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Women in Victorian literature often came to be seen as "the other" or in more direct terms, as somehow demonized. This is certainly true in Jane Eyre. Bertha Mason, Rochester's mad wife, is the epitome of the demon in the attic. By virtue of being the first wife she is in continually compared to Jane. Although there are parallels in plot and language between the two women, they are completely different people. In addition, Bronte also depicts other women throughout the novel as something to be feared. Whereas earlier in English literature, men were typically depicted as monsters, in the nineteenth century women came to be seen as threatening creatures. They entrap men through their sexuality and then reveal their true demon-like natures.
Just as Jane is the angel in the house, Bertha represents her opposite--the demon in the house. Jane is a sober, sturdy Englishwoman of scrupulous morals. Bertha Mason, even before she goes mad, is depicted as an excitable foreigner of unacceptable values descended from a family of lunatics and idiots. She is shown as the exotic temptress whom Rochester cannot resist. He tells Jane:
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. I was dazzled, stimulated my senses were excited; and being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her (332; ch. 27)
Bertha's behavior is diametrically opposed to Jane's. Jane does not flatter Rochester or over-stimulate his senses. Bronte is presenting readers with an ideal relationship as Jane and Rochester's marriage is not based on flirtation or lust alone. Bertha Mason is depicted as an Eve-li...
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...od-tempered, and well-principled" (475; ch. 38). Thus, it is only through Jane's help and a proper English school that Adele ceases to be the exotic seducer.
Many women in nineteenth century literature were depicted as demonized or something to be greatly feared either because of their sexuality or their resulting madness. Often times, these women were stereotyped as the "exotic other," such as Adele and Celine Varens. This is also true of Bertha Mason, Rochester's Creole wife, who has become a prisoner in the attic because of her madness. Bertha is often compared with Jane because of similar plot twists, but they are clearly intended as opposite characters. Because of Bertha's lax moral system she becomes prey to her own excesses. She suffers from moral madness which results from her lack of morality, and she is now depicted in all her brutish, vicious nature.
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