Jane Eyre Jane Eyre question

What if Bertha had not died?
Paul Paul May 20, 2011 02:34PM
I've been thinking for months(since I first read it) that Jane Eyre is the perfect example of the perfectly moral person who always makes the right decision, but then something occurred to me today...

What if Bertha didn't die? Jane went running back to Thornfield not knowing what had happened. It was as if her passion had finally won out and she was going to jump into Rochester's arms when she got there. What about Bertha? It appears at that point she had decided it was killing her to stay away, so she was going to be with Rochester regardless of the first wife.

Arriving to find Bertha dead avoids revealing that Jane was not so perfect after all, but isn't that the only conclusion we can draw from her hasty return?

My impression has been that in Bronte's context, Jane wouldn't have had the supernatural experience that called her back if it wasn't right for her to return.
Further, Bronte made it not only okay for Jane to reunite with Rochester, but the right thing to do - he needed her and she could help him learn and grow better than he could have by himself.
I would disagree with your assumption that she was overcome with passion. To me, Jane showed, not a lack of strength to continue to 'hold out', but a firm character in doing what she felt was right.
In my opinion, Miss Bronte orchestrated for Jane a personal mission, more righteous for her than if she'd gone with her cousin, arguing that we each have our own way to bring good to the world.
I suppose though, that since we can't call Charlotte and ask her, it's an unprovable premise.

I think the final act of Jane Eyre gets at something cosmic, for lack of a better word. Her return to Thornfield -- and Rochester's soul summoning her in the first place -- has less to do with the conventional romance (in which Bertha figures as an obstacle) than with the love shared between Rochester and Jane manifest as care and attentiveness to one another. In short, had Bertha lived, Rochester would have needed someone to care for him no less than he does given her death, and Jane would have needed to be that someone to care for him, regardless of whether or not marriage between them would have been possible. I don't think she goes back to marry him, consequences be damned, but rather to love him and inhabit his life to the extent, and only in those ways, her conscience will allow -- their need to live a shared existence is the significant thing (and something on which Bertha's presence or absence has little or no bearing), not the romance.

Her time away from Thornfield makes this clear to her, whereas her close and heartbreaking proximity to what was to have been her wedding day prevented her seeing this.

I think that if Bertha hadn't have died then Jane would just have made sure Mr Rochester was ok. It seemed to me that not knowing whether he was even alive or not was what was killing her the most. I think she just needed to see but then was presented with the bonus of him being available when she arrived. Luckily!

I think that that little psychic moment happened because Rochester was in a bad state. She would help in in any way she could out of Christian duty and for love but she was too straight laced to sleep with him while he was still married. She might have stayed in the house but she'd stick to her moral code.

This is a Gothic novel, so my bet is the only way Jane could have listened to Rochester's supernatural summoning yell, is given the path to her was already clear.

This is a Gothic novel, so my bet is the only way Jane could have listened to Rochester's supernatural summoning yell, is given the path to her was already clear.

I think that if she went back, she would have did the right thing. I'm pretty sure after her epic runaway, she won't make the wrong choice. If she saw that Bertha was still alive (supposing she assumed that, anyways) she would have just treated him as a friend. Also, the calling together on the night really made her longing to see him get to a new level of "grief", I guess you could call it. I think that she would have left after she had seen him.

If Bertha hadn't died, then you'd be reading a different book. It's sort of like asking "what would have happened if Romeo and Juliet decided to call it off" or "what if Becky Sharp was actually nice?"

An interesting take on the "what ifs" of Jane Eyre (and other classic literature) is found in a futuristic and fanciful (but don't let that stop you!) novel called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

Remember that she herself describes her character as rebellious and passionate. She socks John Reed one, and yells at her aunt. By her own admission she falls too deeply in love with Rochester too fast, thus making the central crisis ever so much worse.

I feel bad going off on a side-track, but my parents and I, after watching one of the films, were discussing if Bertha and Rochester's marriage was even still in place. Is a marriage null and void if one of the parties goes insane? (By Anglican Victorian standards, that is?)

Kristen In class, my professor said that in Victorian law, you were actually not allowed to divorce if one of the parties went insane.
Feb 09, 2015 02:56PM

Bertha Mason - live? Her character was never 'alive' in the true sense of the word. Jane herself could only marry Rochester once he had been reduced and she raised in social status. Bertha was the'blot' in the imperialist concept, the peripheral word brought to the centre and destroyed by it. Jane's sense of sisterhood if you will was impaired by her need for love and the contextual necessity for a husband. Bertha live -she was never alive!

I agree with the original poster, I think that 'jumping into Rochester's arms' is precisely the reason Jane goes back to Thornfield. Into the married Rochester's arms, as far as Jane knows...

That is certainly how St John sees it [Chap. 35]. He tells her plainly that what she is doing is lawless and unconsecrated, that she should blush to even mention it. There is nothing lawless or unconsecrated about merely wanting to know how someone is doing, but St John easily sees through Jane's feeble excuse. He then warns her of reprobation and tells her he will pray for her - a response which is incongruous with merely wanting to check up on someone but fits perfectly with Jane returning to Rochester as his mistress.

This is St John's understanding of the situation and importantly, Jane says nothing whatsoever to contradict him; and we know how Jane hates to be misrepresented: remember the Brocklehurst incident!

Also, there is no question in my mind that had Rochester been outside the door when Jane heard the voice calling her name, that she would have gone with him there and then. Just witness her wild, passionate response to the voice alone!

The morning St John leaves for Cambridge, Jane watches him go and remarks that she too has some to see and ask after in England 'before I depart forever'. Chap. 36.
This clearly does not refer to St John, whom she does not want to marry and who will not have her on any other terms. I believe this can only refer to her decision to take up Rochester on his offer of moving to France and living there as man and wife.

Jane has spent a year living according to 'law and principle' and it has not brought peace or satisfaction; on the contrary she is utterly miserable. Now she is doing a u-turn, rejecting her former 'law and principle' (personified by St John) and choosing 'passion' come what may.

I will go further: I see her comment of leaving England forever as also meaning that if [the married] Rochester is not at Thornfield but gone to the continent to resume his former life, she will follow him there, track him down and stay with him there! She is independently wealthy now and can easily do so.

In the event, Charlotte Bronte has so arranged things that Jane does not have to act on these resolutions, but they were, I believe, fully present in her mind. This is Jane Eyre: making up her own mind - changing it, in fact; quite willing to cross society and its norms and live her own life on her own terms, whatever anyone says.
Thoroughly modern, and very radical and scandalous for its time. Yes, I think this is the only conclusion we can draw from Jane's return.

Kristen I think if Jane were returning to Thornfield to be with him, a married man, she would be violating herself, which is precisely why she would not marry ...more
Feb 09, 2015 02:58PM

She had to die!

My impression is if Bertha lived, Jane would still be with Rochester, because the reason she goes back to him is love, I think. She hears his calling after St. John's futile pursuit and realizes what true love is.

If she found out about Rochester and Jane..first thing she would do is cry then have a huge mental breakdown and die.

Well, I guess we will never know. Charlottes dead :(

Paul wrote: "I've been thinking for months(since I first read it) that Jane Eyre is the perfect example of the perfectly moral person who always makes the right decision, but then something occurred to me today..."

Also, my last comment for the night, one thing that I love about Jane Eyre is that she always makes the right decisions. Some people easily find that very annoying, but I don't. Since Jane narrates her own history, we feel the pain she goes through, we hear the arguments that go on inside her head, we have insight into her weaknesses, and then we see her triumph. I find it very encouraging and inspirational.

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