The treatment of Bertha Mason and Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester in Jane Eyre
As we had this discussion before and as I was forced to surrender to people who deliberately wanted to believe that 19th century asylums in Great-Britain were horrible places like Bedlam Hospital, and wanted to see Rochester in a positive light, I decided to investigate my claim that the treatment of Bertha in Jane Eyre was not at all a noble one, and that, as a consequence, the character of Edward Rochester didn’t have to be seen in a noble light, but more on the contrary, in a very bad one, as a character that has lost the way totally to be made, by the end of the book, to find the good way back. The treatment of Bertha and the goodness or badness of Rochester are inextricably linked with each other: if the one is positive, the other one is and vice versa.
If we first have a look at Charlotte Brontë’s surroundings and circumstances, we notice that her father, Patrick Brontë, bought two Leeds newspapers, namely The Leeds Mercury and The Leeds Intelligencer, as well as having subscriptions to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Keepsake and Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country (1). All children read them (2). The letters of Patrick Brontë used to appear in the two newspapers regularly (3). The Lunacy Act of 1845, following the Lunacy Commission attracted much attention and no doubt a number of articles were published in those two newspapers as a result. As Charlotte used to read those newspapers and as her father was certainly interested in it, him being a very eloquent and energetic campaigner, certainly those articles must have attracted their attention.
It is known that after 1844 it was not common, not even in Bedlam Hospital (The Lancet even noted that ‘on 10.6.1842 no patient in Bedlam Hospital was under restraint.’), to restrain patients physically (4). In an issue of Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine of June 1834, Miss Martineau, later to be Charlotte’s friend, wrote an article on the new Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. It contains a section about ‘the rich lunatic’, which refers to shutting up without activity and in secrecy as follows: ‘This is barbarity, this is iniquity, whatever may be done for them besides’, and further advises to put rich lunatics in asylums like Hanwell ‘where the inmates shall compose a cheerful, busy, orderly society, where there shall be gardening, fishing, walking, and riding, drawing, music, and every variety of study…’. She regrets that ‘educated gentlemen’ and ‘accomplished ladies’ do not get the treatment of the ‘ignorant, gin-drinking pauper’. Lunatics, she argues, should be kept usefully busy and in a happy environment (5). This was in 1834! Even if Charlotte would have dated back the circumstances in her book by ten or eleven years (which is maybe not the case), then still the treatment of Bertha would not be according to the most modern standards. In fact it has been argued that Rochester indeed might have been outdated with the treatment of his wife (6). Admittedly, higher classes would try to camouflage madness until it became too disturbing and then would conceal the person in question. However financial status would allow them to actually put lunatics in private asylums, with a private doctor or even on the Continent, so that their condition wouldn’t mark the family name (7). It has been argued that the treatment Rochester subjects Bertha to would rather be according to 18th century principles, when people regarded lunacy as a punishment of God rather than a disease (8). His financial status certainly would have given him the possibility to keep Bertha in more humane circumstances and/or bring her to an asylum. As far as I recall I cannot remember that Rochester ever looked for treatment for her. He rather left her, as lunatics were left in the 18th century in and outside of asylums, without treatment. In the 19th century there were even facilities to keep people alone, in a house with their own keepers, like was done with Isabella Thackeray. Mr Thackeray indeed locked up his wife but not in inhumane circumstances. He tried to have her treated first, but unfortunately nothing worked and then he decided to lock her up in a whole house (!), unlike Rochester did with Bertha: he just locked her up and that was it (9). He tells Jane he hired Grace Poole from the Grimsby Retreat, as if the Grimsby Retreat was a renowned place. What is so great about the care Grace gives Bertha if one can actually call it care? Maybe it is not at all sought too far as to say that Rochester was actually not very tolerable, modern and not at all a noble man, locking Bertha up in the attic. As Miss Martineau argues above, life was potentially better in an asylum than at home without care.
Patrick Brontë was also interested in psychology, which he studied in his books. He even underlined ‘hereditary disposition’ in John Graham’s Modern Domestic Medicine (1826), which Charlotte certainly used for Bertha (10). We know she had great respect for the man, making a reference to him, calling a doctor partly Graham in Villette (11). Furthermore she attributes the madness of Bertha to ‘moral madness’ (12): a type of madness for the first time introduced in James Cowles Prichard’s A Treatise on Insanity and other Disorders affecting the Mind, published in 1835(13). Charlotte - reading the articles, her father being a vivid campaigner for the poor and other good causes and being interested in psychology – must have known about new ways how to treat diseases like that. It seems highly implausible to me that she would have found 18th century conditions to treat lunatics normal or even ‘noble’ as has been argued by others.
It is known that Charles Dickens, immensely popular at the time of Brontë, campaigned for a humane treatment of lunatics (14). Are we to believe that Charlotte herself did not read anything of Dickens in her life, despite his popularity? Charlotte had access to the libraries of her father, Ponden House, where Patrick Brontë often came. and the revolving library at the nearby town of Keighly (15). Is it then totally impossible for her to have read something from Dickens? Apparently not. She wrote about him in a letter to Hartley Coleridge, 10/12/1840, that Dickens, among other writers, wrote ‘like boarding-school misses’. Admittedly, she didn’t like his style much, but if she read some of his works something can have brushed off on her. And it probably did: one particular story in one of Dickens’ early works, Sketches of Young Gentlemen, published in 1836, mentions a sketch called The censorious young gentleman (16). It mentions a Mr Fairfax in the role of this censorious young gentleman. It is striking how alike Dickens’ Mr Fairfax and Brontë’s Edward Fairfax Rochester are. She can also have read a number of other works of his: The Pickwick Papers (1836), which contains A madman’s manuscript; Oliver Twist (1837-39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41), which contains a part about a madhouse (17) and, Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty (1840-41), which contains a part about an idiotic child whose mother pleeds not to whip him (18).
The argument that all asylums in the days of Charlotte Brontë were bad places, where people were locked up like Bertha does not remain standing. There were bad places, agreed, but there is no reason to believe that Charlotte didn’t read all those articles on new and better asylums, books about treatment and passages in Dickens’ works to form another opinion than the one we think people had at the time.
It is certainly not credible that she didn’t care if one takes into account the name of the place where Grace Poole was hired from: the Grimsby Retreat. Surely there must have been a reason why Charlotte mentioned the explicit name of some unknown place, that didn’t exist and that she made up. Seeing as she based Thornfield Hall and Lowood School on real places she encountered, there must be something this Grimsby Retreat was based on. Of course we can start by taking the name under scrutiny.
There was in Yorkshire a very well-known lunatic asylum called The York Retreat. It was an asylum, founded in 1796 by William Tuke (a quaker), the first in its kind to offer non-restraint outside France, where the first doctor to adopt this method was Mr Pinel. It offered moral treatment, treatment based on the principle of teaching the mad person to try to control his emotions and self-esteem (19). The system was later adopted in Hanwell. I found two sources that claim that the Grimsby Retreat was actually based on the York Retreat itself, but until now I haven’t been able to find the original (20), but if indeed Charlotte considered Rochester’s treatment to Bertha quite outdated, then maybe she could have made an allusion to a leading asylum in modernity as to make a statement.
If we look at the first part of the name we see ‘Grimsby’. Grimsby is a town situated at the cost of East Lincolnshire. It has existed since the Middle Ages and used to have a large whale and after that fishing industry.
As I said before Patrick Brontë also had a large library, which he encouraged his children to read from. Branwell, Charlotte, Anne and Emily also had access to the revolving library of the nearby town of Keighly and to the library of Ponden House, which Patrick Brontë acquainted (21). It is widely known that Charlotte read works by Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare, John Dryden, John Milton and lots more (22). Furthermore she knew French and learned German and consequently read books in those languages as well. Certainly in French, fed to her by Mr Héger (23). So the argument that she wasn’t well read does also not seem to stand. As I said before Patrick Brontë was subscribed to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine which featured a wide range of articles, from literature and poetry to political reports. In their early writings about Angria, there is proof of Branwell’s and Charlotte’s knowledge of political issues (24), featuring the Duke of Wellington, and later his sons, as principle character(s) of Charlotte. So, as she was apparently quite well read, we can maybe look at the Sturm und Drang-Rochester again. There are some sources that claim that Rochester is not totally a Byronic hero. If we look at the definition of a Byronic hero, Rochester does not totally comply…(25) Earlier I stated that Rochester’s initial situation was very similar to Schiller’s play Die Räuber (1781). It is not implausible that Charlotte actually read this play, as she owned an edition of Schiller’s collected works, published in 1838. Mrs Fairfax even says something in the way of bad things being said about Edward, by Rowland, and their father believing it, early in Jane Eyre (26). It is utterly impossible that Charlotte Brontë, with all the languages she knew and all the articles in newspapers and magazines she read, wrote totally on her own, on an island, as has been presumed.
In chapter XIX, when Bertha bites her brother Richard Mason, Rochester says: ‘It’s a mere rehearsal of Much Ado about Nothing’. What did he mean by this? Much Ado about Nothing is a comedy by William Shakespeare from around 1598.(27) Rochester called the nightly stabbing of Bertha ‘a mere rehearsal of Much Ado about Nothing’. Indeed, it was only a rehearsal, because his ‘not being a virgin’ was not going to be disclosed just yet. It would be disclosed at the wedding itself. By quoting the play, Rochester apparently regards the visit of Mason as a list to disclose his non-virginity which is not even true, similar to the list Don John and Boraccio played to have Hero denounced at her wedding by the bridegroom. In this way Rochester sees himself as the poor, pure Hero who is being slandered, because of someone who doesn’t want her and her groom to be happy. The reversal of roles – a male being female and vice-versa – occurred more in 19th century literature and thus it would not be totally unrealistic to have Rochester be in the shoes of Hero, as the innocent female. Of course this is Rochester’s view. The reality is far from what Rochester presumes it to be.
In another way the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice is quite similar to the one between Rochester and Jane, Rochester having to seek a list in order to make her confess that she loves him. Even when Benedick finally admits (to himself) that he loves Beatrice, she doesn’t. And she needs two times to do it. The first (in the gazebo) is not in public. The last will be at the end. It is also like that for Jane, she doesn’t admit at first, but because of a list (the courting of Blanche and the ‘new post’ in Ireland) she finally does, but only to Rochester. They will only marry the second time, at the end.
The fact that Hero is ‘dead’ is also true for Rochester as he will believe that Jane is dead when she has run away. He will also marry a veiled bride, as he will be blind when he finally marries Jane. He will only see her after three years. Claudio says, when he marries the veiled bride, ‘if thou likest me’. He lets the girl decide whether she wants to marry him, Rochester alike when he says: ‘Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision.’ (chapter XXXVII), hence Jane’s ‘Reader, I married him’ in chapter XXXVII. Here again the reversal of roles is apparent.
Charlotte new Shakespeare’s plays and so it is understandable that she incorporated some of them in her book.
Mr Rochester’s name provides us with some information about his character too. He is fully called Edward Fairfax Rochester. Besides the name ‘Fairfax’ maybe having its origins in a tale composed by Charles Dickens, published in 1836, we can also link the full name of Edward Fairfax to a 17th century writer and translator (28). Charlotte can have come across him via several roads, two to be precise. Firstly, there is the fact that Charlotte read pieces by John Dryden, who highly praised Edward Fairfax for his writing style and his translation of Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, 1600, Godfrey of Bouillon’s account of the siege of Jerusalem. She can have read it as there were two copies of it in the library of Ponden House, one of 1687 and one of 1749. Secondly, Edward Fairfax wrote a treatise on demonology and was a passionate believer of witchcraft.(29) If Charlotte didn’t read the treatise then she can have come across it when it was discussed by Scott in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, or in Colderidge’s (who was a friend of Bramwell Brontë) Lives of the Illustrious Worthies of Yorkshire (1831).(30) We cannot jump to conclusions on this one, that Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre would be of a demonic nature, but we cannot rule it out. Certainly because at the time Charlotte wrote her book, there was a hype of devil’s pacts going on in literature, both on the continent and in Britain (31). Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron, themselves made works touching this subject(32). If we look at two works of Byron: Cain. A mystery (1821) and Manfred. A dramatic poem (1817), we see two tormented characters. The first one comes straight out of the Bible, as the play tells the story of Cain and his brother Abel (Genesis 4: 1-16) from Cain’s perspective. Cain’s killing of Abel would be provoked by Abel’s hypocrisy and sanctimony (33). After Cain has killed his brother he is cursed by God to wander the world, marked so no one will kill him. Rochester also wanders both after the locking up of Bertha and after the loss of Jane. He even calls himself cursed at two occasions (34). At the end he argues his punishment is too heavy to bear and he asks to die (chapter XXXVII).
In the preface Bryon stated that probably some of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) inspired some of his Cain ‘because he read it so many times’. We see a hero-Satan, who tries to make others believe he does the right thing. He calls God a tyrant, locking him up in Hell, although the gates of Hell fly open once he wants to pass them (35). If we see this in relation to Rochester in Jane Eyre, we see him call Thornfield a ‘dungeon’ (36), although he has not been in Thornfield for most of the time for the last 10 years and he can still leave it when he likes. So what is the credibility of Thornfield being a dungeon to him? It is so credible as Hell being a dungeon to Satan, although Satan chose the place himself en naturally gates open when he wants to go. Rochester tells Jane that his father was ‘an avaricious, grasping man’ (chapter XXVII) who didn’t want to give him any money. But is this really true? The only thing the man did was leaving his money to his oldest son, Edward’s brother, and secure a rich marriage for his youngest son. This was very normal in classes as the Rochesters belonged to (37). So this is not credible, not even in the days the book was written. Rochester puts himself then in the shoes of Hero, the innocent character of Much Ado about Nothing. We would hardly be able to call him as innocent as Hero. We cannot take seriously what he says about the fact that he could have locked Bertha up in Ferndean either. He didn’t because he doesn’t do ‘indirect assassination’ (38). After the fire at Thornfield he goes to live there and still lives there for the next ten years with Jane, but it isn’t good enough for Bertha? There is something that doesn’t fit in his reasoning in this case. Rochester tells lies to Jane he believes himself, he turns truth around to suit him… In a certain way we would be able to call Rochester as deluded as Satan in Paradise Lost, wanting to create a world for himself by himself reigned by himself and trying to delude other people on top of that. An image of Paradise Lost’s Satan can also be found in the first watercolour Rochester chooses from Jane’s pile of paintings. The watercolour features a cormorant, which was Satan’s disguise in Paradise when he went to have a look how he could tempt Eve into eating the fruit of the Tree. The third watercolour Rochester chooses from Jane’s work is one that has tendencies with Satan who is trying to leave Hell in Paradise Lost (39). Not only Rochester has great similarities with Satan of Paradise Lost, but even the theme of Paradise Lost (the Fall of Man) can also be recognised in the second part of Jane Eyre. We would be able to read the behaviour of Rochester as the conduct of Eve in Paradise Lost, Eve becoming the trickster to innocent Adam, who had been warned, thus trying to trick Jane into sin, much like Satan made Eve eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Eve tricked Adam into eating it as well. They both become briefly ecstatic only to sink into despair after. Similarly in Jane Eyre Rochester is tricked into sin by the voice in the West-Indies (leaving Bertha, who is mad, only to wonder around Europe, and to have several mistresses, and an illegitimate daughter with one), and in turn Jane is tricked into sin by Rochester, but they both sink into despair after the failed marriage. Even like Adam and Eve, they are both expelled from Paradise, only in Jane Eyre, they both go their own ways, according to Christian virtue it not being possible for Jane to live with Rochester out of wedlock, whereas in Paradise Lost, they stay together and only contemplate breaking up (40). As said before, it wouldn’t even be that strange, to have the sexes of two characters reversed.
In Milton’s text Paradise is only figuratively lost, whereas in Jane Eyre it can be considered as really, literally lost when Jane returns to Thornfield and finds it burnt and the grounds trodden and overgrown (chapter XXXVI).
Furthermore, Charlotte Brontë knew Paradise Lost so well, that she actually corrected the printing faults in her copy (41).
The second piece of Byron features a character called Manfred, who has committed some mysterious crime. He is remorseful and wants to forget, but is not able to. Because of that he summons 7 spirits and asks them for forgetfulness. Although the word ‘forgetfulness’ seems to be clear, we must explain it a little bit. Manfred does not seek to forget his past life as such, but only seeks to forget his feeling of guilt like the ‘forgetful lake’ in Paradise Lost would allow him. Milton got that in Dante’s Divina Commedia: unlike in Greek mythology (the Lethe) the river made the people who entered the afterlife merely forget their feelings of guilt (42). Manfred seeks to forget the feeling of guilt he has from Astarte committing suicide because he broke her heart. Sadly the spirits are not able to offer him that. After that he does not believe that they are spirits and asks for proof by appearance. The seventh spirit turns himself into a beautiful woman. Upon that Manfred declares that he would like to embrace her. While he faints he is cursed to live forever. Manfred tries to commit suicide, but is not able to. Manfred wants to see Astarte one more time in order to relieve himself from his guild again and calls for the Witch of the Alps. She says she cannot help him because it does not belong to her tasks and anyway she doesn’t know why he called her ‘for a member of the race he so much despises’. He goes to Hell for a last try. Astarte’s spirit is called and he asks her for forgiveness, but she will not tell him that. He asks her if she loves him, but she won’t tell him. She only says that his earthly ills will be over the day after (43). While he waits the whole of the next day the abbot of the nearby abbey enters Manfred’s castle and tells him that his doings with spirits and sorts are not good. Manfred replies that he is doomed anyway and that it is too late for repentance. The abbot doesn’t agree and tries to persuade Manfred to do so anyway, but Manfred persists. In the end Manfred expires. Like Manfred Rochester is in exile after some mysterious thing that happened (44). He also seeks forgetfulness, wanting to burry ‘her [Bertha’s] identity, her connection with yourself [Rochester], [be buried] in oblivion’ (chapter XXVII). He so much wants to forget, but cannot run away from his past. He tries several times to deny having a wife during the wedding scene, but in the end needs to recognise that he has one (45). I would say he so much wants to forget, that, when Mason turns up in chapter XIX, he is so much distraught that Bertha’s existence is remembered again. He even urges Richard to forget her when Carter is dressing his wounds (chapter XX) (46). Bertha’s living place (the third story) is described as a lonely place where there is furniture ‘wrought by fingers that for two generations had been coffin-dust.’ All those had given the third storey of Thornfield Hall an aspect of ‘a home of the past: a shrine of memory.’ (chapter XI) Indeed, Rochester sought forgetfulness, but was as unlucky as Manfred not to be able to find it. Furthermore, Thornfield Hall is often associated with a ‘vault’ (47). What does it actually mean: ‘vault’? According to the Collins English Dictionary it can have several meanings from which: 2 a room, especially a cellar, having an arched roof down to floor level, 3 a burial chamber, especially when underground and 4 a strongroom for the safe-deposit and storage of valuables. So Charlotte associates Thornfield with underground rooms, even with a grave, or a safe to lock things in… She uses the same word ‘vault’ to describe the family grave of the Rochesters in the grounds of the church in chapter XXVI (48). So another reason to presume that Rochester in fact seeks to forget Bertha’s existence. In fact, for him she is as dead as the dead in their caskets in the family vault. Hence his resistance to the fact he’s actually got a wife already. He has totally forgotten the fact that he has one and has made a world for himself excluding Bertha, just as Satan in Paradise Lost makes himself a world, as mentioned earlier. However, if we put the word ‘vault’ into connection with the Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard, which will be discussed later, then we can suppose that Bertha wasn’t only forgotten about, but is supposed to be ‘dead’. Hence the fact that Bertha's living place has the same 'vault-like air' as the 'Rocheser family vault' in the churchyard.
If we put this ‘forgetfulness’ in connection with the type of forgetfulness Manfred seeks, we can find clues in Jane Eyre that Rochester in fact feels guilty about something (49). But why would he feel guilty? Manfred broke Astarte’s heart. Would something have gone on in that sense in Jamaica? Or would the fact that he locked her up and went off and had mistresses have something to do with his guilt? Or would the fact that he hasn’t sought treatment for Bertha make him feel guilty? If we take the Manfred-view we can presume that he broke Bertha’s heart. Maybe she wasn’t mad at all and Rochester didn’t like her and locked her up, but that would be really cruel of him. We cannot say anything about the reason why he feels guilty and we won’t make presumptions, like Jean Rhys did, because it is not our role. But the fact is he does feel guilty. Twice he uses the word ‘remorse’. According to the Collins English Dictionary it means ‘a sense of deep regret and guilt for some misdeed’. If Rochester takes the word ‘err’ into his mouth he talks about the fact that he made a mistake, which is understandable later. But what does he talk about when he takes the word ‘remorse’ into his mouth? The word is connected with crimes, misdeeds etc. He explicitly states that he didn’t commit a crime. Does he then merely talk about the mistake he made in marrying Bertha? Charlotte knew English and she cannot have used a word so heavily laden if she didn’t mean anything by it. Rochester says ‘Dread remorse when you are tempted to err…’ (chapter XIV). I do not believe he talks about the marriage to Bertha. ‘Temptation’ means the act of trying to persuade someone to do something, especially something that is morally wrong or unwise (Collins English Dictionary). In other words Rochester could have chosen the right way, but chose the wrong one, as Eve who knew that she was not allowed to eat from the Tree, but did anyway. So the temptation of Rochester does not refer to the marriage, because he didn’t know of Bertha’s state of mind, and the marriage was not morally wrong or unwise, but refers rather to the fact that he could have chosen to stay with her and care for her, but didn’t, locked her up and went off to lead a despicable life morally, as Charlotte would have seen that. We can even go further if we take into account what the contents of Dickens’ A madman’s Manuscript was. The story was about a man who lost his senses and attacked his wife, who becomes hysterical and then he has her pronounced mad, because the doctors see she’s a woman and suppose that she, instead of him, has lost her senses. If we see this in relation to the ‘remorse’ Rochester, to the image Jane describes in chapter XIX (when Bertha bit Richard), of Judas who seems to come alive, we can maybe suppose that Rochester ‘sold’ Bertha for a bag of silver (the £30,000 that she got as dowry) to public opinion, who pronounced her mad, because she had a sinful life, was disobedient, or just spent too much money, like Messalina who he compares her to in chapter XXVII, who was killed by her husband because she was unchaste. So in relation to everything here we couldn’t possibly interpret Bertha’s locking up as a noble act of Rochester, because he didn’t see it that way himself!
In Jane Eyre, like in Manfred, occurs a witch: Rochester calls Jane a witch, blaming her for ‘bewitching’ his horse and for his sprain in chapter XI. He calls her a witch several times (50). Not only that. Like the Witch in the play of Byron, Jane encourages Rochester twice while he is telling the story of his former life by saying the word ‘Proceed’. After the Witch of the Alps in the play has been called she asks why Manfred called her ‘for a member of the race that thou despise’. This sentence however can be interpreted two-ways. The first being ‘the race thou despise’, and the second being ‘the member thou despise’. If we apply the sentence to the context in which Jane speaks we could interpret it in the second sense. She tells Rochester: ‘Sir, you are inexorable for that unfortunate lady: you speak of her with hate—with vindictive antipathy.’ (ch XXVII) Indeed Rochester despises Bertha. The witch cannot see why she is called, because what Manfred wants – calling Astarte’s spirit in order to ask her for forgiveness – she cannot offer him. She can, however, relieve him of his guilt if he swears true to her, but Manfred refuses and the witch retires to her ‘dwelling place’. Similarly, Jane does not understand what she has to do with a less tormented life for Rochester and she can only offer him God, but, just as Manfred, Rochester refuses and Jane returns to her bedroom (see chapter XXVII). At the end of that particular scene in the play, Manfred says: ‘The night approaches.’ Even that is true in Jane Eyre! After the ‘farewell’ of Jane, five asterisks appear and the very next words after that are ‘that night I never thought to sleep’. However there is no other chapter where there is a pause in the text, there seems to be an explicit one in chapter XXVII.
At the end, when Jane tells Rochester ‘Farewell’, we would be able to interpret Jane as ‘the other’ of Bertha, which has been argued before (51). Jane and Bertha together would be the universal ‘woman’, as it were, which Rochester wrongs severely. If we indeed consider Bertha as ‘the dead disobedient woman’ in Bluebeard’s forbidden cupboard, then we can see that Bertha is called up that day. Of course Bertha is not able to speak and so it is Jane who needs to do it for her. Rather than the feminist idea of Bertha as ‘the locked up other’ of Jane in this case Jane is used as the voice of Bertha. Bertha’s spirit is called, during the wedding and certainly after it, but Bertha is too disturbed to do what Astarte does in the play. Jane doesn’t speak at first, does not forgive Rochester (in words), and does not tell him she loves him as before (only in the beginning, but that was to be ‘the last time she must express it), just as Astarte. In the end ‘all ills will be over tomorrow’, as Jane will leave, and Rochester will not come out of the house anymore and he will stop living like before. He will even send Adèle to school and thus get rid of the proof of his past misconduct. In the end Bertha commits suicide, and dies (ten years too late as she was already forgotten, and in a vault for ten years), like Astarte. Rochester tries to save her, and thus repents of his wrongs and recognises his crime, unlike Manfred, and earns himself another chance to marry the universal woman, who he will not (be able to) wrong anymore. In the last and one before last chapter there is nothing about Bertha anymore, apart from what the owner of the inn tells Jane. Rochester has been relieved of his guilt and lifted out of the place of his crime and can now start a new life.
As Manfred Rochester tries to commit suicide, but abandons the thought after a second (52). During the story there are several attempts to his life. The first one being the fire in the bed in chapter XVI, the second one being Bertha who charges towards him after the wedding in chapter XXVI, and the third one being the fire that Bertha instigated, told by the owner of the inn in chapter XXXVI. Unfortunately fate always prevents him from dying, even when the stairs fall on top of him.
Until here the things in Jane Eyre that are clearly similar to Manfred, but if we take Millstein’s view on Manfred: that Manfred is so self-centred that he ‘imagines himself beyond the reach of conventional morality’ and thus that the love between Manfred and Astarte is the reflection of Manfred’s narcissism (53), we can say in connection to Rochester that Jane and Bertha together, would summarise the two roads Rochester can go. Either he persists in his narcissism, which he has advocated for at least ten years now, and he will become senseless (Bertha), or he will humble himself, become religious again, and he will become a sensible person (Jane). As Manfred Rochester doesn’t want to be true to anyone but himself, going as far as asking Jane to see (his) reason. Indeed, he will reject Jane’s proposal to go the same road as she, and he will become senseless (54). At the time Jane accepts Rochester’s proposal, Rochester seems determined to make Jane a wonderful bride for himself. He wants to send for the family jewels, he goes to buy her dresses and jewellery. Jane rejects this when she says: ‘I shall not be your Jane Eyre any longer, but an ape in a harlequin’s jacket—a jay in borrowed plumes.’ (chapter XXIV) It is not that she is not good enough for him because she is his likeness (55), but because he wants to satisfy his pride. He does not want to marry his ‘governess’, as he asks her to ‘stop her governess slavery at once’, but he wants to marry a rich woman who Jane is not. And in an attempt to achieve that - if he is not allowed to buy her jewellery, dresses and send for the family jewels – he buys her a wedding dress and a veil that reflects ‘Fairfax Rochester’s pride’, a demon that Jane is used to seeing. He even summons Jane to die with him, in chapter XXIV. Rochester is so occupied, obsessed almost, with himself that he finds his likeness in a fairy, witch, elf, etc., creatures that are immortal and superior to humans. He tells Jane ‘death is not for the likes of you’ after the song he sings for her in chapter XXIV. He even feels so superior to others that he plays with Ingram, courting her when he doesn’t have the smallest intention to marry her, something that was not done at all. If he sees Ingram in that way, he certainly sees Bertha as inferior to him. He admits that he hates her, not even because she is mad. Here we would be able to see Byron’s sentence at work: ‘A member of the race thou dost despise’. It is not only the person itself he hates, but even the race as such. He earns himself the right to possess someone (Bertha), use someone (Ingram) and make someone immortal by calling her an elf/witch/fairy etc. (Jane). Even when Adèle persists in the fact that ‘Mademoiselle is not fairy’, he doesn’t cease to call Jane that. There Rochester even earns himself the ability to take Jane to the moon. When he dresses up as the gypsy, he makes out to be paranormally gifted. In that, he again associates his person with witches who have access to the supernatural. Although Jane tells him that it was not a gypsy he acted out he thinks his list was ‘well carried out’. When Rochester asks her, after the wedding has been cancelled, ‘then you condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?’ he puts Jane on the level of determining his life. In other words, he was going to marry a creature that has earned the right to decide what happens to him. In the same chapter he associates her with a Sphynx a divine creature of Egyptian culture. Jane, on the other hand doesn’t agree she can determine his life, but he doesn’t hear. It is only after he realises his hardships and God’s role in it, his own inferiority, that he comes to his senses again. He makes out that Jane is a ghost (again), but that is quickly put right. However Jane still needs to tackle his materialism, when Rochester offers her the pearl necklace again. On the other hand she does accept his watch, but then again, he hasn’t got ‘a use for it’. She doesn’t react to the necklace, because the roles have been reversed. She is now able to say no, whereas before, he wouldn’t have taken no for an answer. He himself is no longer the reference, but Jane who ‘suit[s] [him]’. He doesn’t say ‘I entreat to accept me as a husband’, but he asks her whether ‘[he] suit[s] [her]’ and lets Jane herself say something about it.
People can think about this analysis what they like, but it puts at least the gypsy-scene into perspective. It is very difficult to see what Charlotte actually meant by this scene, and it is clearly visible that it is of great significance. It is not merely a list of Rochester to be laughed at, but it bears great atmosphere and great tension, for both Jane and Rochester. And if we follow Millstein’s path on Manfred we can easily give significance to the gypsy as a costume for Rochester.
His bond with narcissism is symbolised in his dog, Pilot, the dog being the symbol of ultimate fidelity. The first ever scene, when Rochester falls off his high horse, literally, Pilot doesn’t only stand for Rochester’s good nature, but also for his good nature that is being reigned by narcissism, symbolised in Mesrour and brought to human size in Rochester’s person. Rochester and Pilot are ever together, apart from this once, when Jane comes home, just after the encounter in Hay Lane and sees this dog in front of the fire. She calls it by name and it comes, Jane having been called a witch already, maybe this scene can be seen as a kind of foretelling what will come. The most adorable and poignant scene in this case is the scene the morning after the proposal: Pilot walking back and forth behind Rochester on the pavement as he is waiting for Jane to go shopping in Millcote. If we indeed interpret Rochester as the top of narcissism it is not surprising that Pilot follows him around, as