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The impact of the Victorian era on the portrayal of women in literature

Question:

Analytical Study review any Film Play Performance, or a Pieces of Creative Writing.

The Victorian era has witnessed a lot of remarkable changes in the thought process of female writers. The position of the women was challenged and they were analyzed from a different of view. It was first time seen after the romantic age that the patriarchal society was targeted and a new revolution came into being which is known as the feminist revolution. The rage of feminism came as a blow to the patriarchal society. The contributors of the revolution were eminent feminist writers like Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, George Eliot and many other female writers. The essay majorly consists of the comparison of Jane Eyre with The Mad woman in the Attic. Mad Woman in the Attic was written by Gilbert and Gubar. This piece was the outcome of the inspiration of the character of Bertha Mason by Charlotte Bronte. Both the movies were the adaptation of the novels. The movies have portrayed a good picture of the novels. The stereotypical thought of treating the woman was altered in the movie. The character of the woman in the Mad Woman in the Attic was in line with the character of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. The feminist point of view was highlighted in the movie.

The similarity in the movie, the mad woman in the attic and Jane Eyre, lies in the similarity of the character of Bertha Mason of Jane Eyre. The comparison lies in the fact that both the characters are treated as an insane character. The character of Bertha Mason in the Jane Eyre and Mad Woman in the Attic the protagonist has been treated as the typical Victorian-era women who are found to be relatable with every woman who has been viewed by some other woman who has served as the emblem of early feminist characterizations. The most remarkable character in both the movies is Bertha Mason. She is also known as the most problematic character. She is the first wife of Rochester who is the male protagonist of the play. Within the entire time period of the movie no special account of herself was found. Her madness was evident in the movie. Her madness was the primary evident when her husband Rochester brought her back to England (Schulz and Youn 2016). It was then that her condition started getting deteriorated. The viewers get to see her in the worst form when her voice was less heard and she found to express herself through her rebellious actions. In the initial part of the movie she is audible only through her strange laughs and screams and incomprehensive babbling. She is made visible in the movie only in term of ghostly apparitions. There was one instance in the movie where she was lying on the bed and she gazed at Jane with a ghostly look. She attempted to set fire on Rochester`s bed. Bertha appears in the novel in the later half. The truth about her madness was revealed in the latter half of the movie. The sight of Bertha comes into the picture when the marriage of Rochester and Jane was stopped by Bertha. The only direct sight of Bertha comes into the picture when the second marriage of Rochester and Jane was about to occur (Poore 2016).

The contribution of feminist writers in challenging the patriarchal society


There is a difference between being insane and mad. Charlotte Bronte portrayed Bertha as an insane woman in her novel. In the movie Bertha Mason was an insane lady who was not in her senses. In the movie, the Mad Woman in the Attic, the protagonist was portrayed as a mad woman. The fine line between mad and insane was mixed. The reason behind this was the background of the age that was the nineteenth century. The aspects of the Victorian age were prevalent in both the movies.  Bertha was portrayed as the burden of Rochester. This was the common trait of the Victorian age (Johnson 2014). The revolt of Bertha signified the revolt of the female writers. The uprising of the female writers signified their revolt against the patriarchal society through their writings. The movie showcases the entire scenario of the Victorian era. The concept of sanity, insanity is prevalent in the movie. Bertha is placed in the both the movies in the position insane. In mad women in the attic, she is placed in the position of a mad woman. In the latter movie she is dysfunctional and biologically stated as a mad woman. She has been portrayed as a mad and ghostly woman whose actions are like a ghost and this add up to the gothic feature of the movie. The gothic feature has been portrayed in both the movies (Verheul and Hartmann 2016). However Bertha in Mad woman in the attic acted as a symbol of more generalizing the sense in which the female voice was often silenced or muffled in the nineteenth century both in the society and in literature. It is seen as an uncomfortable and disturbing voice (Tweed 2014). The voice of Bertha in the movie acts as the voice against the men who is against the truth and who do not wish to acknowledge the same. In the movie many critics reviewed and argued that the silence of Bertha has been perpetuated in another sense, by the ways in which a male-dominated literary history has tended to either demote the writings of women to a lower rank or to ignore all but very few of the many women from the Victorian age. The reason of this can be thought that it was the wish of the movie directors and the script writers to not make the voice of Bertha Mason audible to the rest world (Hood 2014).

Comparison of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre and Mad Woman in the Attic

The movie can however be argued from the feminist point of view. The movie however moves around the life of an orphaned girl. Jane is the real protagonist of the movie who struggles to get over certain external and internal battles. She comes up to accept that she fell in love with her employer Mr. Rochester who was double her age. Her life turns upside down when she came to know about the ex-wife of Rochester. The more surprising thing for her was that the mad state of mind of his wife. The character of Jane has been portrayed in the movie as a groundbreaking, rebellious (Hillsburg 2017).


On the contrary the character of Bertha has been termed as more rebellious and violent. She has been termed as crazy and mad. Eventually Bertha was found committing suicide and Jane married Rochester. One interesting part of the movie is that in spite of the fact that Bertha was an important figure in the movie, there was no single dialogue of her in the movie. In the movie Bertha did not speak a single word. In the movie the character of Bertha has been portrayed as a flesh-eating creature. The laugh of the character is like a demon and many critics have stated that there was something really mad about her. One school of critics opined that the reason behind this was the years of loneliness. The isolation of Bertha was the major reason behind her action. The bestial image of Bertha has been formed though there has been no proof of it. In the movie Bertha seeks to attain emancipation that was snatched away from her. Through her suicide she rejects the confinement that was imposed on her. The voice of Bertha represented the voice of many other women of the age (Fraser 2015).

On the other hand the directors of the mad woman in the attic argued that Bertha Mason`s madness has been attributed to her features, `red eyes`, `black hairs`. The actor who portrayed the role of Bertha in the movie had attractive black hairs and red eyes. Her portrayal as an insane bestial woman is further problematic as a case of racial prejudice. It has been however noticed that the White Victorian Women possibly could not go mad. The movie therefore avoids the fact that people from all cultures would essentially have anger resulting in irrational behavior if suppressed by society and treated as a passive, second class citizen (Williams 2014). The directors of the film described Bertha as a woman of Creole descent. Even there were rumors regarding the presence of a strange woman in the house. The woman was no one nut Bertha Mason. The rumor was presented in the form of truth. This concept can be related to the idea that madness is usually reserved for women that do not conform to the Victorian code of conduct (Matta 2015). The movie contained a detailed narrative about the `Wide Sargasso Sea`. It becomes impossible to not see through the implied madness of Bertha but giving no account of it and no voice to her. The treatment of the director towards both the characters conform to the idea of having an essential madwoman or devil in the house, in order to affirm to the other woman`s status as `angel of the house` (Coon and Hassan 2015).

Similarities in the portrayal of Bertha Mason in the two works


The gothic romance attracts everyone with a deep tidal force. Part of the feeling of watching a gothic movie is the eroticism squirming to escape from just beneath the surface. The plot has been set on the gothic background. The background of the movie was set in the gothic environment. The dark hero of the story is not Rochester that is for sure. The twenty-year old Australian born Mia Wasikowska gives a self-possessed performance in the leading role as Jane Eyre in the movie. She carries the appropriate style of Jane Eyre, with the bonnets and the middle-parting and fiercely self-deprecatory references to her own plainness as only a sensationally beautiful film star can (Woodcock 2014). Michael Fassbender plays the role of Rochester with a measured observant intensity which mirrors Wasikowska`s Jane. The treatment of other famously dramatic episodes that is the wedding scene and the outcome of Bertha Mason is rather brisk and especially compared with the unhurried way the rest of the film dwells on the countryside, and Jane`s extremely lonely and frustrated place in it (Butler 2014).

On the contrary the movie Mad Woman in the Attic, the quest women had in order to overcome their anxiety and be successful in the public world. Some of the quest hat has been portrayed in the movie are mimicry, revision and hiding. In the movie the director did the task of recovering the body of female literature as well the neglected female history that is clearly reflected in it. The attention to the patriarchal dominance and the liberal power of the creativity of women has been highlighted in the movie. The neglected women and the concept of male chauvinism are projected in the movie (Smith 2014). The oppression of the males against the females is brought out in the movie. The mental sickness is thought to be devilish. This is the case only for women. The sickness of a woman brought her moral down. This made her an immoral woman. The movie however focused more on the rebellion of the woman than the oppression. The attic was the space of escape for Bertha. The movie clearly brought out the raising of the voice of women. It was a hard hit to the entire Victorian age. It came as a hard blow to the male society and the breaking of the stereotypical thoughts (Brown 2017).


Therefore while summing up the review and concluding the essay this can be mentioned that the breaking of the stereotypical thought was the ultimate aim of both the movies. The common content of both the movies was the empowerment of the feminist thought that was represented in the novel itself. Therefore, the character of Bertha Mason was a challenging character in the history of the Victorian era. The Victorian era was completely projected in the movie. Both the movies applied the theory of feminist to establish the character of Bertha and to prove the point that women were treated either as the devil or as angel. There was the belief that if the thought of woman did not match with the society she was considered to be insane. The rebel was a strong one in the movie and it was brought out in a marvelous manner.

References

Brown, C.A., 2017. Introduction: Women, Writing, Madness: Reframing Diaspora Aesthetics. In Madness in Black Women’s Diasporic Fictions (pp. 1-16). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Butler, K., 2014. Kristeva, Intertextuality, and Re-imagining" The Mad Woman in the Attic". Studies in the Literary Imagination, 47(1), pp.129-147.

Coon, E. and Hassan, A., 2015. Did the" Woman in the Attic" in Jane Eyre have Huntington Disease?(S44. 005). Neurology, 84(14 Supplement), pp.S44-005.

Fraser, R., 2015. The ‘Woman Question’and Charlotte Brontë. Brontë Studies, 40(4), pp.314-319.

Hillsburg, H., 2017. Mental Illness and the Mad/woman: Anger, Normalcy, and Liminal Identities in Mary McGarry Morris’s A Dangerous Woman. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 11(1), pp.1-16.

Homans, M., 2015. Jane Eyre, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and the Varieties of Nineteenth-century Feminism. Literature and the Development of Feminist Theory, p.27.

Hood, M., 2014. Mad Woman in the Attic.

Johnson, H.E., 2014. " This face with that mask":" Jane Eyre", Bertha, and the mirror (Doctoral dissertation, University of Alaska Anchorage).

Matta, M., 2015. From ‘Madwoman in the Attic'to Queer Stranger in the Closet': Sexuality and Migration at the. Dislocating Globality: Deterritorialization, Difference and Resistance, 40(1), p.97..

Poore, B., 2016. Karen E. Laird. The Art of Adapting Victorian Literature, 1848–1920: Dramatizing Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, and The Woman in White.

Schulz, J.L. and Youn, J., 2016. Monsters and Madwomen? Neurosis, Ambition and Mothering in Women Lawyers in Film. Law, Culture and the Humanities, p.1743872116673162.

Smith, A., 2016. “Meet My Wife”: Bertha Mason as the Abject in Jane Eyre and its 2011 Film Translation. LURe, 6(1).

Smith, K., 2014. The Attic of My Grandmother's Subconscious’:‘Whiteness’,‘Illegitimacy’and Migration in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and Honor Ford-Smith's ‘Grandma's Estate. Women: A Cultural Review, 25(3), pp.287-304.

Tweed, H., 2014. Review of The Madwoman and the Blindman. Disability Studies Quarterly, 34(1).

Verheul, S.W.M. and Hartmann, A.R., 2016. Male and Female Viewers’ perception of the degree of emotion expressed via body Language and prosody in two film adaptations of Jane Eyre (Bachelor's thesis).

Williams, C.E., 2014. " She Was Not Even Normal": Unreliable Narratives Of Female Insanity In Jane Eyre, Rebecca, And Wide Sargasso Sea.

Woodcock, D.M., 2014. Becoming Bertha: The sociomedical discourse behind the madwoman in the attic (Doctoral dissertation, College of Charleston).

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