Mar 20, 2021carolwu96 rated this title 4.5 out of 5 stars
Upon rereading the book in preparation for my spree, I was especially struck by two of Brontes’s characterization decisions. First, the extreme flatness of Bertha Mason as a character.
Bertha is widely recognized as Jane’s opposite in both appearances and temperament, but for someone who precipitates much of the plot, she is described almost uniformly by everyone, and not even her own brother seem to know any better. She is wild, large and dark. She shrieks, attacks, and destroys. This could be a result of Bronte’s often noted prejudice towards Creoles, but it also leads to my second point.
For a book with relatively few characters, Jane Eyre has quite her share of foils and contrasts. While I had known from my previous and only time reading that Helen Burns was a contributor to Jane’s growth, I now see that she is an extreme version of her. Pious. Intellectual. But so much so that she “burns” too brightly and cannot survive this earthly life.
Bertha, while physically Jane’s opposite, also embodies the potential extremity of her passion and restlessness (one hint is that she appears whenever Jane is restive or imagining the distant future), making the reader wonder whether Jane’s extremity literally has to die before she can live happily ever after. Unfortunately, Bertha herself is never developed to beyond a troupe.
Contrasts are ubiquitous even beyond our protagonist: the beautiful, crazed, marble-white but manipulative St.John against the brawn, “irreligious” and lovestruck Rochester. The failed legal mother figure of Mrs.Reed and the bona fide sanctuary of Ms.Temple. The distinction between the pious and intellectual Rivers cousins and the Reed bullies highlights that between both the appointed versus chosen family and dissipation versus fulfillment of dreams.
I had disliked Jane Eyre when I read it in college, but this time, it gripped me from the very beginning. I also know that I will be returning to it, as I have only cracked open the gates to Bronte’s world.