Last Updated on November 19, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 935
Extended Character Analysis
In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Edward Fairfax Rochester, or Mr. Rochester, is introduced as a good landowner and a well-liked man. He is a “peculiar character,” as described by his housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. Mr. Rochester is described as average looking, with a heavy brow and dark features. He is not traditionally heroic or handsome, but this allows him to be more approachable. However, Mr. Rochester is, upon further observation, more difficult than approachable; when he invites Jane to tea, he is gruff and irritable. Despite his dourness, Mr. Rochester admits to having thought of fairytales when he first encountered Jane along the road. Similarly, Jane reflected on the fairytale of the “Gytrash” as she saw his approaching horse and dog. At first, Mr. Rochester aggressively interrogates Jane about her past, her parents, and her skills, and he blames her for felling his horse the previous day. This shows Mr. Rochester’s intense need to conceptualize character; he takes no judgements or opinions from others and instead comes to his own conclusions through a thorough search of the other’s mind.
Furthermore, Mr. Rochester’s character is one of multiplicity and mercuriality. His personality changes often and abruptly. He is prone to order others about, and, although his orders may seem rude, his commands seem to Jane “a matter of course to obey promptly.” Rochester, in his exploration of Jane’s character, asks her if she finds him handsome. Her direct answer—“No, sir”—surprises him, but he appreciates her honesty. Many would consider Mr. Rochester an “ugly man.” However, he carries himself with much confidence and indifference. Because of this, Mr. Rochester’s personality becomes more important than his physical appearance. Mr. Rochester shows that he believes he is superior to Jane in terms of life experience and age; nevertheless, he sees in her a conversational companion who can counter him. Eventually, he finds in Jane someone whom he can trust and love, although the two are unconventional in their relationship.
Mr. Rochester admits to having been “thrust on the wrong tack at the age of one-and-twenty,” and ever since then, he feels his soul has degenerated. He describes himself as no different from the riff-raff in a tavern due to his past actions. He is not sure he can fix himself and be reformed. Despite his advanced age and life experience, Mr. Rochester lacks the level-headed common sense that Jane possesses. While he has given up on reformation and has decided that pleasure is the only way to live well, Jane sees that pleasure goes only so far and that the “honey” of pleasure, however sweet, will “sting—[and] taste bitter.” Jane comes to understand that it is necessary to be inwardly at peace, whereas Mr. Rochester cannot fathom fixing the damages of traumatic memories and actions.
Mr. Rochester, like Jane, is also stuck within the bounds of societal expectations. When his first wife, Bertha Mason Rochester, becomes insane, he hides her away from the world in the attic of Thornfield. Given that mental health has been, and still is, widely misunderstood, it is no surprise that Mr. Rochester chose this rather cruel course of action to save his status in society as an upper-class man. Divorce at the time was likely a crueler option, as Bertha would then be without any type of care and would reflect even more poorly on Mr. Rochester. He exemplifies these constraints when he wishes to marry Jane but cannot directly ask her. Instead, he employs the tactic of pretending he will marry Blanche Ingram, an upper-class woman who is much more “fitting” to be his wife than Jane, who is of a lower class. Mr. Rochester tells Jane he’s preparing to marry Blanche Ingram. However, he simultaneously wants Jane to be interested in his romantically.
His deceptive nature can be seen in other ways as well. He impersonates a prophetic gypsy woman and uses the disguise to speak with and instigate Jane. Despite his odd actions, Rochester and Jane are finally able to express their desire for each other. However, Mr. Rochester makes another, much larger mistake: keeping secrets. In deciding not to tell Jane about Bertha, or to do anything legally about his marriage with Bertha, Mr. Rochester tries to marry Jane under false pretences. Furthermore, Mr. Rochester suddenly becomes blinded by the concept of marriage; he forgets Jane’s true character. Instead of allowing Jane to be herself as he had previously done, he begins to shower her with gifts and expectations that Jane firmly rejects. When Jane leaves him because of his duplicitous and insensitive actions, he becomes lost without her.
Mr. Rochester is reunited with Jane after a personal tragedy; his wife, Bertha, sets fire to Thornfield and in the process kills herself after jumping from the roof. Mr. Rochester, in an effort to save Bertha, loses his hand and is blinded. Becoming disabled humbles Mr. Rochester and changes his outlook on the world. He is now level with Jane; his disability in a way matches him to her lower social standing. Furthermore, with the loss of outward sight comes deepened inward sight. Mr. Rochester becomes aware of his faults and, in a stark contrast to his prior conception of morality, begins to understand Jane’s point of view.
Jane Eyre concludes with the quintessentially Victorian ending in which the main characters achieve “marital bliss.” However, in the end it is not Mr. Rochester who marries Jane; it is Jane who decides to marry Mr. Rochester. The two are able to enter into a happy, albeit unconventional, married life.
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