Essay on Funhouse Mirrors: Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason

Words: 1714
Pages: 7

Tim Bartlett
ENG 396
March 23, 2011
Funhouse Mirrors: Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason “Jane Eyre” is a book centred around female duality. In a time when females were still expected to fulfill their “womanly duties,” Charlotte Bronte wrote a novel dealing with a woman’s view on morality & sexuality, passion & sensibility, and conformity & insanity, among other themes. This motif of duality plays a strong part in the dynamism that makes up the book, and is not limited to the themes, but is also used to relate many of the characters to the titular Jane. In “The Mystery at Thornfield,” Valerie Beattie makes claims that the character Bertha Mason’s insanity is a representation of rebellion toward the limitations of Victorian women. Not only is
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Reed, she is later commended by Bessie for her new ability to be bold, and continues to develop onto Lowood. Bronte thus uses madness as a motivator for Jane at this stage in the novel, and replaces its negative connotations for “a power that recognizes wrongs and will act to right them” (Beattie, 1996). As an adult, Jane’s likeness to Bertha becomes more and more remote. Jane learns the importance of conforming to the rules, and believes that in the end, perseverance and integrity will get her what she desires, even if that is just the respect of society and herself. Bertha, in contrast, is void of respect of self, or societal conventions, and has no issues with blatant rebellion. These attitudes exhibit the two sides of revolution. On one hand, one could be rebellious and hope to create change through force. On the other hand, one could be true to themselves, keep their integrity and have faith this will pay off. For Jane, the latter is immensely beneficial, she gets a happy ending and the book is named after her. This doesn’t mean that Jane completely conforms to the expectations of others, however. Mr. Rochester pleads shamelessly for Jane to run away with him while he is still in wedlock with Bertha, but Jane replies “laws and principles are not for the time when there is no temptation: they are for such moment as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour… there I plant my foot,”(p. 408) denying