Madness appears throughout Jane Eyre. Two characters go mad and commit suicide while the main characters, Jane and Mr. Rochester, both have their moments of madness. Jane seemingly goes mad in the beginning of the novel when she is shut into the Red Room, and Rochesteršs temper can be unpredictable and dangerous. When Jane is younger, to the outside eye her temper could also be deemed unpredictable and vengeful, but it is mainly through her relationship with Helen Burns and Miss Temple that she is able to get a better handle on her temper. In this passage, the older, more mature Jane is shown as a stark contrast to the lunatic Bertha Mason.
"That is my wife," said he. "Such is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know — such are the endearments which are to solace my leisure hours! And this is what I wished to have" (laying his hand on my shoulder): "this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon. I wanted her just as a change from this fierce ragout. Wood and Briggs, look at the difference! Compare these clear eyes with the red balls yonder — this face with that mask — this form with that bulk; then judge me, priest of the gospel and man of the law, and remember, with that judgment ye judge and ye shall be judged. Off with you now. I must shut up my prize." [p. 251]
1. What is the difference between the two in Rochesteršs eyes? Are these valid differences?
2. What constitutes madness for Bertha? For Jane?
3. What were the similarities between Jane's and Bertha's childhoods?
4. Does Brontë make a contrast between madness and fanaticism?
Last modified 2 February 2004