In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, how does the necessity for secrecy and Mr. Rochester's choice to reveal or keep the secret affect the plot and contribute to the meaning of the work as a whole?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre has many Gothic elements that allow Mr. Rochester to maintain control of his secret as a means by which to create tension in the plot as well as in his relationship with Jane. Mr. Rochester, one of the most popular Byronic heroes, must have a secret that tortures him from the past to the present. He is caught between having been victimized (fooled into a lemon marriage) and taking present responsibility for the unfair actions of his past. He wants to do the right thing by taking care of Bertha (his secret) who is insane, but also feels entitled to carry on with his life. This poses a deep question as to the morality of his actions as he pays for her treatment but lives abroad. Then, Mr. Rochester seems to push the morality envelope to its furthest point by getting all the way to the altar before being forced to reveal his secret. And it is Jane who must help him to fulfill the duty to Bertha by running away and not placing them both in a compromising situation--justified though it may seem. The secret, how it originates, how it is kept, and how it is revealed contributes to the thesis of the novel because both Jane and Mr. Rochester cannot move on while Bertha still lives; and, Jane cannot achieve her full happiness that she deserves after a tough childhood as an orphan. After Bertha's existence is revealed, the greatest question is how to resolve the situation, which sets up the climax of the story where the mansion is burned and Mr. Rochester receives his lashes for his sins by receiving a maimed arm and blindness. Had it not been for the way Mr. Rochester handled his secret, and his choice to prolong it or even keep it, the story would not have been as interesting. Or, Jane would have found out a long time later that she was illegally married and that would have caused the same results. The secret had to be dealt with in order for Edward and Jane to be together.

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Jane Eyre

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