Jane Eyre Volume III: Identity and Relationships

Jane’s reaction to the revelation of Rochester’s wife Bertha sheds an interesting light on her identity and her relationship with him. The immediate aftermath of the scene with Bertha in the attic is actually a bit of an anti-climax. We, and Jane, discover the huge secret that Rochester has a crazy wife that he keeps locked away in the attic, but there is little passion or rage by Jane to convey the magnitude of this confession. When she speaks of the event in the attic, she seems to think of it like an afterthought of something that just happened during the day. She says, “The morning had been a quiet morning enough – all except the brief scene with the lunatic: the transaction in the church had not been noisy; there was no explosion of passion, no loud altercation, no dispute, no defiance or challenge, no tears, no sobs” (293). Her description of the day is incredibly calm and subdued. The “brief scene with the lunatic” is portrayed as only a small event of that day and is completely diluted. The reader would reasonably expect a conflict of some kind, or at least a few tears shed, but the entire scene is very composed and rational. But, it is almost too rational. I felt as though there should be some drama and doors slammed in a situation like this. Jane’s composure after hearing that the man she was about to marry has been lying to her in a spectacular way is difficult to accept.

However, there seems to be a reason that Bronte underplays this scene. The controlled, rational depiction of the aftermath symbolizes Jane’s state of shock. She is still too stunned and numb to fully process everything and feel all the emotions that this will bring up. Her emotional distance from the event is communicated by how she speaks of herself in the third person, lamenting, “where was the Jane Eyre of Yesterday?” (293) and “Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent expectant woman – almost a bride – was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate” (293). She is looking at herself from the outside, looking down pityingly on this poor, alone girl that she sees. She had invested so much into her future with Rochester that its sudden disintegration has disintegrated her very sense of self. She no longer defines herself by her opposition to the rest of the world, but rather through her partnership with Rochester. When she loses the sense of self that her relationship with Rochester provides, she is simply not herself anymore and so witnesses everything as if she were an unconnected observer.

(The page numbers referenced are from a different version. It’s one of the last pages in chapter 26)

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