This is an interesting 'Note on the Text' that I found in the 'Oxford World's Classics' edition of Jane Eyre. I singled out the parts that I liked and uploaded it here for those who are interested to read it. It's not my imagination nor is it my writing! All rights go to Charlotte Bronte and the Editor. By the way please tell me if it's not right to upload things like this because I'm not sure!
The Silver Lining
The subject of the 'mad wife' has evoked extensive critical commentary. Many critics have been dismissive, regarding the episodes as an unwelcome intrusion of gothic style into realist text, and others have merely shied away from it in embarrassment, or seen it as a legacy of the 'over heated imagination' of Bronte's early writings.
Over the last two decades such readings have been radically revised. Elaine Showalter in A Literature of their Own and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar in 'The Madwoman in the Attic' (which drew its title from Jane Eyre),focused critical attention on the parallels between the 'red room' and the 'attic', and between Jane and her 'darkest double' Bertha Mason.
Structurally, the connections are clear; Jane's experiences as a child prefigure the later representation of Bertha. After a violent outburst she Jane is imprisoned (and narrowly escapes being bound), and breaks in violent screams for her release. She is feared by the family and the servants as some form of animal, or 'infantine Guy Fawkes'; a figure who breaks out 'all fire and violence' without warning after 9 years of quiescence.
Bertha is similarly imprisoned, and breaks out literally in 'fire and violence' in the 10th year of her in carceration. The form of presentation is very different, however: with the red room we feel with Jane the real injustice that has meted out to her, whereas with Bertha we are positioned as Mrs. Reed and the servants, and see, as they saw, a disturbing, animal-like figure who attacks without provocation, and needs to be locked up.
For Rochester the distinction between Bertha and Jane is absolute: violence and gross animality are set against modest purity and ethereality. Bertha is an ugly misshapen flesh while Jane is a mere 'spirit'. As readers we cannot be so absolute in our judgments.
Jane notes how warped are Rochester's judgments on his string of European mistresses who succeeded Bertha and resolves never 'to become the successor of these poor girls', knowing that if she does so, and 'he would one day regard me with the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory'.
Has a similar 'desecration' occurred with Bertha? Although we see the results of Bertha's actions, our primary knowledge comes from Rochester's account. Can we trust the perceptions of this would-be bigamist? Or is he, like Mrs. Reed, unknowingly biased in his depiction?
Although Rochester expresses nothing but horror for Bertha, it is significant that, for Jane, she remains an 'unfortunate lady' whom she refuses to judge: 'she cannot help being mad'.
And here is a funny piece I found:
Bronte, indeed, caused great embarrassment to Thackeray when she dedicated the second edition of Jane Eyre to him since it was public knowledge, though unknown to Bronte, that Thackeray's wife was mad! Rumors flew around that Jane Eyre must have been written by Thackeray's governess!
And another interesting piece:
Rochester suggests that once they are married Jane's time of tyranny will be over: 'I'll just--figuratively speaking-- attach you to a chain like this his watch chain The seeming redundancy of 'figuratively speaking' is significant , for it draws attention to the novel's strategy of constantly crossing, or dissolving, the boundaries between figural and the literal. Rochester's teasing suggestion, which carries with it a playful instantiation of the (merely figurative) claim that men keep their wives in chains, turns out later to have an all too literal meaning, in the figure of his first enchained wife.
Although Bertha dies, she is not consumed by the fire; she crashes down to a gory, very physical end, whilst the flames claim Rochester as their victim, enacting on his body the very mutilation Jane had wished, figuratively, to impose on herself. On deciding to leave Rochester, Jane had called on the language of the Bible to define the mental torture to which she should subject herself: 'you shall yourself pluck out your right eye; yourself cut off your right hand.' Christ's prescription for would-be adulterers is enacted literally, however, on Rochester by the hands of Bertha. Metaphor is instantiated in his sightless eyes, and useless arm.
And yet another…
Whilst Rochester had indulged in sex and loathed himself for doing so, St John aims for complete repression. Both seek Jane as an agent of purification. Rochester makes Jane the 'recipient of his secrets', knowing that she can absorb his past life without being 'liable to take infection…for while I cannot blight you, you may refresh me'. Jane will assuage Rochester's sense of sexual contamination. For St. Jon she appears to offer the possibility of marriage without the feared release of 'delicious poison' which so alarms him in his responses to Rosamond Oliver.
Jane is saved from succumbing to St John only by the voice of Rochester. Her call to heaven is answered by a decidedly secular response, and her rewriting of St John the Divine's, 'I am coming! … Oh, I will come' into highly erotic terms once more verges on the blasphemous. Jane returns to her 'god' but, although she still calls him 'my master', it is clear the terms of the relationship have changed. Earlier she had been unable to 'see God for his creatures'; now she takes command, and interprets the world for Rochester's sightless eyes. Now it is she who, in an explicit secular rewriting of Revelation, is the 'alpha and omega' of Rochester's life.
St John Rivers draws on the words of his namesake, St John the Divine, to call on Jesus for death: 'surely I come quickly'. Yet these words immediately recall Jane Eyre's response to a very different 'master': 'I am coming! … Oh. I will come!', turning the novel back upon itself.
These points were just interesting to me I hope you've liked them as well!