The Reconciliation of Fire, Ice, and Eyre
Character Analysis and Symbolism of Bertha Mason and Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre
Through Bertha Mason, Brontë utilizes the wild fire motif to depict the dangers of an extreme uncontrollable burning passion – Bertha’s violent rage against the stifling constraints of a patriarchal society –that obstruct rationality and the moral boundaries.“Gurgl[ing] and moan[ing],” Bertha lights Rochester’s bed on fire, “tongues of flame darted round…in the midst of blaze” (148). The wildness of the “tongues of flame” and “blaze” illustrates the magnitude of Bertha’s madness and her emblematic rage against societal confinement and feminist oppression. Coupled with the blazing fire motif, her “gurgles” and “moans” depict her as an animal, through which Brontë suggests that her state of mind has gone beyond rationality and morality.
Due to this extreme unbalance of passionate ire and rationality, Bertha’s savagery literally induces dangers, such as the attempt of burning Rochester alive or the mangle of Mason. Thus, through her blazing incarceration, Brontë underscores these physical dangers as additional extreme vulnerabilities of an unreconciled infernal passion with cold reason.Yet, Bertha’s animalistic qualities do not solely pertain to herself; they also reflect Jane’s internal features. As Gilbert suggests, “the imprisoned Bertha…is the ‘bad animal’ who was ten-year-old Jane…emblematic of her mind in its rebellion against society” (5).With Bertha as Jane’s darkest double, Bronte portrays an extreme example of the unbalanced unbridled passion, “rebellion against society,” and absent rationality to reinforce the idea of the need to reconcile passion with reason.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975. Print.
Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. “A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane’s Progress.”
The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976. Print.
Lamonaca, Maria. “Jane’s Crown of Thorns: Feminism and Christianity in Jane Eyre.” Studies in the Novel. 34.3 (2002): 245-263.
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