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Bertha Must Be Kept Silent Essay

1020 words - 4 pages

Bertha must be kept silent

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre has been considered as a potentially subversive and revolutionary text because of its – and its author – social and political position. Jane Eyre is a young woman, orphan and low born, who fights for emancipation and liberty. She wants to lead her life independently without any external control. As a little girl, she was the incarnation of rebellion. Having been adopted by the Reed family and being treated unfairly, the prospect of a happy life was particularly little. Later on, as a pupil at Lowood she was characterized as disobedient, servant of Evil and liar, by Brocklehurst. Despite all these, Jane manages to provide herself with a lower middle class education, which enables her to be independent enough to earn a moderate income as a teacher. As a partner of Mr. Rochester, she rejects his despotism, characteristic of a male aristocrat of his era, and is reluctant to be his subordinate. She questions women’s position in society with regard working rights and equal opportunities. She does not comply with the conventional norm which forces women to be restricted to the domestic sphere only. On the contrary she wants to take full advantage of her keen intellect, as a man in her position would normally do. Above all, she, a servant, marries her master, thus disturbing the social order.

Nevertheless, despite the revolutionary potential of the text, the novel, while challenging, reproduces certain imperialistic tenets. It is part of a discursive terrain in which the ideal, unified Enlightment subject is placed, where a fantasy of unity is created by the invocation and subsequent obliteration of the Other subject, differentiated by class, race and gender. In our novel, we find this Other portrayed in the figure of Bertha Mason, the rival of Jane. Bertha represents a threat for the central narrator, yet her fate is closely linked with that of Jane. When criticized that the episodes involving the madwoman were unnaturally exaggerated, Charlotte insisted they were "but too natural", though she thought she had erred in making horror not pity, predominant. But it is exactly horror that we feel when we read the passages in which Bertha is involved. She is represented in a highly hostile way by the author, she constitutes a constant threat to everybody who comes close to her. We first become aware of her existence when Jane hears a "curious, distinct, formal mirthless laugh". Then, for several weeks she often heard that thrilling laugh, and "eccentric murmurs" which constituted sounds only and not proper speech. Soon, it is presumed that the unknown source of these sounds are not made by a human at all: "This door was open; a light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling, snatching sound, almost like a dog quarreling" (p.210 – 11). The representation of this miserable, beast-like creature is being brought to a climax when Bertha attacks and injures by means of biting her own...

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