Jane Eyre and the Lovemad Woman
I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle blackness, burning! No human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better then I was loved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. (311; ch. 27)
Jane Eyre’s inner struggle over leaving an already married Rochester is the epitome of the new "lovemad" woman in nineteenth-century literature. Jane Eyre is the story of a lovemad woman who has two parts to her personality (herself and Bertha Mason) to accommodate this madness. Charlotte Bronte takes the already used character of the lovemad woman and uses her to be an outlet for the confinement that comes from being in a male-dominated society. Jane has to control this madness, whereas the other part of her personality, her counterpart, Bertha Mason, is able to express her rage at being caged up. As what it means to be insane was changing during Bronte’s time, Bronte changed insanity in literature so that it is made not to be a weakness but rather a form of rebellion. Jane ultimately is able to overcome her lovemadness through sheer force of her will.
As a proponent of the lovemad woman Charlotte Bronte can be looked at closely and be seen as almost lovemad herself. Bronte did not have the love of her mother, who died at an early age. Though she had her sisters, brother and father, Charlotte seemed to lacking love. Through her "affair" with Monsieur Heger, Charlotte seems to be able to fit the definition of the lovemad woman. While away at school Charlotte developed an attachment to one of her teachers which sources vary as whether or not this lead to an attachment. As an already married man, Charlotte’s attachment to Heger was immoral. When Heger decided to ignore Charlotte, Charlotte saw this as desertion and this was seen in many of her writings (Winnifirth 65). Through her "tryst" with Heger, Charlotte could certainly identify with the emotions of a lovemad woman. She was rejected by her "lover" and can be seen as almost mad because of the emotions that she projects into her writings due to this "affair." Charlotte also was well read on the psychology of the time. She attended medical lectures and would have discussed such with her father Patrick Bronte (Small 155). Charlotte eventually settled for her father’s curate, Mr. Nicholls, as her husband, though initially she did not love him (Winnifirth 111).
Through the events of Charlotte’s life it is easy to see parts of her in the characters of Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason. Charlotte uses Bertha as a rebellious outlet for not only Jane but for herself as well. The feminist critics Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar clearly summarize this phenomenon when they state "By projecting their rebellious impulses not into their heroines but into mad or monstrous women, female authors dramatize their own self-division." (Gilbert and Gubar 78). In other words...