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Function, Affect and the Necessity of Bertha Mason in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2008 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 15 credits / 22,5 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The character of Bertha Mason Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has become one of the most discussed and debated literary figures. Twentieth-century scholars are intrigued by the ambiguousness of her character, which prompts them to delve deeper into the plot of Jane Eyre in an effort to discover her true function within the text. Most scholars interpret this novel as a feminist tract and have analyzed Bertha from various feminist and psychological theories ranging from Bertha as Jane’s double (Wylie 1999) to her evil Other (Beattie 1996), as a necessity for Jane’s coming of age (Gilbert and Gubar 1979) to a hindrance for Jane’s coming into selfhood (Bolt 2008). She has been viewed as a symbol for the struggles of Victorian Era women, who have to survive by connecting themselves to powerful and wealthy men (Rich 1979) and as a symbol of Rochester’s raw sexuality (Eagleton 1975). However compelling an argument each of these scholars makes, they are only theories that can never be one-hundred percent proven. On the other hand, this essay argues that Bertha has three main functions within the text that are undeniable: First, as an effective literary device that provides the plot’s mystery, second as the main reason for Jane’s moral dilemma and third, to invoke reader sympathy. To help support this argument, it was necessary to explore Victorian attitudes towards 'female roles', ‘madness’ and ‘colonialism’ in contrast to modern views on these issues. This will give the reader a better understanding of the times in which these characters lived and why Bertha presented a moral dilemma for Jane and how her character invoked reader sympathy not only for herself but also for Jane and Rochester.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. , 20 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8641OAI: diva2:175086

Available from: 2009-03-19 Created: 2009-02-26 Last updated: 2009-03-19Bibliographically approved

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