What Lies Beyond
Throughout the novel Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, there are direct and indirect references to the Bluebeard legend written by Charles Perrault. The main characters have the same personalities and are living in ways that parallel each other. The reinvention of this story can be seen in the way that the relationships react when secrets are revealed and what consequences those skeletons, once are out, can impact the future of all parties involved.
In the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, part of the storyline is the retelling of the Bluebeard legend. In both stories there is a secret room that only one person has the key to. Bronte writes, “We mounted the first staircase, passed up the gallery, proceeded to the third story: the low, black door, opened by Mr. Rochester’s master key, admitted us to the tapestried room, with its great bed and its pictorial cabinet”(337). Bluebeard’s wife and Jane are put into the same situation. Both of the men are keeping something locked away and hidden in a small room. Neither of the women knows what lies behind the door in front of them. Bluebeard’s wife is given the key to every room including the little closet. All she knows about this room is that her husband told her “if you happen to open it, you may expect my just anger and resentment” (Perrault, 2). The women are left wondering about what they could possibly see once the door is opened.
Similarly, Jane does not quite know what to expect behind the door, but by this time she knows that it is Mr. Rochester’s first wife. The laughs and voices that she thought were Grace Poole’s are going to get a new face behind them. As soon as the door is opened, Jane will have to see what the man she was about to marry was keeping from her and the world. The obscure will become reality for Jane. This reality could have multiple possibilities. It could be the ghost she thought she saw, a completely sane person, or a crazy woman just as Rochester had described. At first Jane did not know what to make of the image saying, “what it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell” (Bronte 338).
While Jane knew what was behind the door, Bluebeard’s wife, on the other hand, had no clue what would be on the other side of the door she was given a key to. For all she knew, Bluebeard could have just been hiding his most expensive possessions from her. She has the choice to find out or just leave it be. Her life could continue as it had been going if she chose not to open the door. Jane had no control over her future but Bluebeard’s wife had all the control.
Once both women find out the hidden secrets, they must decide how to react. The common reaction was to run and hide. Jane could not handle being in the house any longer, so she took some money and found a ride to the furthest place that she could get. Bluebeard’s wife knew that she was going to die if she stayed in the house, so she begged for time to say her prayers. She stayed locked up in her room to get away from Bluebeard. In this time, she was waiting for her brothers to come and save her from the evil man. Both women wanted to escape the men and the secrets that the men kept.
If you compare the women to the men, the men in both stories almost seemed too good to be true until their secrets were discovered. Bertha Mason was Rochester’s skeleton in his closet; the one thing he wanted to hide away and not have to confront ever again. The bodies that Bluebeard hid away were literally the skeletons in his closet. Rochester acted as though he had nothing to hide. The first time Jane saw the unusual women was once during the night, but she thought that it was just Grace Poole. She told Rochester about this image and he played it off as if it was nothing saying “when we have been married a year and a day, I will tell you” (Bronte, 328). Rochester was trying to ensure his marriage before he would even give a hint as to what he was hiding. He wanted Jane to be his wife and did not want anything to get in the way of that. Bluebeard also kept his secret locked up. It is believed that Bluebeard did not necessary want his secret hidden, but he did want to test the trust of his wife just as Rochester had done by having Jane wait to know the secret. Bluebeard was able to keep his secret from all people. Those who found out about his secret were killed and forgotten about by the public. Rochester’s secret, on the other hand, was found out by all the people attending the wedding.
There are many parallels between Bluebeard and Jane Eyre. The men have huge secrets that they keep locked up and away from the public. The women in the stories are put into these difficult situations where they have to decide on how to proceed after finding out what these men have been hiding. Charlotte Bronte reinvents the story of Bluebeard in her own way, but she also captures the essence of hiding secrets and scheming to keep them hidden in order to get the desired goal: the woman love interest.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Penguin, 1847. Print.
Perrault, Charles. “Bluebeard.” : Folktales of Types 312 and 312A. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.