Jane Eyre: A Revisionist Reading by Bertha Mason

Jennie Young
4 min readApr 20, 2022


This re-reading of Jane Eyre, authored by the novel’s antagonist, Bertha Mason, calls into question many narrative elements that were easily accepted in 1847 at the time of its publication. Primarily, the author argues that labeling her a “mad lunatic” with a “pygmy intellect” serves to cloak the more troubling power dynamics in the text and to de-center the fact that she is being held against her will by her husband in an attic. It is the author’s hope that in 2022, with emerging sensitivities to mental health care, systemic racism (her Creole heritage is tacitly critiqued), and the psychological ramifications of hostage-taking situated within the context of trauma theory, the reading public will be more open to alternate interpretations of the author’s character. Additionally, this reading recruits contemporary psychology to address relationship dynamics such as gaslighting, passive-aggression, and the toxicity of locking up first wives in attics.


The data I analyze in this paper comes from empirical research conducted from my vantage point in the attic, where I had literally nothing to do but eavesdrop for 10 years, again while I was being held hostage in the attic by my husband. For ten years. How on earth have I ended up being the “problem” in this story?


For the sake of examining what really happened back in 1847, I ask the reader to consider just two scenes between my husband, Edward Rochester, and the novel’s heroine, Jane Eyre. I trust you will find both illuminating.

Example 1, Rochester and Jane’s initial meeting:

Rochester invites Jane to join him for tea-time but then ignores her completely when she arrives, gazing instead at his dog, Pilot. When Jane tries to engage him, he acts irritated that she’s even there and proceeds to needle her about everything from her piano-playing, which he himself had requested, to his sprained ankle, which he received from falling off his own horse, an incident he claims happened because Jane “bewitched” the horse from afar (WTF).

He then interrogates Jane about her paintings. She complies and patiently responds to his inquiries, after which he blames HER for…

Jennie Young

Professor and humor writer in Green Bay. McSweeney’s, The Independent, HuffPost, Ms. Mag, Education Week, Inside Higher Ed, Slackjaw, Weekly Humorist, others.