“I [Jane Eyre] lingered in the long passage to which this led, separating the front and back rooms of the third storey: narrow, low, and dim, with only one little window at the far end, and looking, with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard’s castle.” (Bronte 101)
There is an endless amount of possibilities one could find behind a door and over half are probably harmless, but in the legend of Bluebeard dark secrets are found to be hidden behind a door. This ultimately leads to the idea that doors hide secrets within peoples’ lives and some doors should remain shut. In Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre the “Bluebeard” legend is not only bluntly mentioned in the passage above, but is also a continued theme throughout the novel.
Nothing adds more mystery to a door besides grim laughter piercing the silence of an uninhabited corridor located on the third story. Jane Eyre experienced this very occurrence a short while after her arrival as new governess under the watchful eye of Mrs. Fairfax. Jane Eyre, while being lead on a tour of her new home by Mrs. Fairfax, is lead to a long corridor located on the third story of the estate and is surprised by laughter. Initially Jane is frightened by the laughter and quickly dismisses the fear after Mrs. Fairfax established that it was only a servant’s laughter that was heard on the other side of a door:
“…no circumstance of ghostliness accompanied the curious cachinnation [laughter]; but that neither scene nor season favored fear, I should have been superstitiously afraid. However, the event showed me I was a fool for entertaining a sense even of surprise.” (Bronte 101)
It is interesting that Jane would so quickly reject the thought that something to be feared lurked behind the door after she clearly establish merely a few paragraphs prior that the hallway reminded her of Bluebeard’s castle. This scene correlates closely with “Bluebeard” because the future wife of Bluebeard quickly dismisses the mysterious disappearance of all of Bluebeard’s prior wives and sill married him because of his fortune. This corridor is not again mentioned until a hundred more pages into the novel after all the residents of the mansion are awoken in the middle of the night by blood curdling screams.
Jane quickly finds out that her actual employer is a man named Mr. Rochester, a rich bachelor, who later invites a group of upper class friends to stay in the mansion during which an interesting scene takes place. Jane is awoken, along with the rest of the house, in the middle of the night to a commotion taking place upstairs. Jane, along with the house guests, are reassured that a servant only had a nightmare and that everyone should return to their rooms. Moments after returning to her room Jane receives a visit from Mr. Rochester and is told to follow him. Jane recognizes almost immediately that the room Mr. Rochester leads her to, is the same room Mrs. Fairfax showed her upon arrival, although this time is under very different circumstances.
Again Bronte brings to the readers’ attention that not everyone is able to see what is behind most doors. Jane is only shown part of the scene after arriving through a door to a bedroom. Mr. Rochester quickly makes his way through a second door and returns with nothing to reveal to Jane:
“I saw a room I remembered to have seen before, the day Mrs. Fairfax showed me over the house […] This door [second door] was open; a light shown out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling, snatching sound, almost like a door quarrelling. Mr. Rochester, putting down his candle, said to me ‘wait a minute,’ and he went forward to the inner apartment […] he came out and closed the door behind him.”(Bronte 198)
In this scene the door to the room that Mr. Rochester returns from signifies the secrecy of Mr. Rochester and what he keeps from Jane. This relates to the Bluebeard legend because Bluebeard tells his newly wedded wife that she had access to every square inch of his mansion besides a room that he happened to give the key to her. The difference between the two stories is that Mr. Rochester seems to slowly allow Jane to gain access to all of his doors and he is under control of the keys to his secrets. Whereas Bluebeard does not give his wife any hints that what lies behind the door is good or bad, just that she is forbidden to explore the room that he gave her a key for. This shows that Bluebeard is more careless about his secrets and quite frankly does not have much of a care for how his wife will be able to handle these secrets.
Finally, near the end of the book, Mr. Rochester’s door is finally opened in a dramatic revel of what his biggest secret has been all along. After Mr. Rochester’s and Jane’s wedding is interrupted suspicion arises that Mr. Rochester does in fact already have a wife. Mr. Rochester, in fact, confirms this accusation and insists that those who objected and Jane will join him at his mansion to prove that a first wife does exist. Jane, for a third time, arrives at the room located on the third story and instead of being restricted to the front compartment of the room she experiences what is behind the door that Mr. Rochester tried to keep closed:
“He lifted the hangings from the wall, uncovering the second door: this, too, he opened. […] in the deep shade, at the further end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it groveled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange animal, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.” (Bronte 274)
Both Jane Eyre and “Bluebeard” relate secrets to being hidden behind doors, typically locked doors and only the person in position of that secret has the key to unlock that secret. In close correlation with “Bluebeard” the final secret is revealed later on in the novel. This secret is that Mr. Rochester has kept his mad wife locked in the attic for the last fifteen years. The final secret that was locked behind the door in “Bluebeard” was revealed to be Bluebeard’s murdered wives. Although each secret has a varying degree of severity it is still obvious that both men had secrets about their past relationships and were willing to lock those relationships up in order to pursue new ones. “Bluebeard” is a subtle theme that is intertwined within Jane Eyre and it seems that Jane was aware of the consequences of Bluebeard’s castle but nothing could have prepared her for Rochester’s castle.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Paul Negri and Thomas Crawford. Mineola: Dover, 2002. Print
Perrault, Charles. Bluebeard. Paris: Barbin, 1697. PITT.EDU. Web. 13 October 2015.