A Warning?

At first when I read the scene where Jane is describing her “nightmare” about a vampire to Rochester, I didn’t think much of it. But now that we know that Rochester’s wife, Bertha Mason, was the woman who entered Jane’s room, I began to think about it differently.

“Sir, it removed my veil from its gaunt head, rent it in two parts, and flinging both on the floor, trampled on them (ch 25).”

Here, we get a description of Bertha tearing Jane’s wedding veil. It’s made clear that she doesn’t do any harm to Jane herself which makes me think that Bertha destroyed the veil as a way of warning Jane about Rochester’s abusive nature.

We seem to see that Rochester likes to hold some modicum of power of his partners. With Bertha it’s made more clear because she’s literally imprisoned in the attic. With Jane, Rochester is her employer and of a higher class than her. He essentially holds power over Jane’s finances.

It’s overall very interesting to see how Rochester compares Bertha and Jane. He attributed Bertha with ‘devilish’ features and Jane with ‘angelic’ features. This is made clear in chapter 26:

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love—I have found you. You are my sympathy—my better self—my good angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one. It was because I felt and knew this, that I resolved to marry you. To tell me that I had already a wife is empty mockery: you know now that I had but a hideous demon (ch 26).”

I hope that Jane fully heeds Bertha’s warning about Mr Rochester and the sort of man is he.

6 thoughts on “A Warning?

  1. Its small little details like the veil being ripped that make the reader become someone who has to investigate for themselves. Again, I refer back to Henry James’ “Turn Of The Screw.” In that novel, many situations are left for the reader to draw there own conclusions. Of course we know that Bertha torn the veil and It is true that the veil being torn is most likely a warning. However, can we truly say for sure that was her intention? Novels that do this make me so happy, as I am a big fan of putting puzzle pieces together and thinking up theories.

  2. Reading the horrible ways in which Rochester describes Bertha, I often find myself wondering what it is that caused him to dislike her so much? Was it her appearance? He married her so probably not. Did she has some sort of psychotic break, episode, or breakdown? Yes probably something like that, which caused him to begin treating her negatively. Why? Well, one may never know why someone enacts abuse, what it is important is knowing that he, Rochester, was abusive. I think that relates to you mentioning how Bertha ripping Jane’s veil was a warning about Rochester’s true nature. I think Bertha chose to destroy the veil as a metaphoric message, meaning, your love will be destroyed if you stay with this awful man. Instead of letting Jane succumb to the same fate she did, she tries to warn her to get out. Bertha is really brave.

  3. Building off the post and Brooklyn’s comment, hearing the way Mr. Rochester describes Jane makes me think he’s just trying to flatter her in a manipulative way. Most likely, he would not have married Bertha if he thought of her then the way he thinks of her now. Most likely, she got the same treatment as Jane back in the day. If Jane stayed with Mr. Rochester, she’d perhaps be on the path to end up like Bertha.

  4. This is a very interesting post. I never thought of Bertha ripping the veil as a warning. However looking back on it Bertha is violent enough that if she really wanted to hurt Jane she would have. What exactly was Bertha doing there? Why did she go for the veil of all things? Jane didn’t like the veil because it was expensive, therefore Bertha ripping it actually helped Jane as she was able to wear something she felt more comfortable in. If Bertha really wanted to get to her wouldn’t she have gone for something more important to Jane?

  5. I think it’s totally strange how Mr. Rochester compares Bertha and Jane. It almost feels sexist, like he is objectifying them both and only appreciating them for their looks. It’s almost like Mr. Rochester is trying to manipulate Jane into feeling flattered that Mr. Rochester “chose” her over Bertha, despite the fact that he tried to hide Bertha from Jane.

  6. That’s such a fantastic point. It’s really interesting to think that, no matter how much Rochester tries to silence Bertha, she could still make it down from her imprisonment to warn Jane like this. Additionally, I think the quote you pulled and the point you make with it really ties the text to Gilbert & Gubar’s analysis (not that they weren’t already drawing from it, but still, it helps connect it for the class) about the dichotomy that the patriarchy creates between the female “angel”/”demon”, where Jane is seen by Rochester as better than Bertha, with only her appearance to base this on. I don’t know how to frame the fact that Bertha is so often othered, as Jane herself describes Bertha in othering terms, so I’m unsure if it’s a critique of this dichotomy or not. Great post, it’s a wonderful springboard for a conversation about feminist critique in Jane Eyre!

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