she is now “sexually fallen.” The feminist theory of the “angel in the house” v. the “madwoman in the attic” is important to both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea. Jane as the protagonist and Bertha as the antagonist demonstrate the characteristics engrained in these stereotypes and further play into the patriarchal society’s ideals. Jane is essentially intended to be a strong feminist character, which is indeed demonstrated through her evasion of Rochester’s sexual advances, eventual gain of financial independence, and marriage to Rochester (her own power made evident through the statement “Reader, I married him”). (Brontë ch. 38) Despite her ultimate independence of self, Jane’s role as the angel stereotype is undeniable. The role of Bertha Mason is one of a dehumanized animal, a creature intended only for Rochester to utilize his power and dominate. It is interesting to note that while both of these stereotypes ultimately give up their power to the patriarch, it is only the angel who has the ability to possibly find independence. (Cho 107) This is perhaps due to the idea that Bertha is, in fact, the repressed side of Jane’s personality. Bertha can never find her place in society as she has been stripped fully of her humanity; the only way for her to escape her fate is through death. With the death of her monstrous side, Jane can now follow her own will and realize her identity, thus achieving her happy ending and expanding outside the image of submission and into one of feminine independence. The “angel” v. “monster” dichotomy heavily influenced female writers of the Victorian era. In response to the pressures of being female writers in a literary patriarchy, these writers often felt that they were figuratively crippled by the debilitating options their culture offered them. This often led them to transfer their senses of “anxiety of authorship” into their novels’ characters as physical and mental illnesses. Throughout the nineteenth century, most mental illnesses were thought to be “female diseases” of maladjustment to the social environment, and eventually even served as bedrock to the definition of femininity. (Gilbert 53-78). Anorexia, one of the most prevalent “female diseases”, is often seen on the surface as being caused by vanity and low self esteem. This may be true; however, a more deep-lying cause can be found in the woman’s wish to literally reduce her body in the hopes of achieving invisibility or escaping into death. It is not a stretch to say that Charlotte Brontë expressed her anxiety of authorship and feelings of imprisonment in her own gender by creating Jane as a character attempting to escape through the physical disorder of anorexia. In fact, the “angel in the house” character in literature often suffered from literal sickness in an attempt to demonstrate her conditioned femininity. (Gilbert 55)The scene in the Red Room is the first instance in which we see Jane’s analytical view of her self and her situation in the patriarchal society. As she views her image in a “great looking glass” she meditates on the injustices of her life and determines to find a way out. (Newman 32-35) She wishes for “some strange expedient to achieve escape from insupportable oppression—as running away, or, if that could not be effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting myself die” (Brontë ch. 2). After realizing her acts of revolution against her oppressors only lead her into further trouble, Jane learns to embrace the role of the “angel” and takes on the feminine ideal of subservience, invisibility, and suppression. She learns at the Lowood Institute that there is a sort of social righteousness in female starvation, as Mr. Brocklehurst often starves the young women in an attempt to build character and nobility. Jane soon learns to embrace her newfound virtues of being little, plain, genteel, and obscure in society. She utilizes her small size and self-inflicted invisibility to seek out small recessed spaces in the scenery and retreat unto herself and her own thoughts. In doing so, she is playing into the socially acceptable female role of a “proper lady” who “must not actively solicit the look or engage in obvious display” (Newman 33). It is not enough to simply note Jane is small, pale, and plain. It is important to understand that Jane is taking on anorexia as a way to disappear and hide from the overarching oppression of both the Victorian society and her own personal situations. Unfortunately, through this process of coping, she sets upon herself a hazardous physical illness. As Brontë’s novel spans the course of one female’s life and growth, we are able to chart Jane’s developing a poor body and becoming wan and sickly. Her appearance therefore is often at odds with the physical descriptions of the many other desirable female characters in the novel — such as Blanch Ingram and Celine Varnes. Not only does Jane not fit in with the upper class or patriarchy, but, with her continual self-deprivation, she causes herself to stand out even within her own suppressed gender. Eventually, Jane’s continual starvation and repression of hunger creates the psychic split we see between her and Bertha. Bertha’s madness is representational of the anger, rage, and hunger Jane wishes to express, and Bertha’s multiple attacks and outbursts can be seen as the physical acts of Jane’s inward concerns. For instance, Thornfield is representational to Jane of her own angelic servitude and Rochester’s socially given power. Bertha later sets out in a rage to destroy the house and herself almost as if she were acting out Jane’s own desire to be rid of Rochester’s mastery. (Gilbert 360) It seems that Jane Eyre is therefore an almost cautionary tale of how one’s own repression of these unsavory emotions can erupt and ultimately result in death and destruction.Setting Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason into Gilbert and Gubar’s theory of “angels” vs. “madwomen” reveals a great deal of potential feministic subtext in Charlotte Brontë’s novel. The notion of the suppression of the patriarchy was a heavy influence on Brontë and is manifest in her female characters. Jane Eyre, a clever, independent woman, reverts herself to submission and subservience to be the “angel of the house” for Rochester. While she clearly is his mental equal and moral superior, the socially important qualities such as money and gender ultimately leave her as his inferior. Bertha Mason is even further substandard as she lacks the ability to control her own morality and mind; she is for that reason dubbed the “madwoman” and stripped of all her human rights. The binary opposition of the two women concretizes a psychic split that, ironically, connects them: Jane is the angel only because Bertha is the monster. Jane continually searches for invisibility and safety against the patriarchal world by seeking solace through anorexia. She utilizes the disease as a way to repress her hunger, anger, and rage and thus be the perfect “angel in the house.” Without the release of an outward manifestation of her anger—as seen in Bertha—Jane could not set the feminine example that Brontë intended for her novel.