Jane Eyre: the Woman in the Attic

In Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brönte, the character Bertha Mason is used as a symbol for the exclusion of other cultures in Britain and the entrapment of Victorian wives. She could also be seen as a portrayal of Jane’s underlying feelings against oppression. I will illustrate this through relevant references and the analysis of the following excerpt.

“In the deep shade, at the further end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing; and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face” (Chapter 26).

In this excerpt, Jane is confronted with the truth. After the event of meeting Rochester’s wife, Jane ran away. However, this helped in her personal growth. Bertha’s presence is somewhat of a catalyst to Jane’s life. After experiencing the harsh truth Jane became a stronger woman especially in her believes and what she stands for. She succeeds in maintaining her principles and her belief in equality. Bertha was an example of how not to act and not to give in to passion and risk the same fate.

“A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind .... This strict hand may in some degree account for the weakness of women ... and thus taught slavishly to submit to their parents, they are prepared for the slavery of marriage.” Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (I792)

Rochester claims that he only married Bertha for her wealth. The above excerpt refers to how women by instruction of their parents were only groomed and prepared for marriage. In the case of Rochester and Bertha, the term “slavery of marriage” seems apt. Bertha is of mixed descent. Her imprisonment could be symbolic of how Britain attempted to control the influences of other cultures.

Bertha can also be symbolic of a trapped...