Jane Eyre, though madly in love with Mr. Rochester, pulls away from him upon discovering the existence of his lunatic wife, Bertha. She chooses to leave him, refusing to be his mistress. Jane is quiet, told often that she shuts her emotions down. Bertha can be seen as a metaphorical representation of Jane's inner rage towards all of the institutions and people who silenced and controlled her. Early in her life she tells her friend that she would rather attack those who muffle, shame, and command her than let them treat her miserably. And yet she does so often acquiesce to the vicious commands of others, including her aunt's, her cousin's, and the headmaster.

In rare moments she speaks out, lashes out in some way or another, foreshadowing the explosion of her suppressed self. When Jane allows Mr. Rochester's upper-class friends trample her and talk down to her, she remains as silent as a mouse, secretly raging inside. As her rage grows and her passion for Mr. Rochester grows parallel, the insanity, anger, and fierce desire to be free breaks through in the form of Bertha. The night before her wedding, Bertha destroys her veil, symbolizing Jane's reluctance to give up her freedom, despite her love for Mr. Rochester. This inner self, this madness that has been locked up for years, is finally released and Jane subsequently claims her freedom. In claiming her freedom she calls herself insane.

Still indomitable was the reply — "I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad — as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth — so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane — quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot." [408]

Jane tries to explain to her lover why she values her independence by telling him that though she is madly in love with him, she knows what she needs to be free. The conflicting desires create a feeling of insanity for Jane, a throbbing fiery passion. Yet throughout the novel, she has not shown greater sanity, as she is finally coming to terms with the suppressed desire for freedom she has so long ignored. Her self-suppression drives her insane, and now she is abandoning it. It appears as insanity, in the form of a raging wife, confined to the mansion of a high society man, the destruction of the wedding veil, and the internal conflict experienced by Jane. Jane mislabels her insanity, as she is actually trusting her intuition and serving her own needs, something markedly sane.

Questions

The paragraph above seems to be written in a way that encourages the reader to read with speed and passion, how does the author use punctuation and word choice in order to achieve this?

How is Jane's acknowledgement (though perhaps false) of her insanity different or similar to the level of self awareness present in other works, such as in "Porphyria's Lover" or "The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap"?

How is Jane Eyre's desire to be isolated and independent different from the isolation displayed by "The Coronation." Often isolation is a symptom of someone who is insane, and isolation happens to be a common theme in this book. How does Jane Eyre portray isolation, particularly in this passage and in her desire for freedom? What are the different types of isolation that reoccur in the book, and how do they indicate sanity or insanity?

The author mentions the word "fire" 145 times throughout the text. How do fire (and ice) work as a motif throughout the novel and particularly in this passage?

How does Jane act in a way that in her time period would have been considered masculine? What does this say about her character or about women in general? Her self assertion, aggressiveness, and other supposedly masculine traits play a large role in the novel. What kind of messages is the author trying to convey?


Victorian Overview Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre

Last modified 25 January 2009