Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre is considered complex. In her journey, the main character Jane Eyre comes across many women characters, which a significant number of them can be seen as doubles for her. Those women had the impact to make us realize things about Jane that she did not notice about herself. The most important two women are Bertha Mason and Grace Poole. In this essay, I aim to analyze the arguments raised on the doubles of Jane Eyre the character.
In their article, ‘A dialogue of self and soul’, Gilbert and Gubar claim: “Bertha has functioned as Jane’s dark double throughout the governess’s stay at Thornfield’, they see Bertha as Jane’s double because she expresses hidden feelings within Jane that she cannot express freely such as anger. Bertha does not only reflect ‘Jane’s acting out, but also how to not act’ (p.480). On the surface, the characters of Jane and Bertha are opposites and cannot be considered alike. For example, the adult Jane is seen as “quaint, quiet and simple” in the eyes of Mr. Rochester, and described as small and pale, whereas Bertha is “a big woman” with a “virile force” and “bloated features” (p.338). In addition, Jane is a poor orphan while Bertha was born to a wealthy family. However, those two women have notable and important similarities that can be seen as proof of the doubles.
First, both women were oppressed by the male system of British patriarchy; they have to live within the male-dominated world in which men set the social and political rules. In addition, the young Jane’s anger in the red room scene at the begging of the novel foreshadows the aggression, which Bertha is acting later on the novel at Thornfield. In this scene, Jane was threatened with being ‘tied down’ if she will not submit to Mrs. Reed’s rules, just as Bertha is tied down by Rochester after she attacked him. Another similarity is that Jane was described as ‘a mad cat’ (p.7), and Bertha as ‘a tigress.’ (p.253). Since Jane is younger, she is portrayed as a small crazy cat, but when she will get older, she will become a tiger like Bertha. Moreover, Jane’s sympathetic reaction to Bertha, rather than Rochester, can be viewed as a gothic doubling between the two women. Jane’s capacity for sympathy for someone who tried to ruin her life emphasizes the connection between the two women created by Rochester’s remarriage attempt. An important point raised by Gilbert &Gubar is that Bertha seems to act out for Jane when she cannot act out for herself.
One example is when Bertha stabbed her brother Mr. Mason in chapter 20. Jane’s feeling to this man was expressed in the previous chapter as feelings of disliking. While the hate of Jane for him was not the reason Bertha hurt him, but still it can look at it metaphorically. Similarly, Bertha cutting Jane’s veil into two might represents the doubled in that there are two wives. Despite Rochester’s love feelings for Jane, he wanted to possess her for his own happiness and courts her as he courted Bertha. Jane’s refusal of such marriage and her attempt to escape echoes Bertha’s clawing at the attic door.
The other doubles character is Grace Poole, Fraiman makes an interesting point about Jane’s lack of class, she says, “Jane is bound in service to Rochester just as she feared being bound by Rivers “as a useful tool.” (p.406) Fraiman means that Jane is a double for Grace Poole in that she is inferior to, and controlled by Rochester. Furthermore, when Rochester invites his friends and Mrs. Ingram to a party at his house, they all treat Jane as a servant. Though Fraiman made a good point indicating the lack of identity of Jane and the fact that she is swinging between many classes, I still disagree with her, I see that Jane has her own identity, and at the end of the book she becomes a part of the ‘middle-class maternity’ when she inherited the money.
In conclusion, these two characters have a significant impact on Jane in many ways. Their most important function is to make Jane realize things about herself. Their acts symbolically and metaphorically are important in developing Jane’s character.
- Brontë, Charlotte. ‘Jane Eyre’ (1847).
- Fraiman, Susan. ‘Jane Eyre’s Fall from Grace.’ Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre, Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical and Historical Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Five Contemporary Critical Perspectives (1996).
- Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. A dialogue of self and soul: Plain Jane’s progress. na, (1979).