Gilbert and Gubar

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  • Created on: 05-06-16 14:18

Gilbert and Gubar

The Madwoman in the Attic, 1979

Feminist writers Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar wrote an in-depth analysis and criticism of Jane Eyre, focusing on it from a feminist standpoint. They considered a variety of elements within it and wrote their analysis in a chapter of a book called The Madwomen in the Attic. They entitled this A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane's Progress.

They looked at the contemporary criticism of Charlotte Bronte herself, as Victorians attempted to commit 'personal heresy', as CS Lewis put it, by trying to psychoanalyses the author from her work:

  • Matthew Arnold (1853) commented that 'Her mind contains nothing but hunger, rebellion and rage'
  • Even some women at the time saw Bronte as 'Soured, coarse and grumbling; an alien … from society and amenable to none of its laws' (Anne Mozley, 1853)

They also commented on the contemporary reaction to the novel:

  • 'What horrified the Victorians were Jane's anger' they stated, showing how Jane broke the presumption that Victorian women and children should be 'seen and not heard'
  • The idea of Victorian female feminists wanting to gain equality, as shown in the novel, seemed ludicrous at the time, Gilbert and Gubar comment 'The women who earns to escape … obviously cannot'
  • Rochester telling Jane about his relationship with Celine was also analysed from a Victoria stand point and it was realised that this conversation 'struck many Victorians as totally improper' and showed the informality to which Jane and Rochester regard each other
  • It was seen as 'anti-Christian' due to negative religious character and disregard for social rules, particularly 'rebellious feminism'

The women emphasise the connection between Jane and Bertha, focusing on how similar they are:

  • They stated that Jane's 'Most important … confrontation … [with] Bertha' not Rochester, this shows how they consider Jane facing her own darker self is more important than her facing others
  • Jane's anger is personified as 'the demon of rage'  who is Bertha, as both women suffer under Rochester but unlike Jane, who is bound by social and moral rules, Bertha retaliates
  • Therefore 'Bertha is … [an] avatar of Jane', of what Jane would have been if she surrendered to her passion for Rochester and married him at their first wedding.
  • 'Bertha … is Jane's truest and darkest double, her 'ferocious secrete side'
  • The 'death of Bertha frees her from the furies that torment her', highlighting how important the death of Bertha is to Jane. Not only so she can marry Rochester but symbolically as Jane finds her 'middle way' between passion and autonomy

The is a strong focus within the analysis on the infamous red room scene:

  • Gilbert and Gubar so is as an analogy, which 'perfectly represents her [Jane's] vision of the society in which she is trapped'
  • They even give it the

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