Ink Paper Words' Profile

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Pacific Northwest, United States
In elementary school, I desperately wanted my mother to order books for me from those flyers Scholastic hands out to kids. She refused, citing the "perfectly good library down the street." I exacted revenge by becoming a card-carrying ALA accredited reference librarian. Ha! Take that!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Victorian Literature and the "Beautiful Lunatic"

Women in the Victorian era must have been fragile creatures indeed. Look at the novel Jane Eyre. The most memorable character in it is Rochester's wife, whom he keeps tidily tucked away in an unfrequented wing of his estate.She escaped one night and tried to set fire to someone's room (offhand I don't remember whether it was Jane's or Rochester's). It all seemed to have been prompted by her jealousy over Jane marrying Rochester -- especially since she was still married to him

The other night Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel to Jane Eyre, was on Dish Network. Since I am generally a fan, as my son Chris would say, of movies where there are "people speaking English," I thought I'd give it a whirl Sure enough, there was mention of Antoinette, the protagonist's, mother becoming a lunatic. The husband, Edward Rochester, is accosted by Antoinette's black half brother and informed of a family history of lunacy. He then begins to look for signs of it in Antoinette and is not disappointed.

However, as Antoinette explains to Rochester, her mother was locked away and labeled a "lunatic" shortly after her husband cheated on her. Rochester then proceeds to cheat on Antoinette with one of her servants. Antoinette is betrayed and justifiably upset.

I have come to the conclusion that "lunatic" was simply an appellation given to women who were unhappy over their husbands' infidelity. Lunatic was a convenient method of getting these women out of the way so that men could do whatever they wanted without having to hear their wives' pain.

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