"Madwoman in the attic" is a story about woman who suffered from severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia and beyond. He went to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. The wise man put her to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still good physique responded so promptly that the specialist concluded that there was nothing much with her and sent her with solemn advice to, "live as domestic a life as far as possible." She went home and obeyed those directions for some three months and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that she could see over. She later cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and went to work again, the normal life of every human being; work. In her work she wrote "the yellow wallpaper" in which is a narrative of the mental breakdown of a young mother undergoing a "rest cure".
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As she tells her story- one of virtue imprisonment, enforcement solitude and inertia, prescribed by the doctor (husband) - the reader gradually understands that she does not love her husband, nor appreciate his care. Rather she is seething with frustration and resentment at his power to confine, control, and trivialize her. In her detested bedroom, she fancies she sees a woman in the pattern of the yellow wallpaper- a woman who shakes the walls with her efforts to escape, who circles the room endlessly on her hands and knees, looking for the way out. The woman, of course, is herself, trying to break out of her life; but she can do so only by being mad. In the story's terrifying conclusion, she locks herself in her room, systematically ripping the paper off the walls. In the role of madness, she can express her aggressions against husband; and when at last he breaks into the room, and faints in shock at the sight of her, there is a triumph in her narrative. Yet she is truly mad; she has defeated him only by destroying herself.
The first and most important point to make about Bertha Mason is that she is unable to give an account of herself. Her madness is already evident when Rochester brings her to England and her condition steadily deteriorates until she is reduced to the condition of a bestial creature whose personal voice is never heard except for her actions. Bertha has become Rochester's burden as she is the source of the mysterious sorrow and sense of doom to hang over all his previous accounts of life before he met Jane. Although he wishes to be free of bertha and start a new life, his conscience is that he cannot bring himself to leave her in the West Indies and he decides to conceal her at Thorn field. Thus the "madwoman in the attic" comes to stand for everything that has gone wrong in Rochester's life.
According to Gilbert and Gubar, Bertha Rochester comes to symbolize the more general sense in which the female voice was often silenced or muffled in the nineteenth century, both in society and in literature. They argue that this silencing has been perpetuated in another sense, by the ways in which a male-dominated literary. History has tended to either demote women's writing to a lower ranking, or to ignore all but a very few of the many women writers from the Victorian age. If this argument is accepted, then it has to be considered that this may be because Jane, and maybe Charlotte Bronte herself, have their own reasons for not wishing Bertha's voice to be heard.
Bertha must be contained because she is not submissive. Not only does Bertha's primitive, snarling signify her female difference, but so does her alleged sexual deviance. Bertha possesses both canine qualities and the catlike tendencies of a "tigress" which thereby casts her as a seductress. Rochester's rather one-sided account labels Bertha as "immoderate and unchaste", a lunatic, both cunning and malignant. Bertha's ability to escape her prison and light fires during the night, both literally and metaphorically, would indicate that Grace Poole imbibes quite heavily, but Bertha evidently abstains from the pint of porter. Such a conclusion would also imply that Bertha, who "represents womanhood gone berserk" (Logan 147), may actually possess moments of lucidity, or in fact, be sane. Women like Bertha, must be destroyed--the fires they light are too volatile, too threatening to masculine security and control.
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