What character difference are there between Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason in the book Jane Eyre?Much appreciated! = )

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bertha Mason and Jane Eyre are both women who have experienced intense anger. Jane feels deep rage as a child at her cold and hateful aunt, Mrs. Reed, and at her abusive cousin, John Reed. Like Bertha, she acts out her anger and has a fit of what appeared to be madness after finally snapping and attacking John for his cruel behavior towards her. Like Bertha, she is considered unfit to be a member of the family that housed her.

However, while Bertha is shut away from society on the top floor of Thornfield Hall, Jane is exiled to Lowood School, a repressive charity institution. Unlike the isolated Bertha, Jane's tenure at Lowood allows her to forge friendships, most notably with Helen Burns and Miss Temple. Both of these female role models help teach Jane to moderate her anger.

Therefore, Jane and Bertha differ in that Jane is able to manage and channel her anger in productive, rather than destructive, ways. While Jane tells Mrs. Reed what she thinks of her, she is later able to transcend her rage and succeed in becoming a governess. Jane earns her own keep and lives with integrity, even initially abandoning Mr. Rochester to be true to herself. Through developing her skills and learning self control, Jane is able to break the bonds of anger in a way Bertha never could, along the way earning Rochester's respect and love.

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bertha Mason, as presented in the book Jane Eyre, is everything Jane is not.  Jane is depicted as being physically plain and slight of build.  She is highly intelligent, and, her tendency to be outspoken notwithstanding, she is a proper Englishwoman, comparatively cultured, fine, and neat in appearance and manner.  Jane is capable, and sensible.  She is a survivor, is passionate, as well as strong in character.  In contrast, Bertha is monstrous, barely human.  Although she shows with her sinister actions that she is capable of some awareness and rational thought, recognizing Jane as as a threat to her position and seeking her demise to prevent that from happening, she cannot speak intelligibly.  Bertha is presented as being exotic and unbridled; she is violent, clearly insane, and exhibits an animal nature.

Despite the clear differences between them, however, it has been suggested by some critics that Bertha's character runs parallel to that of Jane's, with Bertha being a kind of "darker double of her English counterpart.  In support of this theory, it is interesting to note that Bertha lives confined to the attic at Thornfield, just as Jane was earlier locked up in the red room at Gateshead Hall.  Both women are or have been a source of attraction to Edward Rochester, and both are at one point married to him.