Discuss the character of Rochester from Jane Eyre.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Edward Fairfax Rochester is a complicated man who has one simple wish--to marry the woman he loves.  However, everything in his life is so convoluted and complicated that only a series of tragedies allows that to eventually happen.

As a young man, he was trapped into a marriage of convenience by his own family.  To make matters worse, he soon discovered his wife, Berthe, had mental health issues which would eventualy drive her to complete insanity.  As a reaction to that, and after he is forced to hide his wife in a safe and secluded place with an appropriate caretaker, Rochester becomes kind of a libertine.  That is, he does what he wants, when he wants. with whomever he wants.  He has money, so he travels extensively and lives a rather selfish and reckless life.

He does, however, have a kind heart underneath his brusque and hardened exterior.  This is evidenced, in part, by his taking in the child of a woman with whom he had a relationship--knowing full well the child was not his.  When he hires a governess for little Adele, he meets Jane.  It is this meeting which will change the course of his life.

He has been hurt and used by others, and when he senses Jane's innately good and true nature he is attracted but feels he must somehow test her.  He isn't very nice about it, either.  Specifically, he torments Jane by bringing home what Jane sees as the "perfect" woman for him--she is all the things Jane feels she is not.  Rochester, however, finds Jane appealing primarily because she's NOT that kind of woman; and he soon asks her to marry him.

Unfortunately, he is still a married man.  When, at the alter, his secret is revealed and he is forced to explain his "wife," we do feel sympathy for his plight.  Unfortunately for him, he has fallen in love with a woman of principle, and she refuses to settle for being his mistress.  He begs and pleads with her, but Jane leaves him because she does love him and can not stay without succumbing to temptation and disregarding her prnciples.

Jane moves on, not knowing that shortly after her departure Berthe set his home on fire and was killed despite his efforts to save her.  He was made blind by the incident and lived a dejected, miserable life--until Jane returned and he was finally able to marry her.

Rochester is, despite his attempted bigamy and his rather unkind ways, a good man.  Jane, herself a woman of good moral character, sees that in him.  It's through her eyes that we see the qualities she sees, those below his crusty surface and those which make him a suitable match for her. 

It's ironic that the man with money, wealth, and position must prove himself worthy of the poor orphaned girl with nothing but her name. He was her superior in every way when they first met at the altar; but those superior things weren't things that mattered.  By the time they meet there again, the dynamic has shifted and Jane is the stronger one in their partnership.   

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