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Week 3: Jane Eyre II

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Anne Jamison

on 31 July 2018

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Transcript of Week 3: Jane Eyre II

Charlotte Bronte's
Jane Eyre
Madness, Sexuality and Race

"[T]he character [Bertha] is shocking, but
I know that it is but too natural
. There is a phase of insanity which may be called
moral madness
, in which all that is good or even human seems to disappear from the mind and a fiend-nature replaces it. The sole aim and desire of the being thus possessed is to exasperate, to molest, to destroy, and preternatural ingenuity and energy are often exercised to that dreadful end.
The aspect in such cases, assimilates with the disposition; all seems demonized
. It is true that profound pity ought to be the only sentiment elicited by the view of such degradation, and equally true is it that I have not sufficiently dwelt on that feeling; I have erred in making horror too predominant.
Mrs. Rochester indeed lived a sinful life before she was insane, but sin itself is a kind of insanity
; the truly good behold and compassionate it as such.'

Charlotte Bronte, Letter to W.S. Smith, 4 January, 1848., qtd. in Carolyn Vellenga Berman
Creole Crossings
(Ithaca: Cornell UniversityPress, 2006), p. 122.
Jane Eyre/Bertha Rochester
a morbid perversion of the natural feelings
, affections, inclinations, temper, habits,
moral dispositions
, and natural impulses, without any remarkable disorder or defect of the intellect, or knowing and reasoning faculties, and particularly without any insane illusion or hallucination."

James Cowles Pritchard,
A Treatise on Insanity and Other Disorders Affecting the Mind
(Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1837), p. 16.
Bethlem Hospital
"One of the side rooms contained about ten [female] patients, each chained by one arm to the wall; the chain allowing them merely to stand up by the bench or form fixed to the wall, or sit down on it. The nakedness of each patient was covered by a blanket only ... Many other unfortunate women were locked up in their cells, naked and chained on straw ... In the men's wing, in the side room, six patients were chained close to the wall by the right arm as well as by the right leg ...
Their nakedness and their mode of confinement gave the room the complete appearance of a dog kennel

Edward Wakefield, "Extracts from the Report of the Committee Employed to Visit Houses and Hospitals for the Confinement of Insane Persons, With Remarks, by Philanthropus" in
The Medical and Physical Journal
32 (August 1814): 122–128.
‘Neither chains nor corporal punishments are tolerated, on any pretext, in this establishment. The patients, therefore, cannot be threatened with these severities … To the mild system of treatment adopted at the Retreat, I have no doubt we may partly attribute, the happy recovery of so large a proportion of melancholy patients …
If it be true, that oppression makes a wise man mad, is it to be supposed that stripes and insults, and injuries, for which the receiver knows no cause, are calculated to make a mad man wise? Or would they not exasperate his disease and make excite his resentment?
… The superintendent … is fully of the opinion that a state of furious mania, is very often excited by the mode of management.’

Samuel Tuke,
Description of The Retreat
(York: W. Alexander, 1813)
Samuel Tuke
"In presenting textbook cases of female insanity, doctors usually described women who were
disobedient, rebellious, or in open protest against the female role

Elaine Showalter, "Victorian Women and Insanity" in
Victorian Studies
23.2 (1980): 157.
"Do not imagine hysteria to be a disease peculiar to persons of weak minds. It will often select for its victim a female member of a family exhibiting more than usual
force and decision of character
… of
strong resolution, fearless of danger, bold riders
, having plenty of what is termed

Frederic Carpenter Skey,
Hysteria: remote causes of disease in general
(London: Longmans, 1867), p. 55.
The monthly activity of the ovaries which marks the advent of puberty in women has a notable effect upon the mind and body
: wherefore it may become an important cause of mental and physical derangement … It is a matter also of common experience in asylums, that exacerbations of insanity often take place at the menstrual periods … There is certainly a recurrent mania, which seems sometimes to have, in regard to its origin and time of its attacks, a relation to the menstrual functions, suppression or irregularity often accompanies it; and it is an obvious presumption that
the mania may be a sympathetic morbid effect of the ovarian and uterine excitement, and may represent an exaggeration of the mental irritability which is natural to women at that period

Henry Maudsley,
Body and Mind
(NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1871), p. 78.
"[T]he irritation of ovaries or uterus … is sometimes the direct occasion of
nymphomania – a disease by which the most chaste and modest woman is transformed into a raging fury of lust
… We have, indeed, to note and bear in mind how often
sexual ideas and feelings
arise and display themselves in all sorts of insanity; how they connect themselves with ideas which in a moral mental state have no known relation to them; so that it seems as inexplicable a virtuous person should ever have learnt, as it is distressing that she should manifest, so much obscenity of thought and feeling."

Henry Maudsley,
Body and Mind
(NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1871), p. 79.
"it is disturbingly clear from recurrent images in [
Jane Eyre
] that Bertha not only
, she also
. The imprisoned Bertha, running ‘backwards and forwards’ on all fours in the attic, for instance, recalls not only Jane the governess, whose only relief from mental pain was to pace ‘backwards and forwards’ in the third story, but also that ‘bad animal’ who was ten-year-old Jane, imprisoned in the red-room, howling and mad ..."

Sandra M. Gilbert, "Plain Jane's Progress" in
2.4 (1977): 797.
"I love you better now, when
I can be really be useful to you
, than I did in your state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and protector."

Jane Eyre
, p. 582
Lecture Questions

1. In what ways does Bertha Mason seem to be Jane Eyre's 'double'?

2. How are morality and female madness interconnected in the novel?

3. How is Bertha's assumed madness complicated by her racial position in the novel?
Jane, imprisoned in the red-room, howling and mad;
"I did not like re-entering Thornfield ... I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement ..." (p. 154)
passionate, angry, oppressed.

stalling Jane's marriage to Rochester;
tearing Jane's wedding veil;
subjugating Jane's rage.
Women and Madness in Nineteenth-century Britain
Bertha as Racial 'Other'
"Nearly everywhere in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British and French culture we find
allusions to the facts of empire
, but perhaps nowhere with more regularity and frequency than in the British novel. Taken together, these allusions constitute what I have called
a structure of attitude and reference
the right to colonial possessions helps directly to establish social order and moral priorities at home
. Or again, Bertha Mason, Rochester's deranged wife in
Jane Eyre
, is a West Indian, and also
a threatening presence
, confined to an attic room."

Edward Said,
Culture and Imperialism
(London: Vintage, 1994), p. 73.
"Charlotte Bronte deploys the feminist metaphor of
domestic slavery
for staging
one woman's rebellion against sexual and economic bondage
. As an orphan and poor relation at Gateshead, the young Jane has a social rank even lower than that of the servants. When her cousin, John Reed, violently attacks her for reading books that do not belong to her, she compares him to a Roman slave driver ... Her triple denouncement makes public an analogy she had previously kept to herself.
Language assumes a force of its own, transforming her former passive resistance into active and open rebellion

Jenny Sharpe, "Excerpts from
Allegories of Empire
" in
Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. A Casebook
, ed. Elsie B. Michie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 79-80.
images of slavery are associated with patriarchal oppression and, subsequently, female rebellion against this sexual and economic bondage
the moment of female adult socialisation is associated with violent entrapment and angry rebellion
What about Bertha?
Why is Bertha incarcerated in the attic at Thornfield Hall by Rochester?
Frederic Carpenter Skey
British surgeon
Henry Maudsley
British psychiatrist
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Anderson qualified as Britain's first female physician and surgeon in 1865.
1. In what ways does Bertha Mason seem to be Jane Eyre's 'double'?
2. How are morality and madness linked in the novel?
3. How is Bertha's assumed madness complicated by her racial position in the novel?
What are the
'facts of empire'

White European superiority (cultural, economic, political).

How are the 'facts of empire' alluded to in
Jane Eyre
and to what effect?

Jane's inheritance of her uncle's money;
the assumed 'imperial' authority of Rochester's friends;
Bertha's economic and racial heritage as 'creole' and plantation landowner.
"When I left college, I was sent out to
, to espouse a bride already courted for me. My father said nothing about her money; but he told me Miss Mason was the boast of Spanish Town for her beauty: and this was no lie. I found her a fine woman, in the style of
Blanche Ingram
: tall,
, and majestic. Her family wished to secure me, because
I was of a good race
; and so did she. They showed her to me in parties, splendidly dressed ... She flattered me, and lavishly displayed for my pleasure her charms and accomplishments. All the men in her circle seemed to admire her and envy me."

Jane Eyre
, p. 401.
"both sisters were as
fair as lilies
... Mrs Colonel Dent ... had a slight figure,
a pale, gentle face

Jane Eyre
, pp. 226-27.

"[Lady Ingram] there was an expression of almost insupportable haughtiness in her bearing and countenance. She had Roman features and a double chin, disappearing into a throat like a pillar: these features appeared to me not only
inflated and darkened
, but even furrowed with pride ... She had, likewise, a fierce and a hard eye:
it reminded me of Mrs Reed's
... Mary had a milder and more open countenance than Blanche; softer features too, and a skin some shades fairer
(Miss [Blanche] Ingram was dark as a Spaniard)

Jane Eyre
, pp. 227-28.
"[John Reed] sometimes reviled her [Mrs. Reed] for
her dark skin
, similar to his own ..."

Jane Eyre
, p. 22.
"her [Mrs Dent's] scarf of
rich foreign lace
... A crimson velvet robe, and a shawl turban of some gold-wrought
Indian fabric
, invested her [Lady Ingram] (I suppose she thought) with a truly
imperial dignity

Jane Eyre
, p. 227.
"her cast of mind common, low, narrow, and
singularly incapable of being led to anything higher
... her vices sprang up fast and rank: they were so strong, only cruelty could check them, and
I would not use cruelty
Hiring a mistress is the next worse thing to buying a slave
: both are often by nature, and always by position,
: and to live familiarly with inferiors is

Jane Eyre
, p. 402 and 409.
"Mr Eyre has been the Funchal correspondent of his house for some years ...
he implored Mr Mason to lose no time in taking steps to prevent the false marriage

Jane Eyre
, pp. 385-86.

"your uncle,
Mr Eyre of Madeira
, is dead; ... he has left you all his property ... you are now rich ..."

Jane Eyre
, p. 500.
"Mr Mason, a
West India planter and merchant

Jane Eyre
, p. 401.
Funchal, Madeira
; a Portuguese plantation colony and significant port of call on the trade route between the African continent and the West Indies.
"One night I had been awakened by her yells ... it was a fiery West Indian night ...
I was physically influenced by the atmosphere and scene, and my ears were filled with the curses the maniac still shrieked out
... there is not a future state worse than this present one - let me break away, and go home to God! ...
A wind fresh from Europe blew over the ocean
and rushed through the open casement: the storm broke ...
The sweet wind from Europe
was still whispering in the refreshed leaves, and the Atlantic was thundering in
glorious liberty
; my heart, dried up and scorched for a long time, swelled to the tone, and filled with living blood - my being longed for renewal -
my soul thirsted for a pure draught
. I saw hope revive - and felt
possible ... 'Go,' said Hope, 'and live again in Europe' ..."

Jane Eyre
, pp. 404-405.
"a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was,
whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell
: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some
strange wild animal
: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face ... the clothed hyena rose up, and stood tall on its hind-feet ... The maniac bellowed: she parted her shaggy locks from her visage, and gazed wildly at her visitors.
I recognized well that purple face - those bloated features

Jane Eyre
, p. 384.

"It was a
face - it was a
face ...
the lips were swelled and dark

Jane Eyre
, p. 372.
George Gliddon and Josiah Clark Nott
, Types of Mankind
Bertha Mason is mad
; and she came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through three generations! her mother,
the Creole
, was both a madwoman and a drunkard!"

Jane Eyre
, p. 382.

"since the medical men had pronounced her mad, she had, of course been shut up."

Jane Eyre
, p. 404.
"See that she
is cared for as her condition demands
, and you have done all that God and humanity require of you ... Place her in
safety and comfort
shelter her degradation
with secrecy, and leave her ... I at last got her to Thornfield, and saw her safely lodged in that third-story room, of whose secret inner cabinet
she has for ten years made a wild beast's den - a goblin's cell
. I had some trouble in finding an attendant for her, as
it was necessary to select one on whose fidelity dependance could be placed
; for her ravings would inevitably betray my secret ... I hired Grace Poole from the
Grimsby Retreat

Jane Eyre
, p. 406.
James Cowles Pritchard
"a nature the most
gross, impure, depraved
I ever saw, was associated with mine, and called by the law and by society a part of me ... the doctors now discovered that my wife was mad -
her excesses had prematurely developed the germs of insanity

Jane Eyre
, p. 403.
"I am my husband's life as fully as he's mine.
No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am
: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together."

Jane Eyre
, p. 589.
How has Jane's new sense of equality and servitude been achieved and at what cost?
How does Rochester describe Bertha's character? What are her 'excesses'?

"her cast of mind common, low, narrow"; "coarse and trite, perverse and imbecile"; "violent and unreasonable temper"; "a pigmy intellect"

"her vices sprang up fast and rank"; "intemperate and unchaste"; "debauchery"
"I tried the companionship of mistresses ... an Italian, Giacinta, and a German, Clara; both considered singularly handsome. What was their beauty to me in a few weeks? Giacinta was
unprincipled and violent
: I tired of her in three months. Clara was honest and quiet; but
heavy, mindless, and unimpressible
: not one whit to my taste. I was glad to give her a sufficient sum to set her up in a good line of business,
and so decently get rid of her

Jane Eyre
, p. 409.
"I resisted all the way: a new thing for me, and a circumstance which greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot were disposed to entertain of me ... she and Miss Abbot stood with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully on my face,
as incredulous of my sanity

Jane Eyre
, pp. 18-19.
"Bertha is both a threat and a warning,
demonstrating the dangers of becoming a passionate woman (a state which conclusively leads to madness) and the consequences for defying one's role within the household
. This juxtaposition of the sexualised and demonised made wife and the pious and plain betrothed provides a template for an idealized bride, as Jane chooses morality even over romantic interest and economic luxury."

Aubrey Mishou, "Surviving Thornfield: Jane Eyre and Nineteenth-century Evolutionary Theory" in
(2014): 255.
"None of these descriptions [of Bertha in the novel] quite assigns Bertha a
biological blackness
. But they assign her grades of cultural, emotional, and intellectual development deemed
primitive on Victorian scales of civilisation
; and all of these conditions are attached, within Victorian racial discourse, to biological darkness."

Patricia McKee, "Racial Strategies in Jane Eyre" in
Victorian Literature and Culture
37 (2009): 70.
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