Doubles in Jane Eyre

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The use of “the double”, or “second self” in literature is a tool often used to represent hidden or repressed aspects of the main character’s identity. “The figure of the literary double proceeds from the Romantic period to the present. It has developed from supernatural origins, harbingers of evil and death, to an element of individual psychology and a domestic feature” (Miller 416). By examining the doubling between and within the characters in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre I consider the various representations of the female gender and how Jane’s doubles, Bertha Mason, Helen Burns, and Mrs. Reed contribute to the construction of Jane’s gender.

Jane Eyre’s quest for love can be seen as a measure of establishing her identity as a woman in a society in which women are expected to be submissive. In order to retain her autonomy Jane must explore her true inner-self. Karl Miller maintains, in his book Doubles: Studies in Literary History that “doubles may appear to come from the outside as a form of possession, or from the inside, as a form of projection'” (Miller 416). While Bertha Mason appears in the book as only a minor character, the figure of Bertha has come to have variety of meanings through numerous analyses of Jane Eyre. The argument has often been made that Bertha is actually Jane’s double who expresses Jane’s suppressed anger against the restraints of gender and patriarchy in Victorian times. Claire Rosenfield says “the novelist who consciously or unconsciously exploits psychological Doubles may either juxtapose or duplicate two characters; the one representing the socially acceptable or conventional personality, the other externalizing the free, uninhibited, often criminal self” (Rosenfield 328). For example, the disti...

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...y, love and independence.

Works Cited

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London: Penguin Books, 1996.

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale Nota Bene, 2000.

Lerner, Laurence. “Bertha and the Critics” Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Dec., 1989), pp. 273-300

Miller, Karl. Doubles: Studies in Literary History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985. Print

Rosenfield, Claire. Daedalus, Vol. 92, No. 2, Perspectives on the Novel (Spring, 1963), pp. 326-344

Thomas, Ronald CHAPTER The Advertisement of Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre: A Case Book. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.

Worhol, Robyn R. “Double Gender, Double Genre in Jane Eyre and Villette”. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 36, No. 4, Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 1996), pp. 857-875
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