Does anybody else just NOT want to read the next chapter? Just stay living here in this slightly uneasy, but still happy section?
No, I'm not quitting the read-along. I'm just not looking forward to chapter 26.
Anyway, getting pretty Gothic here, folks. Jane has her creepy dreams. The weather is stormy and violent. And she thinks her wedding dress looks like a wraith or a ghost. Creeeeeepy.
And then we read about her nighttime visit from someone truly horrific. Okay, I know we have a couple people reading this for the first time -- I don't know if they're still reading along, but just so you know, this post is going to have LOTS of SPOILAGE. So don't read any more of it until after you've read the following chapter, okay?
Can't say I didn't warn you.
Okay, so I have read a lot about Bertha Mason Rochester over the years, about what her ripping of Jane's veil means and so on. You can find lots of theories and scholarly opinions online, if you're so inclined. Here's what I think: I think she was warning Jane. Not just warning her that Rochester is already married, and she's about to commit bigamy, however unwittingly. No, I think she's warning Jane that marrying Mr. Rochester is a terrible idea because of who Rochester is. And you know I say that with a great deal of love for Rochester. But he isn't just damaged and broody at this point in the book -- he is rotten. He's lying to Jane, he's manipulating her -- he's selfish and greedy and spoiled. And he's not going to improve just by marrying Jane. In fact, if he and Jane had gotten married, how long before Jane started feeling stifled by his attentions? Or how long before he tired of her?
I think Bertha is trying, in her own addled way, to protect Jane. She could have ripped up the wedding dress. She could have attacked Jane. But no, she only rips up the veil that Rochester bought for Jane. The veil that Jane says was a clear sign of Rochester's vanity and pride. Who knows but that Bertha may have had a similar veil once. At any rate, she recognizes it as a symbol of her husband and of marriage, and rips it apart. As if she's trying to rip Jane and Mr. Rochester apart.
It's significant too, I think, that the last time Bertha escaped her keepers, she attacked another symbol of marriage: Rochester's bed. She didn't stab him, she set fire to his bed. And then awakened Jane with her laughter and left a candle in the hallway as a clue. That was right when Rochester was starting to fancy Jane, and Bertha seems to have somehow sensed or learned of this. She didn't strike out at Jane in jealousy, just like she doesn't harm her now. I think she wants Jane to flee the snare Rochester is setting for her. I know he loves her and thinks he's going to make her happy, but let's face it: she spends the month before their wedding "handling" him and keeping him cross and irritable in order to feel at peace herself. Is that a healthy relationship? Not on either side.
It's not until Jane can escape her cage entirely, grow into a full-fledged adult who doesn't rely on anyone else for affirmation or affection or anything else, that she can safely enter marriage. And it isn't until Rochester has learned to put others before himself, to value himself for only who he is inside and not what he has or can acquire, and to accept help from others that he is ready for a real marriage.
Okay, that's enough for today. I don't have any favorite lines in this chapter, and I don't have any questions for you, other than... what do you think about my ideas on Bertha's motivations and so on?