Jane Eyre Jane Eyre question


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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!


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.


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


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?"

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Kristen I don't necessarily think this is true. The book is so rooted in Jane's experience in coming of age that the ending is arbitrary. Jane could have just ...more
Feb 09, 2015 02:55PM

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.


deleted member Jul 16, 2012 09:21PM   0 votes
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?)

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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!


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.


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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