This month I am trying to think more creatively because I believe that using language creatively could be the answer to better assimilating it. As Jane Eyre is narrated completely by Jane, I thought it would be insightful to consider the story from the point of view of the other characters. The most intriguing chracter is Bertha, Edward Rochester's mad first wife. All we know about her comes from Rochester's account and of course as he has just been found out as a bigamist, he's hardly going to big her up. Victorians defined madness very differently to us. Taking inspiration from the story told by Rochester in Chapter 27, I thought of the moment in Chapter 25 when Bertha Mason takes Jane's veil, holds it up, throws it over her own head and turns to the mirror before tearing the veil in two. What is she thinking as she gazes into the mirror? Here is my interpretation.
'Who is that woman staring back at me from the mirror? She has my thick black hair but she looks old, her face is wrinkled and her eyes are red and bloodshot. She wears a veil like mine on my wedding day. I was beautiful once. Heads turned as I walked through the town. When I came out at the age of sixteen, I always had a line of suitors at balls. How I danced, how I laughed! A kiss on the hand, brief exchanges of pleasantries and jokes. As long as the party lasted, I was the darling of the ball. But the party was always over all too soon. In everyday life the same exuberance I had shown the night before became unexplicably inappropriate. A drink or a touch too far and people started to point. Rumours flew. I was going the same way as my poor mother before me.
I have always been an awkward burden to bear, an inconvenient, embarassing problem to sort out. 'What are we to do with Bertha?' I am too much, difficult, I always say or do the wrong thing. I don't mean it but I can't seem to do anything right. A match had to be found as soon as possible. Preferably someone ignorant of my reputation and family history. A point in my favour was that I had my own money. Could that entice some poor unfortunate fool? If my family moved quickly we could be married before he asked himself too many questions.
We were caught up in a whirlwind of excitement, but in the end I was too much to handle. We came from two different worlds. I sought refuge in the arms of other men; they never stayed long. And then the doctors came and I found a degree of peace in their poisonous potions. But they left me confused and angry. Would no one hear my cry for help? I fear not. My soul was crushed when they tore me away from my homeland and everything I had known. No one asked me my opinion on the matter. A mad woman cannot make her own decisions. And so I go on half awake, half in dream-like state from which I awake at times. I laugh remembering the parties of my youth and weep profusely missing my family, my friends, my land. I cannot go out but the grey dreary view I glimpse through the window of my prison room is in stark contrast with my bright Jamaican island. I adopted violent language and behaviour to shake a reaction out of my husband but it seemed his mind had already been made made up. I long to feel again, any feeling good or bad. That's why I cut myself to prove that I can feel. How could my own brother allow this to happen? As soon as I saw him the rage erupted in me and I stabbed him with the same knife in the hope of awakening something in him.
Grace Poole escapes from our prison at night with a drug-induced trip and whenever lucidity allows me I escape too and roam the gloomy corridors. At times I go to Edward's room and look at him as he sleeps. He never really wanted to marry me. How could he, he never knew me, never really gave me a chance.
I curse the day I ever wore this veil. This veil that wraps around my head like a noose, I will be rid of it!'
What do you think of my monologue? For me it has been a great way of gaining greater understanding of and empathy for the characters.Why not try it yourself? Write something as Mrs Reed, Jane's uncle Mr Eyre, Mr St John, Adele or her mother. I would be happy to read it.
Every month, I publish a review of the book I ahve read that month.