Jane Eyre

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Bertha Mason Character Analysis

Rochester's insane Creole wife from Jamaica who is locked away on the third floor of Thornfield. Bertha is portrayed less as a human being than as a Gothic monster or a vampire. Because of her Creole or mixed race parentage, Bertha reveals Victorian prejudices about other ethnicities. She represents Rochester's monstrous secrets.

Bertha Mason Quotes in Jane Eyre

The Jane Eyre quotes below are all either spoken by Bertha Mason or refer to Bertha Mason. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Jane Eyre published in 2006.
Chapter 11 Quotes
While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a region, a laugh, struck my ear. It was a curious laugh; distinct, formal, mirthless. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it began again, louder: for at first, though distinct, it was very low. It passed off in a clamorous peal that seemed to wake an echo in every lonely chamber; though it originated but in one, and I could have pointed out the door whence the accents issued.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Bertha Mason
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

Jane is attempting to settle into her new life at Thornfield, but as Mrs. Fairfax finishes up her tour, Jane hears something entirely unexpected in such a quiet, gloomy house: laughter. Here the supernatural quality of the scene is, paradoxically, described in careful, measured detail. Jane attempts to determine the exact qualities of the laugh, the exact properties of its pitch and location. Indeed, she is soon able to fix her judgment on the exact spot from which the sound is coming.

For now, Brontë keeps the reader, as well as Jane, in the dark regarding this mysterious element of Thornfield. Rather than showing the laugh to be a figment of Jane's imagination, this passage stresses her careful capacity of judgment, underlining the book's understanding of the supernatural and the real as not opposites but as mutually productive.

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Chapter 20 Quotes
What crime was this that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner?—what mystery, that broke out now in fire and now in blood, at the deadest hours of night? What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey?
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Bertha Mason
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

Jane has accompanied Rochester to Grace Poole's upper-floor room, where they have found Mr. Mason bleeding and writhing. While Rochester goes to fetch a doctor, Jane is left alone with Mr. Mason and with her own thoughts. This chapter had begun with a frightening scream that had echoed through the mansion, and Jane now wildly begins to wonder what might be the source of such a cry.

In a series of questions, posed far more out of anxiety and fear than out of a scientific desire to get to the bottom of the mystery, Jane becomes progressively more eloquent and descriptive, even if morbidly so. She calls the source of the scream a "mystery," "creature," and "voice," thus underlining how she has only the vaguest sense of what has taken place. The book leaves us, too, in suspense: will the novel now turn even more to the assumptions of Gothic fiction, and embrace the supernatural, or will it remain within the realm of realistic prose? 

Chapter 26 Quotes
What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.
Related Characters: Jane Eyre (speaker), Bertha Mason
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:

Finally, for the first time, Jane lays eyes on the source of all the strange happenings and mysterious sounds that have seemed to haunt Thornfield. But this first sight fails to substantially clarify the situation, or help Jane understand who this person is - even though she knows intellectually that it must be Bertha Mason, Rochester's legal wife. 

Bertha is described not in human but in animal terms. Indeed, it is the inability to describe her as a woman that locates the source of her insanity. Jane may have pressed at the borders of what is permitted and is not among women, especially of a particular social class, but she now witnesses someone who has thrown all those strictures out entirely. As Bertha fails to act as a proper woman, as a proper wife to her husband, the book has no way left to describe her other than by considering her non-human, making an analogy to the animal world. 

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Bertha Mason Character Timeline in Jane Eyre

The timeline below shows where the character Bertha Mason appears in Jane Eyre. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 26
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...that Rochester is already married. 15 years ago in Jamaica, Rochester married a Creole woman, Bertha Mason, who still lives in Thornfield. The other stranger turns out to be her brother,... (full context)
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
The Spiritual and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...that the story is true, but stresses that neither Jane nor anyone else knew of Bertha. His wife is insane, he says, and is kept locked away on the third floor... (full context)
Chapter 27
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
...a partner with Mason in the West Indies and arranging a marriage for him to Bertha, who was promised a huge inheritance. Rochester met Bertha only briefly, but was dazzled by... (full context)
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
By this point Rochester's father and brother had died. Legally bound to Bertha, Rochester returned to England, secretly installed her at Thornfield, and hired Grace Poole to watch... (full context)
Chapter 36
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Spiritual and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Jane learns what happened from the proprietor of a local inn. Bertha escaped and set Jane's old bedroom on fire. As the inferno spread, Rochester helped all... (full context)