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Jane Eyre and the Dark Qualities of Edward Rochester
Edward Rochester does not demonstrate the values of a typical romantic hero for several reasons. Firstly, if some of the values of a typical romantic hero are freedom, equality, integrity, and respect etc. Rochester possesses many qualities that are opposite of these. He is a different type of romantic hero with a somewhat dark character, at least until the end of the story. He is controlling, dominant, dishonest, and inconsiderate of other's reality. However, Bronte also suggested that there were good qualities within Rochester waiting to be brought to light, especially as the story advances toward the end, when adversity causes enlightenment. Therefore I will focus on how the dark qualities of Rochester's character make him a different kind of romantic hero.
One of the dark qualities that Mr. Rochester possessed was that of control rather than freedom. Throughout most of his activities within the story line of the novel, Mr. Rochester utilized dark control. He controlled everyone. Besides Jane Eyre, he controlled his servants, his kindred, (which included his daughter), and his wife who was insane. However, control is not a dark value in of itself. It is actually a value of enlightenment. There is good control and bad control. Good control saves life from going into chaos whereas bad control leads to chaos. We must exercise good control over our life and affairs. But what made Rochester's control dark was his restricting the freedom of those associated with him. Freedom is a typical romantic quality. But Rochester kept his insane wife locked up and hidden form public awareness for several years. This imprisonment probably helped worsened her condition. Also, this control kept Rochester disguised in a cloud of mystery and secrecy. And because he could not be transparent, he was full of harshness and bitterness.
Jane Eyre experienced the bitterness of his control, although not in the degree in which the others experienced it. Nevertheless, the control was still dark. It was dark in a sense that Rochester controlled Jane's freedom of choice. "Soon to be Jane Rochester," he added," in four weeks, Jane," not a day more. Do you her that" ). Bronte shows how restrictive Rochester operated when dealing with Jane Eyre. He controlled her choice of time. It didn't matter what she thought. She couldn't have postponed the wedding even if she had wished, even if she had needed more time to think about the relationship into which she was entering. The Phrase "Do you hear that," is like a parent talking to a child. The decision is final. Instead of giving Jane freedom to choose, Rochester exercised restraint over her. We see why Jane was afraid her freedom was in jeopardy. Nevertheless, Bronte used Jane Eyre as a light to shed light on this and other aspects of Rochester's character.
Another dark quality that Rochester possessed was that of a dominant dictator. Bronte revealed this characteristic within him during the fire and stabbing events. In these two events Jane was commanded to be quiet about what had occurred. "You are no talking fool; say nothing about it" . This phrase is a command. Jane Eyre is not allowed to be freely expressive about the event. This made Jane Eyre even more suspicious of the mysteries events in which she was participating, especially by the next morning when everyone seemingly had forgotten about the fire incident and Grace Poole had no discernable guilt upon her face. Rochester's dictatorship also occurred in the aftermath of the event involving Mr. Mason's stabbing. Mr. Mason had been stabbed on the third floor of the Thornfield Estate.
Bronte doesn't reveal how or why Mr. Mason was stabbed. What we do know is that Mr. Mason was Bertha Mason's brother, and perhaps he was trying to communicate with her. This is all a mystery. The only thing we do know for sure is the Mr. Mason received a serious stab wound. In this incident, Mr. Rochester's dominance over Jane is obvious: "You will not speak to him in any pretext..." . Once again Jane Eyre's freedom of communication is under restraint. Even though her values are openness and honesty she must unwillingly participate in these dark mysteries.
Mr. Rochester's commanding attitude is not only exercised against Jane alone, but also Mr. Mason is made subject to Mr. Rochester's will. "It will be at the peril of your life if you speak to her..." . This appears to be a threat that carries an air of mystery. Bronte doesn't tell the reader whether or not this threat is dependent upon Mr. Mason serious condition that might forbid him from speaking or whether or not Mr. Rochester will be directly or indirectly involved in whatever consequences might occur if Mr. Mason does speak. After all, we see that Mr. Mason refuses to take him to a doctor. Apparently he doesn't want the dark knowledge of Bertha Mason found out. Nevertheless, his dominance is respected by both Jane Eyre and Richard Mason.
The Proposal in Jane Eyre
Not only does Mr. Rochester have a dominant character, he also operates in a cloud of dishonesty. His dishonesty is revealed in several occasions within the novel. For instance, after she had heroically saved Mr. Rochester's life, Jane Eyre wanted answers regarding the mystery of the fire. But he didn't give her the correct answer. He only confirmed who she had mistakenly thought committed the act (Grace Poole). "Just so, Grace Poole-you have guessed it" . This phrase revealed Rochester's dishonesty. He wanted to keep the truth from Jane regarding his wife Bertha Mason.
In another incident in which Bronte used to reveal Rochester's dishonesty is the event in which Mr. Rochester had disguised himself as a Gypsy fortune teller. The symbolism of his disguise reveals that Mr. Rochester wasn't being transparent in his life and affairs. His dark qualities kept his real self hidden. The accumulations of life's negative events had turned him into a harsh and bitter man with plenty of secrets. Nevertheless, Rochester's disguise couldn't fool Jane because of her honest and truthful nature. Knowing this, Mr. Rochester gave up trying to trick Jane. "Well Jane, do you know me;" asked the familiar voice . This phase shows Mr. Rochester's reaction after being caught in his dishonesty.
The Odd Romantic
The qualities of inconsideration, dishonesty and domination portrayed in Rochester's character doesn't represent the typical romantic hero.
The Inconsiderate Mr. Rochester
Moreover, Mr. Rochester was also very inconsiderate of the reality of other people. This inconsideration could have had an emotionally devastating effect on Jane Eyre if she had mistakenly married him. He didn't care about what kind of situation in which he put others as long as he got his wish. Rochester was determined to marry Jane Eyre. He did not care what other's thought about the immorality of the marriage considering he was already married to Bertha Mason. He became so incensed at the timely and disruptive revelation regarding Bertha Mason, his wife, that he could have killed the men who revealed this dark secret . But most of all, even though he was passionate about Jane, Mr. Rochester wasn't considering her reality. He didn't care about how she would react and feel when she found out that her lover Mr. Rochester had committed Bigamy and that she would only be a mistress. This would have had a devastating effect upon Jane. Nevertheless, the truth prevailed against him. He had to confess his inconsideration. "This girl," he continued, looking at me, "knew no more than you, Wood, of the disgusting secret; she thought all was fair and legal; and never dreamt she was going too entrapped..." . This phrase reveals Rochester's intention to marry Jane into a web of entrapment. Therefore, her reality didn't mean anything to him. To live was to live in Rochester's dark reality or nothing at all.
In conclusion, although Bronte reveals several dark qualities regarding Rochester as a romantic hero, we see that he is madly in love with Jane Eyre. But his approach to win and secure her as a wife was wrong. Keeping secrets and mysteries about one 's self doesn't promote trust and honesty in a relationship, and therefore, destroys it. Such was the reason why Bronte had to redeem Rochester from his dark qualities before he could have a legitimate relationship with Jane Eyre. The tragedy and adversity on the Thorn field estate had transformed Rochester's powerful, dark, and arrogant reality into a reality of weakness, confession, humility. While he had suffered the lost of his property and his wife, his most humbling lost was his eyesight and one of his hands. This physical lost made him dependent upon others. "Herethe I have hated to be helped-to be led..." . in this phrase we see adversity had humbled him.
Transformation of Character
Bronte's Portrayal of Rochester's Transformation is Powerful: Agree or Disagree
Bronte continues to give evidence that Rochester's nature was becoming purified and that he was beginning to take on an enlightened mindset. "I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my maker . This confession was good news for Jane Eyre. Bronte wanted her to marriage into a reality of truth and honesty instead of a dark reality of control and restraint. In the last chapter, Jane Eyre reveals her happy and blissful ten year marriage to Rochester. Now he was a new man; his dark qualities were no long a factor in his life.