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Madwoman In The Attic Essay

1315 words - 6 pages

There are many ways to relate Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s female literary criticism “Infection in the Sentence” to the fiction novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. However, from all their criticisms in “Infection in the Sentence” what interested me the most was the one criticism that they had made on Victorian women writers depicting female characters as either the angel or as the monster of the story. This was widely evident in Jane Eyre where both Jane in her childhood and Bertha after marriage are depicted as madwomen. According to Gilbert and Gubar’s perception, nineteenth-century women writers did this to maintain womanhood for themselves and their heroines. This was something ...view middle of the document...

Similarly, Bronte being a 19th century woman writer created this obsessive madwoman character of Bertha in Jane Eyre. After my analysis of the novel, I found that to develop the character of madwoman Bronte had created several premonitions of Bertha, such as strange laughs, screams, and meaningless destruction. As Jane described the strange laugh in the following passage: “It was a curious laugh; distinct, formal, and mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it began again, louder: for at first, though distinct, it was very low” (Bronte 163). While reading this passage, at first I shared a similar reaction to Jane which was to be “superstitiously afraid” of the ghosts (Bronte 164). However, it also gave me a hint on the development of some kind of horror and the possibility of being a supernatural or monstrous element in the novel.
Evidently, after Jane’s encounter with the strange laughs, the premonition came into reality and Bertha became visible in ghostly apparitions. At first, her ghostly apparition was evident when she wickedly attempted to set fire to Rochester’s bed. For the most part, the fire incident created chaos in Thornfield and added more to the development of madwoman figure of Bertha. I used the following passage to interpret this: “Something creaked: it was a door ajar; and that door was Mr. Rochester’s and the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence. I thought of no more of Mrs. Fairfax…no more of Grace Poole……Tongues of flame darted round the bed: the curtains were on fire.” (Bronte 226). From the above passage, I also learned that Bronte had used fire as another element to show the increasing rage and passion of her dark characters like Bertha. In addition, this was also something that was parallel to the argument that Gilbert and Gubar had made earlier about monster characters having the tendency of being angry and passionate. Moreover, another dreadful act of Bertha was stabbing of her own brother. As a reader, this incident to me was very shocking and a complete revelation of Bertha being a very disturbed person.
As we can see from the above evidence, Bronte had created several such incidents to let readers judge the character of Bertha. Intelligently, Bronte never gave chance for Bertha to speak in the novel. I do not know if one has noticed, but whatever we know about Bertha’s character is always from the acts she has committed and what Rochester speaks of her. If thoughts of Bertha were to be involved in the novel, then it might be that we as readers would have gotten a different perspective of her being mad. Therefore, I believe that Bronte had purposely done this as a 19th century woman writer to create this madwoman character in her novel. In addition, Rochester’s...

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