Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte and Bertha Mason  -  Why is the ‘madwomen’ manifestation so prevalent in women’s writing?  Is it, as some scholars suggest, because elements such as madness, death, and the supernatural provide a release from traditional restricting social forms? Charlotte Bronte’s characterization of madness in Bertha is an excellent example. Although Bronte was writing an ostensibly traditional romance, her portrayal of Bertha carries a considerable amount of subtly ‘feminist’ clout. Bertha, while incoherent and ignored, is not conquered. Her anger stems from the same sources that Jane Eyre experiences: resentment of limitations (imposed and inherent, social and sexual); frustration with male arrogance and control (Rochester); and dissatisfaction with Thornfield itself (and the structure that it represents). Bertha is Jane’s double, a kind of skeleton in the attic whose appearance serves as a foil to Jane’s naïve romanticism. Her appearance at all in a formulaic love story, especially one published well over a hundred years ago, speaks to the importance of giving voice, however disenfranchised, to significant female frustrations. With Bertha’s fire and violence Charlotte Bronte interrupts her own ‘conventional’ story, and thus gives the reader a limited but valid view of an alternative female reality. 

 

 

Jane Eyre : Charlotte Bronte and Bertha Mason

Pyrography & acrylic with lacquer finish

48" x 48"

2006