What is Rochester's attitude toward his own guilt in "Jane Eyre"? How does he deal with it?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Rochester sardonically accepts that, as a youth, he was a victim of "a cruel hoax".  He was duped into marrying the beautiful Bertha Mason, whose relatives hid from him the fact that "she came of a mad family; idiots and maniacs through three generations" (Chapter 14).  Although he acknowledges that he was a victim of circumstance, he is tormented by guilt for his own behavior as a result of his wife's madness.  He rushes through life in a haze of smoldering rage and bitter deceit; while he refuses to abandon Bertha outright and provides custodial care for her at Thornfield Hall, he keeps her existence hidden from the world.

Mr. Rochester is "prone to bouts of depression and to seemingly irrationally behavior".  He spent years "wandering" in Europe, and had a succession of mistresses; his existence has been aimless and his relationships empty because they have been based on a lie.  Mr. Rochester recalls the halcyon years when he was as young as Jane, and recognizes that "nature meant (him) to be, on the whole, a good man...one of the better kind".  Instead, steeped in bitterness and haunted by guilt, he cynically refers to himself as nothing more than "a trite, commonplace sinner" (Chapter 14).