In Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, why does Rochester like to describe Jane as some kind of supernatural creature—an elf, a fairy, a sprite, etc.?
Does she have an "elfin" feel to the reader, or is he just making fun of her?
In Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, one of my favorite passages alludes to Rochester's sense that there is indeed a supernatural quality to Jane that has drawn them together, even attached them.
The "supernatural" is often regarded as something to do with magic, spells, ghosts, or aliens. However, the true meaning of the word with the use of the prefix "super-" refers to anything above or beyond nature—or beyond what is natural. Certainly Rochester's description of the attachment that he believes exists between he and Jane refers to something that he sees as "supernatural:"
I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.
Soon after, Rochester refers to Jane again as...
...you almost unearthly thing!
I do not believe that Rochester is making fun of Jane at all. He has lived a wild existence. We have witnessed the emptiness of his association with Blanche and the others who have been visiting, whose minds are filled with fluff and nonsense—where entertainment and concerns of financial and social standing are paramount. I am certain that Rochester has become disenchanted and cynical with regard to society. He has been used, we learn, as he explains Adele's presence in his life. He is intelligent and realizes that Blanche and her mother are more interested in his wallet than his person.
And then Jane arrives and cares nothing for these things. She accepts and admires Rochester not for what she can win from him, but for who he is. This refreshing and reaffirming experience may make her seem like someone unnatural, for there are none like her in his circle.
After Rochester has declared his love for Jane and asked her to marry him, they meet the following morning, both caught up in their mutual affection for each other, and once again Edward Rochester refers to her as a magical creature:
Is this my pale, little elf?
I will clasp the bracelets on these fine wrists, and load these fairy-like fingers with rings.
These are ways in which Rochester conveys the extraordinary way Jane loves him, the way this young woman (well beneath his social station) has cared for him simply for the pleasure of who he is; and these "supernatural" references simply separate her as unique from the natural world.