A theory that is often applied to nineteenth century and Victorian literature is that of the psychological double. This is a term for a character that embodies the unacceptable or repressed side of another character. Gilbert and Gubar, and others, have suggested that Bertha is the psychological double, “the secret self” of Jane. This isn’t meant to be taken literally, of course! Jane is Jane, and Bertha is Bertha. But from a metaphorical or symbolic perspective, consider what the character of Bertha might represent in relation to the character or mind of Jane. Beginning with the scene in the red room, consider the scenes and speeches that relate to captivity or prisoners, the desire for freedom, and madness. Trace these phenomena through the novel, using the idea of Bertha as Jane’s double. Use the text to back up your ideas.
Jane has always been oppressed, lied about, shut up and not able to speak the truth about herself. Her aunt Mrs. Reed would lie, saying that she was a child of the devil, wild, and a liar. Mrs. Reed would lock her in the dark and frightening Red Room, where Jane is terrified by the sight of her uncles ghost, whom she believes has come back to punish Mrs. Reed for her treatment against Jane. Since Jane is an orphan at this time she is trapped at her aunt’s home and can not leave unless for school or when she is old enough. She does end up leaving and going to Lowood School, where once again she is stuck in an awful situation that she dislikes. The children were deprived of enough food, warm living conditions, enough rest, and a very harsh and strict upbringing. Jane was also declared a liar at this school, thanks to Mrs. Reed. Jane couldn’t get out of this stronghold of hatred that her aunt had against her.
Nearing the end of the book, Jane still fights for freedom and happiness. She worries that one day Mr. Rochester will stop loving her, will leave her, and that it will have all been a joke played on herself. After so many years of not being loved, but being brutally hated it’s hard for Jane to grasp that Mr. Rochester could really love her. On the day of their wedding she finds out that Mr. Rochester has had a wife this whole time and can not go through with the marriage even though he wants them to elope together and forget all about it. Bertha’s existence again proves Jane unworthy of being married to Mr. Rochester, something again robs her of her freedom and happiness to have what she wants in life and to do what she wants to do.
Bertha could be seen as Jane’s side of her personality that isn’t oppressed. Bertha acts out in violence, such as tearing up Jane’s veil a couple of nights before the wedding. Bertha is really the wild one, who needs to be locked up in the top story room; she must be repressed because she acts aggressively and murderously. It is a representation of the frustration and hidden feelings Jane has always kept inside of her and instead acted civilly toward everyone.