Freed from the Birdcage (A Creative Revision)
The following is a creative revision/short story based on the popular novel by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre.
A field is only a field until I realize that I shall never see it again. Upon this thought, an unnamed sadness strikes me as I look out the window, which overlooks the fields of the Rochester mansion. They far surpass any of the natural scenery at Gateshead, as well as all of the rivers and brooks at the Lowood Institute. I do believe these fields will be the ache in my heart, what wracks me at night when I’m out of this place.
Dawn peeks through the curtains of my room as I quickly gather what I need to survive in this world. A purse for practicality, twenty shillings to get me by, simple clothing for warmth and coverage, and what’s this?
My hand brushes by spheres of cool unfamiliarity, the beads of a pearl necklace that Mr. Rochester had bestowed upon me just a few days ago. I let the necklace fall back into the drawer in disgust, something that I now know I did not need to survive in this world. My initial fascination and wonder with this pretty ornament are long gone, as is my own desire to be an ornament of Mr. Rochester’s. Now, the beads only mock me, reminding me that Mr. Rochester had never truly loved me. After all, he had still willed for Bertha to live in his mansion. I came as a governess and I will forever be a governess; this is how Mr. Rochester sees me, how Adele sees me, even as how Mrs. Fairfax sees me, regardless of how many parties we could throw and how many nice dresses I could have.
Looking back on the events that had taken place over the last few days, I am glad that I learned of Bertha Rochester’s existence. Had I not, the wedding would have commenced. I would be eternally curious, eventually going mad, over the enigma of Grace Poole and the top floor of the mansion. All of the fancy gowns and lavish parties would not placate me; my lingering resentment of my treatment in this household would stand in the way. I would still bitterly agonize the way that Mr. Rochester would taunt me with the other women in his home, namely in his hospitality towards Miss Ingram and the mere existence of Bertha.
However vile and savage his Bertha Rochester seems, I understand that indeed it is Mr. Rochester himself with the monstrous ego. He is the one at fault here, for disregarding my emotions. He left me ignorant, leading me to believe that he was going to marry Miss Ingram. Again, I was left in the dark about the existence of his own wife. Our unequal roles are reflected even in my lack of knowledge about his true intentions and his mysterious past. Who am I, to be his slavish and unequal mistress? Am I not an independent woman? Is my future in this birdcage of a mansion, forever one step below my supposed true love?
As hard as it is to admit the suffocation I have always felt in this cursed household, I must acknowledge this obligation that I feel to escape the confinement of this cage. Otherwise, what kind of a future would I be living? Mr. Rochester is twice my age, with enough riches and experiences for a lifetime, while I am young and spry. I feel my anguish of this discovery waning by the moment.
I make my way down the familiar staircase and stow some bread in my purse. As I open the door to the outside world for the last time, my mind wanders to Mr. Rochester. For a split second, I contemplate dropping everything, retrieving my pearl necklace and opening the door to his room, to the future I had always dreamed of, with my true love, in a beautiful home. I imagine that when I am gone, Mr. Rochester will wake up and discover my absence, pacing back and forth in his study until Miss Ingram comes back to distract him. Disgust engulfs my mind, yet again; I am now resolute in my decision to leave Thornfield.
I walk through the gates, that I had been so grateful of entering after my time at Lowood, where I had been caught in a cycle of perpetual boredom and lack of interest. My pace quickens; I feel as though a weight has lifted off my shoulders.
Over fields and past small houses I stride, each step building in momentum. I stop only twice to nibble thoughtfully on bread, but I allow myself to yearn only for the house itself, not the man who ruled it. Oh, how I miss my bedroom and the rolling hills that accompany the mansion’s landscape – but not to a great extent. I miss most the sense of belonging that I felt within its walls, within my first true home.
Making my way further and further from my temporary home, I see a road that I seldom take, whose path I do not know and have not traveled. But I gather the ample amount of courage that I have and decide that I would rather keep going forward instead of staying at Thornfield, which is what a weak woman would do. All of the weeping and emotional longing in the world would still be better than the wrenching regret of not moving on, of not seeing what else could lie outside the gates of Thornfield. To give into my untrustworthy and naïve desires would cast me off as a mistress. I would certainly choose the moral, high path over the emotional, needy road any day.
A steady crunching of gravel interrupts my winding stream of thought; a coach is approaching. The horse pulling it looks healthy, with a shiny dark coat. The wheels are sturdy, and the man guiding the coach looks amicable. The vehicle looks like something better than I had seen in months, a beacon of light guiding me to a future full of potential.
Reader, I hope that someday you might experience this feeling that was spreading within me at this particular moment. To finally escape from the humiliation I had faced mentally competing with other women gave me a sense of self-worth. To be free from kneeling before the towering figure of Mr. Rochester provided a sense of independence. As much as the pearl necklace is useless to me, so much so is the accompaniment of a man.