Jane Eyre in the Carnival Mirror

Finally, I’m going backwards to the scenes surrounding Jane and Rochester’s wedding day, and tying those into the repeated reflections of Jane in Bertha and in Rochester himself.

Several times throughout the novel, Jane’s true feelings escape the barriers she sets around them; she first lets her true feelings free when she expresses her anger at Mrs. Reed, forms barriers under the influence of Miss Temple, then has a surge of emotion after Miss Temple leaves Lowood to marry, and then much later when she weeps in the orchard at Thornfield. Jane describes this as “I said—or something in me said for me, and in spite of me….”  I’m not the only one to make a connection between this and Bertha’s insanity! I also think you can make a connection with Rochester, who is constantly battling between what society says is required of him, and what he needs to survive with a whole soul. “It would not be wicked to love me,”  he says, and she replies, “It would to obey you.”  This is reinforced, later, with St. John Rivers–it would be wicked for her to marry him when he did not love her, and when he would allow only obedience from her. Jane is right when she decides that would result in her death, either physical or of the soul.

Jane and Rochester both have turbulent needs, and need the other both for self-mastery and to allow freedom of their souls. Rochester says, “You master me,”  and Jane makes of him “an idol”  while still struggling to maintain her selfhood. They understand each other very well, particularly in their flaws; more than once Rochester expresses Jane’s thoughts, and she reads his motives and moods with uncanny skill. They’re both very manipulative! The ultimate expression of Jane’s selfhood is when she leaves Rochester, reinforcing that she cannot let him compromise her principles, which to her are equivalent to sanity. She says, I care for myself.”  (It’s interesting that she is physically opposite to Bertha. Jane is tiny and pale, Bertha is big and corpulent, and compared to Blanche Ingram, who is “dark” with olive skin and dark hair.)

Mirrors: when Bertha appears in Jane’s room to destroy the fancy wedding veil Rochester had bought, Jane sees Bertha’s reflection in the mirror. Back in the Red Room where her Uncle Reed died, child-Jane notes that the mirror world looks “colder and darker.”   On the morning of the wedding, Sophie makes Jane look in the mirror. Jane sees “almost the image of a stranger” in dress and veil, the plain veil Jane had made herself. She dreams of the Red Room again, and of the Moon as a Mother; perhaps in the mirror’s other world?

After Bertha’s existence is revealed to Jane, and Rochester is telling his story, it’s a really long monologue at times, very tell not show! That section gives a different pov on many preceding events; the Male Other reveals his thoughts so he’s no longer a “romantic” mystery, ironic because in most other ways Jane already knows him so well. They are so close, in fact, that the supernatural event of her hearing his heartfelt cry of “Jane! Jane! Jane!”  is believable. (Jane attributes this event to Nature itself, which I find interesting; it could possibly be linked to the Moon as mother.)

Rochester and Jane being separated for a time is repeated often in romance novels that follow; the couple must be severed for a time, reminded of their solo selves, before they can truly be together as equals.

Finally, near the novel’s end, when Jane is walking through the forest towards Ferndean, I couldn’t help but think the description of the path was very vulvic, or perhaps symbolic of the deep emotional depths of the psyche: “grass-grown track descending the forest aisle, between hoar and knotty shafts and under branches arches…it stretched on and on, it wound far and farther…all was interwoven stem, columnar tunk, dense, summer foliage–no opening anywhere.”  Deep within Jane is her connection to Rochester, and his to her. It’s a good thing they end up together.


All of the tagged Brontë posts, in reverse order.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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2 Responses to Jane Eyre in the Carnival Mirror

  1. Tumperkin says:

    Thank you for your Jane Eyre posts which I've richly enjoyed. I read JE twice when I was quite young – 12 and then again when I was 14 or 15. Reading your posts has made me think I probably should revisit it. As a young reader, I found Jane herself a rigid, ungiving character, but that was when I was teenager and didn't have a proper understanding of the period and predicament of Jane. I think I might feel differently about her now.

    I've always found Rochester a fascinating character: his cruelty and his oddness, his strange tricks on Jane. When I was younger, I wanted Jane to accept what he was offering and hated that she left him to be blinded and disfigured. I wanted her to put him above her sense of what was right. Funnily enough, I think that romance novels often deliver that early desire of mine: I see again and again the message not so that love conquers all as that it excuses anything (there's a well-known essay by CS Lewis that disapproves this notion). Interestingly, as an older reader, I see all this somewhat differently and find myself attracted to stories in which the protagonists don't automatically put their desires first.

  2. Victoria Janssen says:

    I'm glad you enjoyed the posts! The more I learn about the period the book was written, the more extraordinary it seems to me.

    Would that more romance characters today were as complex and interesting as Jane and Rochester!

    Interestingly, as an older reader, I see all this somewhat differently and find myself attracted to stories in which the protagonists don't automatically put their desires first.

    Ditto – and even aside from that, I think it makes for a better book with more conflict when that happens.

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