Ten days ago, I said I would be posting several times on Jane Eyre. Since then, I have written one post. The thing is, I had plans for several posts in my head and the one you are reading now I felt, had to be one of the first. I wanted to talk about my conflicted feelings towards Rochester and yet totally understanding Jane’s love for him. But every time I try to write this post I get stuck. What can I say, except that I do feel conflicted towards him, or at the very least know I should? What can I do but quote every part of the book he is in and add “OMG YES!” afterwards, as Sasha suggested on twitter?
We all know, rationally, why we shouldn’t love Rochester, I guess: I do not have a problem with his cross-dressing, but the fact that he lies to Jane Eyre gets to me, his courting of Miss Ingram just to make Jane Eyre jealous, his having a wife locked up in the attic and yet wanting to marry Jane. He might just be the condensed version of what we all feel is wrong with that other Edward [Twilight] (don’t get me started on the fact that Twilight has a character called Edward as well. That is to say, I did not remember that Mr. Rochester is called Edward. Reading Jane Eyre has made me dislike Twilight in a way I never could before. I actually had a post planned on that as well, not sure if that is going to happen).
And yet.. Every time I write these things down, I find myself defending him in my head. Or at the very least telling myself that he is not the epitome of a “bad man” as some people make him out to be. “Trying to make her jealous, that is actually very smart” “What else was he to do?” “I do pity him for his first wife, in a way”. I try, I really try to stop myself, but I don’t think I could fully say “I dislike Rochester, he isn’t a “good” man.” I just can’t. I know I probably should, but well.. *sigh* it just isn’t happening. What can I say, I guess Charlotte Brontë really knew what she was doing.
Because [this is my defense mechanism clicking into place again], I do not think Mr. Rochester is manipulative. Except for lying about his first wife.. Okay, so that is not something to let slide. THAT IS NOT SOMETHING TO LET SLIDE. I just don’t know. I have been thinking what redeems him for me. First thought: his passion and the intensity of his love for Jane? Second (and this took me a long while, more on that in the next post): I think it might be Jane that redeems his behaviour for me. That makes this not the unequal relationship that some other books portray [Hello, Twilight].
I even considered (and I cannot believe I am writing this down) if the fact that I felt so much this time, fell so deeply, is because I am currently living 1300 kilometers away from my boyfriend for 4 months. That because I do not have someone who loves me around every day (and I am not at all complaining about my boyfriend, he is the best) is why I felt the intensity of the book, the hidden sexual tension, the whole love story playing out before your eyes, all the more.
Some sigh-worthy scenes (I looked through my ereader, and I actually have over a 100 page markers, so I decided to choose the first two that I really like. So as not to tire you, which I probably already have.):
“You have saved my life: I have a pleasure in owing you so immense a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have been tolerable to me in the character of a creditor to such obligation: but you: it is different; – I feel your benefit no burden, Jane.”
He paused; gazed at me: words almost visible trembled on his lips, – but his voice was checked.
“Good-night again, sir. There is no debt, benefit, burden, obligation, in the case.”
“I knew,” he continued, “you would do me good in some way, at some time; – I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not” – (again he stopped) – “did not” (he proceeded hastily) “strike delight to my inmost heart so for nothing. People talk of natural sympathies: I have heard of good genii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My cherished preserver, goodnight!”
Strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look.
Okay, so third reason? Charlotte Brontë’s excellent writing! The pauses, almost trembling lips, the detailed scenes that make you feel as if you are right there..
“I am tired, sir.”
He looked at me for a minute.
“And a little depressed,” he said. “What about? Tell me.”
“Nothing-nothing, sir. I am not depressed.”
“But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words would bring tears to your eyes-indeed, they are here now, shining and swimming; and a has slipped from the lash and fallen on to the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means. Well to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my wish; don’t neglect it. Now go, and send Sophie for Adѐle. Good-night, my -” He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly left me.”
Wait, did I say that Mr. Rochester is not manipulative? Scratch that, he is! I cannot believe I did not remember that he made Jane sit through day after day of his courting Miss Ingram just to make her jealous. And I find it even harder to admit that when he admitted that that was why he did it later on in the book, I actually felt relieved. And.. I chose to highlight this scene not just because he plays the overbearing master and is incredibly harsh towards Jane, to remind myself that he is manipulative (one of the reasons I love Rochester is actually that he treats Jane as an equal, most (my defense mechanism says all? but this scene surely shows he uses his position at times?) of the time), but because of the “my -” part and the fact that he bit his lip. Aren’t I pathetic?