by Charlotte Brontë
Bertha Mason Timeline and Summary
- Rochester tells us Bertha’s back-story (printed here in italics):
- Bertha is a young debutante in Jamaica, where all the boys love her and her beauty and musical talent make her extremely desirable.
- Bertha’s family and Edward Rochester’s family arrange for their marriage.
- Bertha is mentally unstable and (apparently) unhappy, and she behaves erratically, screaming at servants, drinking a lot, and sleeping around.
- Bertha is diagnosed as insane and kept in a locked room.
- After four years of marriage, Rochester takes Bertha back to England and confines her at Thornfield with Grace Poole as her nurse and jailer.
- Bertha remains at Thornfield tended only by Grace for ten years.
- Rochester comes back to Thornfield, bringing his ward Adèle and a governess, Jane Eyre.
- Bertha becomes aware of Rochester’s attachment to Jane.
- Bertha sneaks past a drunk Grace Poole and sets fire to Rochester’s bed in the middle of the night.
- Bertha’s brother shows up to visit her; he tries to talk to her alone, but she stabs and bites him.
- Bertha sneaks out of her room again and goes to Jane’s bedroom. Bertha examines Jane’s wedding dress and honeymoon luggage and tears her veil in half.
- Rochester shows Bertha to Jane, a lawyer, and Bertha’s brother and describes her condition. Bertha behaves like a wild animal and tries to bite Rochester’s face.
- Bertha sets fire to Jane’s old bed in the middle of the night and burns Thornfield down. As it’s burning, she climbs up onto a high wall and jumps off before Rochester can stop her, effectively committing suicide.