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06-22-2008, 12:56 PM
The treatment of Bertha Mason and Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester in Jane Eyre

As we had this discussion before and as I was forced to surrender to people who deliberately wanted to believe that 19th century asylums in Great-Britain were horrible places like Bedlam Hospital, and wanted to see Rochester in a positive light, I decided to investigate my claim that the treatment of Bertha in Jane Eyre was not at all a noble one, and that, as a consequence, the character of Edward Rochester didn’t have to be seen in a noble light, but more on the contrary, in a very bad one, as a character that has lost the way totally to be made, by the end of the book, to find the good way back. The treatment of Bertha and the goodness or badness of Rochester are inextricably linked with each other: if the one is positive, the other one is and vice versa.
If we first have a look at Charlotte Brontë’s surroundings and circumstances, we notice that her father, Patrick Brontë, bought two Leeds newspapers, namely The Leeds Mercury and The Leeds Intelligencer, as well as having subscriptions to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Keepsake and Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country (1). All children read them (2). The letters of Patrick Brontë used to appear in the two newspapers regularly (3). The Lunacy Act of 1845, following the Lunacy Commission attracted much attention and no doubt a number of articles were published in those two newspapers as a result. As Charlotte used to read those newspapers and as her father was certainly interested in it, him being a very eloquent and energetic campaigner, certainly those articles must have attracted their attention.
It is known that after 1844 it was not common, not even in Bedlam Hospital (The Lancet even noted that ‘on 10.6.1842 no patient in Bedlam Hospital was under restraint.’), to restrain patients physically (4). In an issue of Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine of June 1834, Miss Martineau, later to be Charlotte’s friend, wrote an article on the new Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. It contains a section about ‘the rich lunatic’, which refers to shutting up without activity and in secrecy as follows: ‘This is barbarity, this is iniquity, whatever may be done for them besides’, and further advises to put rich lunatics in asylums like Hanwell ‘where the inmates shall compose a cheerful, busy, orderly society, where there shall be gardening, fishing, walking, and riding, drawing, music, and every variety of study…’. She regrets that ‘educated gentlemen’ and ‘accomplished ladies’ do not get the treatment of the ‘ignorant, gin-drinking pauper’. Lunatics, she argues, should be kept usefully busy and in a happy environment (5). This was in 1834! Even if Charlotte would have dated back the circumstances in her book by ten or eleven years (which is maybe not the case), then still the treatment of Bertha would not be according to the most modern standards. In fact it has been argued that Rochester indeed might have been outdated with the treatment of his wife (6). Admittedly, higher classes would try to camouflage madness until it became too disturbing and then would conceal the person in question. However financial status would allow them to actually put lunatics in private asylums, with a private doctor or even on the Continent, so that their condition wouldn’t mark the family name (7). It has been argued that the treatment Rochester subjects Bertha to would rather be according to 18th century principles, when people regarded lunacy as a punishment of God rather than a disease (8). His financial status certainly would have given him the possibility to keep Bertha in more humane circumstances and/or bring her to an asylum. As far as I recall I cannot remember that Rochester ever looked for treatment for her. He rather left her, as lunatics were left in the 18th century in and outside of asylums, without treatment. In the 19th century there were even facilities to keep people alone, in a house with their own keepers, like was done with Isabella Thackeray. Mr Thackeray indeed locked up his wife but not in inhumane circumstances. He tried to have her treated first, but unfortunately nothing worked and then he decided to lock her up in a whole house (!), unlike Rochester did with Bertha: he just locked her up and that was it (9). He tells Jane he hired Grace Poole from the Grimsby Retreat, as if the Grimsby Retreat was a renowned place. What is so great about the care Grace gives Bertha if one can actually call it care? Maybe it is not at all sought too far as to say that Rochester was actually not very tolerable, modern and not at all a noble man, locking Bertha up in the attic. As Miss Martineau argues above, life was potentially better in an asylum than at home without care.

Patrick Brontë was also interested in psychology, which he studied in his books. He even underlined ‘hereditary disposition’ in John Graham’s Modern Domestic Medicine (1826), which Charlotte certainly used for Bertha (10). We know she had great respect for the man, making a reference to him, calling a doctor partly Graham in Villette (11). Furthermore she attributes the madness of Bertha to ‘moral madness’ (12): a type of madness for the first time introduced in James Cowles Prichard’s A Treatise on Insanity and other Disorders affecting the Mind, published in 1835(13). Charlotte - reading the articles, her father being a vivid campaigner for the poor and other good causes and being interested in psychology – must have known about new ways how to treat diseases like that. It seems highly implausible to me that she would have found 18th century conditions to treat lunatics normal or even ‘noble’ as has been argued by others.
It is known that Charles Dickens, immensely popular at the time of Brontë, campaigned for a humane treatment of lunatics (14). Are we to believe that Charlotte herself did not read anything of Dickens in her life, despite his popularity? Charlotte had access to the libraries of her father, Ponden House, where Patrick Brontë often came. and the revolving library at the nearby town of Keighly (15). Is it then totally impossible for her to have read something from Dickens? Apparently not. She wrote about him in a letter to Hartley Coleridge, 10/12/1840, that Dickens, among other writers, wrote ‘like boarding-school misses’. Admittedly, she didn’t like his style much, but if she read some of his works something can have brushed off on her. And it probably did: one particular story in one of Dickens’ early works, Sketches of Young Gentlemen, published in 1836, mentions a sketch called The censorious young gentleman (16). It mentions a Mr Fairfax in the role of this censorious young gentleman. It is striking how alike Dickens’ Mr Fairfax and Brontë’s Edward Fairfax Rochester are. She can also have read a number of other works of his: The Pickwick Papers (1836), which contains A madman’s manuscript; Oliver Twist (1837-39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41), which contains a part about a madhouse (17) and, Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty (1840-41), which contains a part about an idiotic child whose mother pleeds not to whip him (18).
The argument that all asylums in the days of Charlotte Brontë were bad places, where people were locked up like Bertha does not remain standing. There were bad places, agreed, but there is no reason to believe that Charlotte didn’t read all those articles on new and better asylums, books about treatment and passages in Dickens’ works to form another opinion than the one we think people had at the time.
It is certainly not credible that she didn’t care if one takes into account the name of the place where Grace Poole was hired from: the Grimsby Retreat. Surely there must have been a reason why Charlotte mentioned the explicit name of some unknown place, that didn’t exist and that she made up. Seeing as she based Thornfield Hall and Lowood School on real places she encountered, there must be something this Grimsby Retreat was based on. Of course we can start by taking the name under scrutiny.
There was in Yorkshire a very well-known lunatic asylum called The York Retreat. It was an asylum, founded in 1796 by William Tuke (a quaker), the first in its kind to offer non-restraint outside France, where the first doctor to adopt this method was Mr Pinel. It offered moral treatment, treatment based on the principle of teaching the mad person to try to control his emotions and self-esteem (19). The system was later adopted in Hanwell. I found two sources that claim that the Grimsby Retreat was actually based on the York Retreat itself, but until now I haven’t been able to find the original (20), but if indeed Charlotte considered Rochester’s treatment to Bertha quite outdated, then maybe she could have made an allusion to a leading asylum in modernity as to make a statement.
If we look at the first part of the name we see ‘Grimsby’. Grimsby is a town situated at the cost of East Lincolnshire. It has existed since the Middle Ages and used to have a large whale and after that fishing industry.
As I said before Patrick Brontë also had a large library, which he encouraged his children to read from. Branwell, Charlotte, Anne and Emily also had access to the revolving library of the nearby town of Keighly and to the library of Ponden House, which Patrick Brontë acquainted (21). It is widely known that Charlotte read works by Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare, John Dryden, John Milton and lots more (22). Furthermore she knew French and learned German and consequently read books in those languages as well. Certainly in French, fed to her by Mr Héger (23). So the argument that she wasn’t well read does also not seem to stand. As I said before Patrick Brontë was subscribed to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine which featured a wide range of articles, from literature and poetry to political reports. In their early writings about Angria, there is proof of Branwell’s and Charlotte’s knowledge of political issues (24), featuring the Duke of Wellington, and later his sons, as principle character(s) of Charlotte. So, as she was apparently quite well read, we can maybe look at the Sturm und Drang-Rochester again. There are some sources that claim that Rochester is not totally a Byronic hero. If we look at the definition of a Byronic hero, Rochester does not totally comply…(25) Earlier I stated that Rochester’s initial situation was very similar to Schiller’s play Die Räuber (1781). It is not implausible that Charlotte actually read this play, as she owned an edition of Schiller’s collected works, published in 1838. Mrs Fairfax even says something in the way of bad things being said about Edward, by Rowland, and their father believing it, early in Jane Eyre (26). It is utterly impossible that Charlotte Brontë, with all the languages she knew and all the articles in newspapers and magazines she read, wrote totally on her own, on an island, as has been presumed.
In chapter XIX, when Bertha bites her brother Richard Mason, Rochester says: ‘It’s a mere rehearsal of Much Ado about Nothing’. What did he mean by this? Much Ado about Nothing is a comedy by William Shakespeare from around 1598.(27) Rochester called the nightly stabbing of Bertha ‘a mere rehearsal of Much Ado about Nothing’. Indeed, it was only a rehearsal, because his ‘not being a virgin’ was not going to be disclosed just yet. It would be disclosed at the wedding itself. By quoting the play, Rochester apparently regards the visit of Mason as a list to disclose his non-virginity which is not even true, similar to the list Don John and Boraccio played to have Hero denounced at her wedding by the bridegroom. In this way Rochester sees himself as the poor, pure Hero who is being slandered, because of someone who doesn’t want her and her groom to be happy. The reversal of roles – a male being female and vice-versa – occurred more in 19th century literature and thus it would not be totally unrealistic to have Rochester be in the shoes of Hero, as the innocent female. Of course this is Rochester’s view. The reality is far from what Rochester presumes it to be.
In another way the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice is quite similar to the one between Rochester and Jane, Rochester having to seek a list in order to make her confess that she loves him. Even when Benedick finally admits (to himself) that he loves Beatrice, she doesn’t. And she needs two times to do it. The first (in the gazebo) is not in public. The last will be at the end. It is also like that for Jane, she doesn’t admit at first, but because of a list (the courting of Blanche and the ‘new post’ in Ireland) she finally does, but only to Rochester. They will only marry the second time, at the end.
The fact that Hero is ‘dead’ is also true for Rochester as he will believe that Jane is dead when she has run away. He will also marry a veiled bride, as he will be blind when he finally marries Jane. He will only see her after three years. Claudio says, when he marries the veiled bride, ‘if thou likest me’. He lets the girl decide whether she wants to marry him, Rochester alike when he says: ‘Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision.’ (chapter XXXVII), hence Jane’s ‘Reader, I married him’ in chapter XXXVII. Here again the reversal of roles is apparent.
Charlotte new Shakespeare’s plays and so it is understandable that she incorporated some of them in her book.

Mr Rochester’s name provides us with some information about his character too. He is fully called Edward Fairfax Rochester. Besides the name ‘Fairfax’ maybe having its origins in a tale composed by Charles Dickens, published in 1836, we can also link the full name of Edward Fairfax to a 17th century writer and translator (28). Charlotte can have come across him via several roads, two to be precise. Firstly, there is the fact that Charlotte read pieces by John Dryden, who highly praised Edward Fairfax for his writing style and his translation of Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, 1600, Godfrey of Bouillon’s account of the siege of Jerusalem. She can have read it as there were two copies of it in the library of Ponden House, one of 1687 and one of 1749. Secondly, Edward Fairfax wrote a treatise on demonology and was a passionate believer of witchcraft.(29) If Charlotte didn’t read the treatise then she can have come across it when it was discussed by Scott in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, or in Colderidge’s (who was a friend of Bramwell Brontë) Lives of the Illustrious Worthies of Yorkshire (1831).(30) We cannot jump to conclusions on this one, that Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre would be of a demonic nature, but we cannot rule it out. Certainly because at the time Charlotte wrote her book, there was a hype of devil’s pacts going on in literature, both on the continent and in Britain (31). Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron, themselves made works touching this subject(32). If we look at two works of Byron: Cain. A mystery (1821) and Manfred. A dramatic poem (1817), we see two tormented characters. The first one comes straight out of the Bible, as the play tells the story of Cain and his brother Abel (Genesis 4: 1-16) from Cain’s perspective. Cain’s killing of Abel would be provoked by Abel’s hypocrisy and sanctimony (33). After Cain has killed his brother he is cursed by God to wander the world, marked so no one will kill him. Rochester also wanders both after the locking up of Bertha and after the loss of Jane. He even calls himself cursed at two occasions (34). At the end he argues his punishment is too heavy to bear and he asks to die (chapter XXXVII).
In the preface Bryon stated that probably some of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) inspired some of his Cain ‘because he read it so many times’. We see a hero-Satan, who tries to make others believe he does the right thing. He calls God a tyrant, locking him up in Hell, although the gates of Hell fly open once he wants to pass them (35). If we see this in relation to Rochester in Jane Eyre, we see him call Thornfield a ‘dungeon’ (36), although he has not been in Thornfield for most of the time for the last 10 years and he can still leave it when he likes. So what is the credibility of Thornfield being a dungeon to him? It is so credible as Hell being a dungeon to Satan, although Satan chose the place himself en naturally gates open when he wants to go. Rochester tells Jane that his father was ‘an avaricious, grasping man’ (chapter XXVII) who didn’t want to give him any money. But is this really true? The only thing the man did was leaving his money to his oldest son, Edward’s brother, and secure a rich marriage for his youngest son. This was very normal in classes as the Rochesters belonged to (37). So this is not credible, not even in the days the book was written. Rochester puts himself then in the shoes of Hero, the innocent character of Much Ado about Nothing. We would hardly be able to call him as innocent as Hero. We cannot take seriously what he says about the fact that he could have locked Bertha up in Ferndean either. He didn’t because he doesn’t do ‘indirect assassination’ (38). After the fire at Thornfield he goes to live there and still lives there for the next ten years with Jane, but it isn’t good enough for Bertha? There is something that doesn’t fit in his reasoning in this case. Rochester tells lies to Jane he believes himself, he turns truth around to suit him… In a certain way we would be able to call Rochester as deluded as Satan in Paradise Lost, wanting to create a world for himself by himself reigned by himself and trying to delude other people on top of that. An image of Paradise Lost’s Satan can also be found in the first watercolour Rochester chooses from Jane’s pile of paintings. The watercolour features a cormorant, which was Satan’s disguise in Paradise when he went to have a look how he could tempt Eve into eating the fruit of the Tree. The third watercolour Rochester chooses from Jane’s work is one that has tendencies with Satan who is trying to leave Hell in Paradise Lost (39). Not only Rochester has great similarities with Satan of Paradise Lost, but even the theme of Paradise Lost (the Fall of Man) can also be recognised in the second part of Jane Eyre. We would be able to read the behaviour of Rochester as the conduct of Eve in Paradise Lost, Eve becoming the trickster to innocent Adam, who had been warned, thus trying to trick Jane into sin, much like Satan made Eve eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Eve tricked Adam into eating it as well. They both become briefly ecstatic only to sink into despair after. Similarly in Jane Eyre Rochester is tricked into sin by the voice in the West-Indies (leaving Bertha, who is mad, only to wonder around Europe, and to have several mistresses, and an illegitimate daughter with one), and in turn Jane is tricked into sin by Rochester, but they both sink into despair after the failed marriage. Even like Adam and Eve, they are both expelled from Paradise, only in Jane Eyre, they both go their own ways, according to Christian virtue it not being possible for Jane to live with Rochester out of wedlock, whereas in Paradise Lost, they stay together and only contemplate breaking up (40). As said before, it wouldn’t even be that strange, to have the sexes of two characters reversed.
In Milton’s text Paradise is only figuratively lost, whereas in Jane Eyre it can be considered as really, literally lost when Jane returns to Thornfield and finds it burnt and the grounds trodden and overgrown (chapter XXXVI).
Furthermore, Charlotte Brontë knew Paradise Lost so well, that she actually corrected the printing faults in her copy (41).
The second piece of Byron features a character called Manfred, who has committed some mysterious crime. He is remorseful and wants to forget, but is not able to. Because of that he summons 7 spirits and asks them for forgetfulness. Although the word ‘forgetfulness’ seems to be clear, we must explain it a little bit. Manfred does not seek to forget his past life as such, but only seeks to forget his feeling of guilt like the ‘forgetful lake’ in Paradise Lost would allow him. Milton got that in Dante’s Divina Commedia: unlike in Greek mythology (the Lethe) the river made the people who entered the afterlife merely forget their feelings of guilt (42). Manfred seeks to forget the feeling of guilt he has from Astarte committing suicide because he broke her heart. Sadly the spirits are not able to offer him that. After that he does not believe that they are spirits and asks for proof by appearance. The seventh spirit turns himself into a beautiful woman. Upon that Manfred declares that he would like to embrace her. While he faints he is cursed to live forever. Manfred tries to commit suicide, but is not able to. Manfred wants to see Astarte one more time in order to relieve himself from his guild again and calls for the Witch of the Alps. She says she cannot help him because it does not belong to her tasks and anyway she doesn’t know why he called her ‘for a member of the race he so much despises’. He goes to Hell for a last try. Astarte’s spirit is called and he asks her for forgiveness, but she will not tell him that. He asks her if she loves him, but she won’t tell him. She only says that his earthly ills will be over the day after (43). While he waits the whole of the next day the abbot of the nearby abbey enters Manfred’s castle and tells him that his doings with spirits and sorts are not good. Manfred replies that he is doomed anyway and that it is too late for repentance. The abbot doesn’t agree and tries to persuade Manfred to do so anyway, but Manfred persists. In the end Manfred expires. Like Manfred Rochester is in exile after some mysterious thing that happened (44). He also seeks forgetfulness, wanting to burry ‘her [Bertha’s] identity, her connection with yourself [Rochester], [be buried] in oblivion’ (chapter XXVII). He so much wants to forget, but cannot run away from his past. He tries several times to deny having a wife during the wedding scene, but in the end needs to recognise that he has one (45). I would say he so much wants to forget, that, when Mason turns up in chapter XIX, he is so much distraught that Bertha’s existence is remembered again. He even urges Richard to forget her when Carter is dressing his wounds (chapter XX) (46). Bertha’s living place (the third story) is described as a lonely place where there is furniture ‘wrought by fingers that for two generations had been coffin-dust.’ All those had given the third storey of Thornfield Hall an aspect of ‘a home of the past: a shrine of memory.’ (chapter XI) Indeed, Rochester sought forgetfulness, but was as unlucky as Manfred not to be able to find it. Furthermore, Thornfield Hall is often associated with a ‘vault’ (47). What does it actually mean: ‘vault’? According to the Collins English Dictionary it can have several meanings from which: 2 a room, especially a cellar, having an arched roof down to floor level, 3 a burial chamber, especially when underground and 4 a strongroom for the safe-deposit and storage of valuables. So Charlotte associates Thornfield with underground rooms, even with a grave, or a safe to lock things in… She uses the same word ‘vault’ to describe the family grave of the Rochesters in the grounds of the church in chapter XXVI (48). So another reason to presume that Rochester in fact seeks to forget Bertha’s existence. In fact, for him she is as dead as the dead in their caskets in the family vault. Hence his resistance to the fact he’s actually got a wife already. He has totally forgotten the fact that he has one and has made a world for himself excluding Bertha, just as Satan in Paradise Lost makes himself a world, as mentioned earlier. However, if we put the word ‘vault’ into connection with the Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard, which will be discussed later, then we can suppose that Bertha wasn’t only forgotten about, but is supposed to be ‘dead’. Hence the fact that Bertha's living place has the same 'vault-like air' as the 'Rocheser family vault' in the churchyard.
If we put this ‘forgetfulness’ in connection with the type of forgetfulness Manfred seeks, we can find clues in Jane Eyre that Rochester in fact feels guilty about something (49). But why would he feel guilty? Manfred broke Astarte’s heart. Would something have gone on in that sense in Jamaica? Or would the fact that he locked her up and went off and had mistresses have something to do with his guilt? Or would the fact that he hasn’t sought treatment for Bertha make him feel guilty? If we take the Manfred-view we can presume that he broke Bertha’s heart. Maybe she wasn’t mad at all and Rochester didn’t like her and locked her up, but that would be really cruel of him. We cannot say anything about the reason why he feels guilty and we won’t make presumptions, like Jean Rhys did, because it is not our role. But the fact is he does feel guilty. Twice he uses the word ‘remorse’. According to the Collins English Dictionary it means ‘a sense of deep regret and guilt for some misdeed’. If Rochester takes the word ‘err’ into his mouth he talks about the fact that he made a mistake, which is understandable later. But what does he talk about when he takes the word ‘remorse’ into his mouth? The word is connected with crimes, misdeeds etc. He explicitly states that he didn’t commit a crime. Does he then merely talk about the mistake he made in marrying Bertha? Charlotte knew English and she cannot have used a word so heavily laden if she didn’t mean anything by it. Rochester says ‘Dread remorse when you are tempted to err…’ (chapter XIV). I do not believe he talks about the marriage to Bertha. ‘Temptation’ means the act of trying to persuade someone to do something, especially something that is morally wrong or unwise (Collins English Dictionary). In other words Rochester could have chosen the right way, but chose the wrong one, as Eve who knew that she was not allowed to eat from the Tree, but did anyway. So the temptation of Rochester does not refer to the marriage, because he didn’t know of Bertha’s state of mind, and the marriage was not morally wrong or unwise, but refers rather to the fact that he could have chosen to stay with her and care for her, but didn’t, locked her up and went off to lead a despicable life morally, as Charlotte would have seen that. We can even go further if we take into account what the contents of Dickens’ A madman’s Manuscript was. The story was about a man who lost his senses and attacked his wife, who becomes hysterical and then he has her pronounced mad, because the doctors see she’s a woman and suppose that she, instead of him, has lost her senses. If we see this in relation to the ‘remorse’ Rochester, to the image Jane describes in chapter XIX (when Bertha bit Richard), of Judas who seems to come alive, we can maybe suppose that Rochester ‘sold’ Bertha for a bag of silver (the £30,000 that she got as dowry) to public opinion, who pronounced her mad, because she had a sinful life, was disobedient, or just spent too much money, like Messalina who he compares her to in chapter XXVII, who was killed by her husband because she was unchaste. So in relation to everything here we couldn’t possibly interpret Bertha’s locking up as a noble act of Rochester, because he didn’t see it that way himself!
In Jane Eyre, like in Manfred, occurs a witch: Rochester calls Jane a witch, blaming her for ‘bewitching’ his horse and for his sprain in chapter XI. He calls her a witch several times (50). Not only that. Like the Witch in the play of Byron, Jane encourages Rochester twice while he is telling the story of his former life by saying the word ‘Proceed’. After the Witch of the Alps in the play has been called she asks why Manfred called her ‘for a member of the race that thou despise’. This sentence however can be interpreted two-ways. The first being ‘the race thou despise’, and the second being ‘the member thou despise’. If we apply the sentence to the context in which Jane speaks we could interpret it in the second sense. She tells Rochester: ‘Sir, you are inexorable for that unfortunate lady: you speak of her with hate—with vindictive antipathy.’ (ch XXVII) Indeed Rochester despises Bertha. The witch cannot see why she is called, because what Manfred wants – calling Astarte’s spirit in order to ask her for forgiveness – she cannot offer him. She can, however, relieve him of his guilt if he swears true to her, but Manfred refuses and the witch retires to her ‘dwelling place’. Similarly, Jane does not understand what she has to do with a less tormented life for Rochester and she can only offer him God, but, just as Manfred, Rochester refuses and Jane returns to her bedroom (see chapter XXVII). At the end of that particular scene in the play, Manfred says: ‘The night approaches.’ Even that is true in Jane Eyre! After the ‘farewell’ of Jane, five asterisks appear and the very next words after that are ‘that night I never thought to sleep’. However there is no other chapter where there is a pause in the text, there seems to be an explicit one in chapter XXVII.
At the end, when Jane tells Rochester ‘Farewell’, we would be able to interpret Jane as ‘the other’ of Bertha, which has been argued before (51). Jane and Bertha together would be the universal ‘woman’, as it were, which Rochester wrongs severely. If we indeed consider Bertha as ‘the dead disobedient woman’ in Bluebeard’s forbidden cupboard, then we can see that Bertha is called up that day. Of course Bertha is not able to speak and so it is Jane who needs to do it for her. Rather than the feminist idea of Bertha as ‘the locked up other’ of Jane in this case Jane is used as the voice of Bertha. Bertha’s spirit is called, during the wedding and certainly after it, but Bertha is too disturbed to do what Astarte does in the play. Jane doesn’t speak at first, does not forgive Rochester (in words), and does not tell him she loves him as before (only in the beginning, but that was to be ‘the last time she must express it), just as Astarte. In the end ‘all ills will be over tomorrow’, as Jane will leave, and Rochester will not come out of the house anymore and he will stop living like before. He will even send Adèle to school and thus get rid of the proof of his past misconduct. In the end Bertha commits suicide, and dies (ten years too late as she was already forgotten, and in a vault for ten years), like Astarte. Rochester tries to save her, and thus repents of his wrongs and recognises his crime, unlike Manfred, and earns himself another chance to marry the universal woman, who he will not (be able to) wrong anymore. In the last and one before last chapter there is nothing about Bertha anymore, apart from what the owner of the inn tells Jane. Rochester has been relieved of his guilt and lifted out of the place of his crime and can now start a new life.
As Manfred Rochester tries to commit suicide, but abandons the thought after a second (52). During the story there are several attempts to his life. The first one being the fire in the bed in chapter XVI, the second one being Bertha who charges towards him after the wedding in chapter XXVI, and the third one being the fire that Bertha instigated, told by the owner of the inn in chapter XXXVI. Unfortunately fate always prevents him from dying, even when the stairs fall on top of him.
Until here the things in Jane Eyre that are clearly similar to Manfred, but if we take Millstein’s view on Manfred: that Manfred is so self-centred that he ‘imagines himself beyond the reach of conventional morality’ and thus that the love between Manfred and Astarte is the reflection of Manfred’s narcissism (53), we can say in connection to Rochester that Jane and Bertha together, would summarise the two roads Rochester can go. Either he persists in his narcissism, which he has advocated for at least ten years now, and he will become senseless (Bertha), or he will humble himself, become religious again, and he will become a sensible person (Jane). As Manfred Rochester doesn’t want to be true to anyone but himself, going as far as asking Jane to see (his) reason. Indeed, he will reject Jane’s proposal to go the same road as she, and he will become senseless (54). At the time Jane accepts Rochester’s proposal, Rochester seems determined to make Jane a wonderful bride for himself. He wants to send for the family jewels, he goes to buy her dresses and jewellery. Jane rejects this when she says: ‘I shall not be your Jane Eyre any longer, but an ape in a harlequin’s jacket—a jay in borrowed plumes.’ (chapter XXIV) It is not that she is not good enough for him because she is his likeness (55), but because he wants to satisfy his pride. He does not want to marry his ‘governess’, as he asks her to ‘stop her governess slavery at once’, but he wants to marry a rich woman who Jane is not. And in an attempt to achieve that - if he is not allowed to buy her jewellery, dresses and send for the family jewels – he buys her a wedding dress and a veil that reflects ‘Fairfax Rochester’s pride’, a demon that Jane is used to seeing. He even summons Jane to die with him, in chapter XXIV. Rochester is so occupied, obsessed almost, with himself that he finds his likeness in a fairy, witch, elf, etc., creatures that are immortal and superior to humans. He tells Jane ‘death is not for the likes of you’ after the song he sings for her in chapter XXIV. He even feels so superior to others that he plays with Ingram, courting her when he doesn’t have the smallest intention to marry her, something that was not done at all. If he sees Ingram in that way, he certainly sees Bertha as inferior to him. He admits that he hates her, not even because she is mad. Here we would be able to see Byron’s sentence at work: ‘A member of the race thou dost despise’. It is not only the person itself he hates, but even the race as such. He earns himself the right to possess someone (Bertha), use someone (Ingram) and make someone immortal by calling her an elf/witch/fairy etc. (Jane). Even when Adèle persists in the fact that ‘Mademoiselle is not fairy’, he doesn’t cease to call Jane that. There Rochester even earns himself the ability to take Jane to the moon. When he dresses up as the gypsy, he makes out to be paranormally gifted. In that, he again associates his person with witches who have access to the supernatural. Although Jane tells him that it was not a gypsy he acted out he thinks his list was ‘well carried out’. When Rochester asks her, after the wedding has been cancelled, ‘then you condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?’ he puts Jane on the level of determining his life. In other words, he was going to marry a creature that has earned the right to decide what happens to him. In the same chapter he associates her with a Sphynx a divine creature of Egyptian culture. Jane, on the other hand doesn’t agree she can determine his life, but he doesn’t hear. It is only after he realises his hardships and God’s role in it, his own inferiority, that he comes to his senses again. He makes out that Jane is a ghost (again), but that is quickly put right. However Jane still needs to tackle his materialism, when Rochester offers her the pearl necklace again. On the other hand she does accept his watch, but then again, he hasn’t got ‘a use for it’. She doesn’t react to the necklace, because the roles have been reversed. She is now able to say no, whereas before, he wouldn’t have taken no for an answer. He himself is no longer the reference, but Jane who ‘suit[s] [him]’. He doesn’t say ‘I entreat to accept me as a husband’, but he asks her whether ‘[he] suit[s] [her]’ and lets Jane herself say something about it.
People can think about this analysis what they like, but it puts at least the gypsy-scene into perspective. It is very difficult to see what Charlotte actually meant by this scene, and it is clearly visible that it is of great significance. It is not merely a list of Rochester to be laughed at, but it bears great atmosphere and great tension, for both Jane and Rochester. And if we follow Millstein’s path on Manfred we can easily give significance to the gypsy as a costume for Rochester.
His bond with narcissism is symbolised in his dog, Pilot, the dog being the symbol of ultimate fidelity. The first ever scene, when Rochester falls off his high horse, literally, Pilot doesn’t only stand for Rochester’s good nature, but also for his good nature that is being reigned by narcissism, symbolised in Mesrour and brought to human size in Rochester’s person. Rochester and Pilot are ever together, apart from this once, when Jane comes home, just after the encounter in Hay Lane and sees this dog in front of the fire. She calls it by name and it comes, Jane having been called a witch already, maybe this scene can be seen as a kind of foretelling what will come. The most adorable and poignant scene in this case is the scene the morning after the proposal: Pilot walking back and forth behind Rochester on the pavement as he is waiting for Jane to go shopping in Millcote. If we indeed interpret Rochester as the top of narcissism it is not surprising that Pilot follows him around, as

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Rochester is indeed highly in love with himself, as he just proposed to Jane, although he knows he has a wife living, and thus regards English Law, common law and Christian Law as non-existent. Thus his good nature has become the slave of narcissism, following it every step of the way. At the end, when Jane enters the room at Ferndean, she, in turn, commands ‘Down, Pilot!’. Unlike Mesrour who was not going to be tamed by Jane, Pilot now calms down when Jane tells him to. Indeed, Rochester has realised his inferiority and can now listen to someone else. When they go and have a walk, the next day, and Rochester proposes, Pilot gets hungry and goes home alone, this symbolising the fact that Rochester’s good nature has been freed from narcissism, and is no longer a slave of it. It is after that that Rochester declares to want to marry without ‘fine clothes and jewels’ because ‘all that is not worth a fillip’ and also admits to have become religious again.
The difference in size between the two animals associated with Rochester is also very distinctive, Mesrour being a tall steed, and Pilot being a dog, though of considerable size. At that point in the story, it is indeed Rochester’s narcissism that is the most important and not his good nature. By the end only the dog, i.e. Rochester’s good nature, is left.
The image of the dog as very faithful companion was largely popular in the 19th century, as there was a cult around Prince Albert and his favourite dog Eos, symbolising Victoria, as the faithful and submissive wife (56). Rather than a ‘male extension’, like in her sister’s novels, I would see Charlotte’s Pilot as an extension of Rochester, though a very faithful, positive and tender extension of him. As image of his tender heart, as Charlotte describes him to W.S. Williams. When Charlotte writes ‘he [Rochester] endured the embrace as Pilot would have, nor so much’, she means to say, that Rochester at that point actually likes it less than Pilot (would). Indeed, Rochester says in chapter XIV, when Jane wants to put Adèle to bed and she has run off with her ‘cadeau’ (her pink satin dress, socks and shoes), that he knows ‘she will shock [his] tender feelings’. After that Adèle runs in and dances around and Rochester even participates in saying ‘et comme cela’ (‘like this’). Charlotte doesn’t say what he exactly does but Adèle says ‘elle faisait comme cela’ (she did like this), probably making a dance move. Rochester participates with his daughter in imitating her mother. He also allowes Adèle to be in the room with his guests. Although he refuses to recognise before everyone that she is his daughter, there seems to be little doubt left that she is. He grants her favours which he was not forced to grant her: he lets her live at his house, he lets her mix with his guests, he gives her material things (porcelain cups and plaits, a dress and clothes etc.), which turns out to be his way of loving someone – because that’s what he gives Jane -, after she has left school, she serves as a companion to Jane. Adèle is allowed to come home to his house after she has finished school and Jane goes to visit her regularly. Of course we cannot say that Rochester was very much involved, but men were never involved with their children. It was the mother’s role to be involved in their education and growing up, and thus Jane does the job of stepmother. Unlike Jane in the beginning, Adèle is not left to herself in school. She even changed schools because conditions were too hard. Rochester was not forced in any way to care for her in this way. He could have left her in France, he could have left her in school, and after that could have left her to be, like Jane, a governess or maid, without family, or there were a lot of other possibilities. In the end he doesn’t, not even in the beginning. In that, he clearly recognises that she is his daughter and also raises her or has her raised like that. When, then, Adèle plays with Pilot, we can see Pilot as the ‘tender extension’ of Rochester, the part of Rochester that would really like to play with his ‘love child’, but is sadly dominated by the demon narcissism-Mesrour, at that point.
By touching Rochester’s narcissism we can link him heavily with Satan of Paradise Lost. Satan loved himself so much that he decided to stand up against God, his creator, and ultimately caused the Fall of Man.
Byron’s Manfred was reviewed in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1817 and in The Duke of Zamorna, which she wrote in 1838, Charlotte made a reference to it (57).
I said before that we didn’t have to jump to conclusions on the so-called demonic nature of Rochester in Jane Eyre, but I cannot help to think in that direction, certainly not after the link with deluded Satan in Paradise Lost and Manfred in Byron’s play. If we now have a neutral look at what the so-called ‘symptoms’ are:
• Hearing voices, certainly when there is no sign of madness.
• Clinging to a particular idea/principle, and not wanting to listen to reason, certainly when there is no sign of madness.
• A split personality, as if there are two personalities in one physical person.
• Hating God
The key to possession would be acceptance. Bad spirits would be sent by God, sometimes to test one’s faith. The spirit would gradually take possession through the different senses. Accepting would be just committing sin through those senses. For example the eyes would be able to commit sin through looking at all things vile, the tongue would be able to commit sin through blasphemy/slander/swearing, etc.
In another way acceptance would be believing the lies whispered or accepting the suggestions made by those voices, thinking they are one’s own ideas. This would be able to be recognised when those voices would seem to come from ‘outside’ the body, certainly if there are no signs of madness (58).
If we look at Rochester’s account of his life in the West-Indies I cannot help thinking in that direction. In chapter XXVII Rochester tells Jane how he came to the decision to lock up Bertha and to go and look for another wife:
‘…for it was true Wisdom that consoled me in that hour, and showed me the right path to follow. The sweet wind from Europe was still whispering in the refreshed leaves, … ‘Go,’ said Hope, ‘and live again in Europe: there it is not known what a sullied name you bear, nor what a filthy burden is bound to you. You may take the maniac with you to England; confine her with due attendance and precautions at Thornfield: then travel yourself to what clime you will, and form what new tie you like. That woman, who has so abused your long-suffering, so sullied your name, so outraged your honour, so blighted your youth, is not your wife, nor are you her husband. See that she is cared for as her condition demands, and you have done all that God and humanity require of you. Let her identity, her connection with yourself, be buried in oblivion: you are bound to impart them to no living being. Place her in safety and comfort: shelter her degradation with secrecy, and leave her.’ ‘I acted precisely on this suggestion….’
He certainly heard a voice outside of his body and responded to a suggestion it made, even without questioning it. He called it ‘Wisdom’, but who is to tell? Rochester also keeps believing his opinion about the fact that he doesn’t have a wife, even after the wedding has been cancelled (59). Admittedly, he yells at Jane to see reason, but what reason does he mean? His reason or God’s reason? His personal reason or Jane’s reason? He refuses to see what Jane considers as reason, and so what decision she has already taken. When he insists she will be Mrs Rochester (60), he refuses to listen both to Jane and to God himself. Jane mentions once that she thought she heard him swear. When he falls off his horse in chapter XII (61).
These are all very plausible reasons to believe that Charlotte made him demonic, so then it would not be so unrealistic to claim that Rochester didn’t lock his wife up in a humane manner.
If this is not enough, there are other reasons, additional to the link with the Satan of Paradise Lost, and the symptoms of possession he seems to have, to believe that Rochester is in fact supposed to be a character with a demonic undertone. Charlotte put Rochester on a black horse called Mesrour (62). There is even no mention of another horse in connection with Rochester in the whole book. Demons and Satan himself were often depicted as black-dressed men on black horses (63). Rochester was riding a black horse when Jane first encountered him in Hay Lane and his hair and eyes are black and dark enough to make up for it (64). On top of that the colours black and red have always been associated with the devil. Rochester’s drawing room is partly crimson and it is very curious that often Rochester is described, he is always put into an interior with a fire burning (65). Jane also tells us at some time that he likes a good fire (66). It puzzles me how, even in summer, he needs a fire. Even the fire is there in the library while Rochester still tries to convince Jane of becoming his mistress (67). Furthermore, it says at the end that the fire burnt low, when Jane enters the room at Ferndean (68). Then the bad spirits have gone out of his frame, so naturally there is no need for Hell anymore. Of course we can still attribute the fires to emotion, if we like, but it is certainly very interesting that at the end of the book, after the fire at Thornield and thus Rochester’s repentance, there is no mention of Mesrour anymore. If it was indeed Charlotte’s plan to make the first Rochester a demonic character, it makes no sense that he would still have a black horse after his return to religion. Of course one can always argue that the horse would have been burnt alive in the stables, together with the rest of the house, but still Charlotte made Pilot live.
It is very interesting that Mesrour is mentioned only three times: once in the very beginning in Hay Lane, the next time when he arrives with his guests, riding next to Blanche Ingram and the third, not surprisingly, the day before the wedding. The first time, in Hay Lane, Rochester makes, literally, a ‘furious’ entry with a lot of noise, and it is exactly his demon, narcissism, that has driven him, like in Hay Lane, with a lot of fury, through the whole of Europe, committing sin. The second time, Rochester is about to lie to both Jane and Ingram and even to the rest of his guests, by courting Blanche. He could have just asked Jane and declared his love for her, why possibly play with both her feelings and the feelings of others? Here again, he puts himself on the level of being able to judge and condemn. The third time, he is about to commit bigamy. The weather is bad, it storms, and he puts Jane on his horse, together with him, thus symbolising the fact that he will firstly try to commit bigamy with her and, if that turns out not to be possible, try to get her to France with him and make her his mistress.
Bedside this, there seems to be a link with Dante’s Divina Commedia, not only concerning the 'forgetfulness', but with Hell itself: in chapter XI, Jane describes the drawing room as follows: ‘snowy mouldings of white grapes and vine-leaves, … and between the windows large mirrors repeated the general blending of snow and fire.’
Charlotte Brontë is known to have read a little of Dante as she learned Italian. She must have started with it in 1832 when she studied at Margaret Wooler’s School, who reportedly was ‘a fine Italian scholar’. Charlotte had a book, called The Complete Italian Master; containing the best and easiest Rules for attaining that Language (1678). It contained a poetry section, with some poems and exerpts of Dante. She got the book on the 31st of August 1832 (69). In the 6th canto of the Inferno (Hell) of Dante’s Divina Commedia, Dante describes Hell as an environment of both snow and fire. The deeper in Hell, the least love for God you had had in your earthly life and so the colder it got. The worst off is Lucifer himself who is frozen solid in a block of ice at the bottom of Hell. So what does Charlotte see in Rochester if she puts him in a ‘snowy’ drawing room, with fire and crimson decor in the bargain? Even if she didn’t read Dante’s most important work, but only some sonnets of his, then certainly she must have got the image of both fire and snow in Milton’s Paradise Lost, who inspired it on Dante’s Divina Commedia. In the second book he describes Hell as follows:
‘Beyond this flood a frozen Continent

Of ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice,

Burns frore, and cold performs th' effect of Fire.

From Beds of raging Fire to starve in Ice
Thir soft Ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Immovable, infixt, and frozen round,’ (70)
By making Rochester’s drawing room a ‘general blending of snow and fire’ she makes an allusion to Milton’s Hell in book 2 of his Paradise Lost. What are we supposed to think of a drawing room that has hell-like features? At that moment in the story Jane doesn’t have any reason to feel unhappy. Maybe she had been a little scared in the beginning - but how would we be ourselves if we were 18 and went to an unknown environment, having no family to support us when we have to go away if things go wrong? – but Mrs Fairfax treats her well and she feels reasonably happy. On the day the marriage is cancelled, it suddenly turns cold, snowy and icy: ‘A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, to-day were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and flagrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway.’ (chapter XXVI). Indeed, Jane almost descends into Hell, by almost entering into a bigamous marriage.
So if we take into account the link with Satan of Paradise Lost, we can safely put Rochester at least in Hell as a doomed spirit in that part of the story, if not even make him Lucifer himself.
Taking Dante’s Hell into consideration, what can we say about the very first scene Rochester occurs in, when he falls off his horse? Mesrour slides on a spot of ice, and Rochester falls off his horse. If we see Mesrour, Rochester and Pilot as a kind of trinity, because they never appear alone, certainly not Pilot - the latter even walked after his master on the pavement (71) - we can see this scene with Rochester in perspective. Pilot is a Newfoundland dog, which race is known for its good nature (72). Unlike Mesrour, he is not totally black, but black and white (73). Thus symbolising the fact that his nature was good but that he was easily corruptible. If we consider Mesrour as the demonic side that entered Rochester and Pilot as the good nature and feeling heart, Charlotte described in her letter (74), then in that scene made a summary of what would happen to Rochester in the pages to come.
Rochester falls off his horse, that slid away on a spot of ice. If we connect that with Dante’s Hell, we can interpret it as the fact that Mesrour-Satan slips on his own narcissism. His good nature, Pilot, summons her help and Jane tries to control the demon, Mesrour, but doesn’t succeed. Rochester tries to get up, but has hurt himself, and cannot walk. He will have to join up with his demon again and will not be able to part from him just yet. He needs to suffer and to be helped by Jane. The sentence that Charlotte put in Rochester’s mouth that the situation forces him to make Jane 'useful’, then becomes very true indeed. In a letter to WS Williams on the 14th of August 1848, Charlotte described Rochester as follows: ’Mr. Rochester has a thoughtful nature and a very feeling heart; he is neither selfish nor self-indulgent; he is ill-educated, misguided; errs, when he does err, through rashness and inexperience: he lives for a time as too many other men live, but being radically better than most men, he does not like that degraded life, and is never happy in it.‘. It is difficult to understand how she can regard a figure like that, having a thoughtful nature and a feeling heart. He plays with Ingram’s and (certainly) Jane’s feelings, lets Jane be humiliated by his guests, he had several mistresses etc, etc. No, he is not at all selfish or self-indulgent. Unless, of course, she made him possessed by a demon, which would, for a short time, mask his thoughtful nature and feeling heart, evoked in Pilot. His nature indeed is attracted to Jane, like Pilot in chapter XII and XXXVII, but sadly his demonic companion prevents him from doing any more, ultimately breaking his spirit by taking Jane away again, so he looses all hope. The fact that Pilot gets excited when his master falls off his horse and that he is silenced by a ‘Down, Pilot!’ is very striking, as the demonic companion would keep Rochester’s good nature in check.
But Rochester becomes religious again. Indeed, it is possible for God to call back malevolent spirits when he believes faith has been tested long enough (75). By the time Jane has gone and Rochester believes she is dead, he has suffered enough. God decides to free Rochester from his burden.
In order to give the demonic side of Rochester a place we should look at two fairy tales Charlotte mentioned or alluded to in Jane Eyre. The first one being Child Rowland and the second Bluebeard.
We can link the passage with the crimson liquid (chapter XX) to an English fairy tale called Childe Rowland ,as mentioned in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Charlotte makes an allusion to it by calling Rochester’s brother Rowland. It is a story about Burd Ellen, who is kidnapped by the King of Elfland, when she was getting a ball that was kicked over the church by her brother Rowland. She gets carried off by the fairies, because she walks around the church ‘widershins’ (in the contrary direction to the sun) and gets locked up in the Dark Tower by the King of Elfland and can only be rescued by ‘the greatest night in Christendom’. Burd Ellen has three brothers. The first goes to look for her, but doesn’t come back, as does the second one. The third and last one, Childe Rowland, goes under protest of his mother. He gets his father’s sword that never misses and he takes good advice from a merlin: after talking to people of Elfland, he must behead them. He must not take food or drink from them and he must not let the King enchant him. He does the first and gets into the castle to his sister. She cannot warn him of anything because she has been enchanted, so she offers him food. He nearly forgets the rule, but remembers just in time. But then suddenly the King turns up. Childe Rowland fights the King, wins and makes him beg for mercy. He will grand him mercy if he brings his enchanted brothers back to life and if he releases his sister. The King comes with a crimson liquid and touches their ears, eyelids, nostrils, lips, and finger-tips and the brothers revive again (76). So Charlotte links her Rochester to the King who locks an unfortunate girl up in a tower, and who kills Burd Ellen’s two brothers. He was certainly the bad guy in the fairy tale, but not only that. We can make a link to Bertha if we interpret the fact that Burd Ellen walked ‘widershins’ around the church, as Bertha who walks ‘widershins’ around the relationship with Rochester. So he carries her off to his castle in a far country (from Jamaica to England) and locks her up. If we go further we can even claim that Rochester in turn has also been carried off to a far land when he came back to England, because he walked ‘widershins’ around the principles of church and law, by having three mistresses and an illegitimate daughter during his marriage. Thus he would also be locked up in the castle, and was ‘enchanted’, read possessed. Although we cannot really call him ‘locked up’ in a building as such, we can call him ‘locked up’ within himself by a demonic spirit. Then there can only be the ‘greatest night in Christendom’ that can come and save him, read Jane. Of course it will take a struggle, but in the end she’ll win. Jane certainly lives according to the three advices given to the ‘greatest night in Christendom’ by the merlin. She hasn’t talked to the people of Elfland (read Ingram and the rest), she didn’t accept food from Burd Ellen (read Rochester who is enchanted). One time she categorically refuses to have dinner with him (77). When she says: ‘until I can’t help it’, does she mean like Burd Ellen’s two brothers who got enchanted and died in the struggle with the King? She says it when they are ‘re-entering the gates’. It is very striking that she says it just at that particular moment. Indeed, ‘until I can’t help it’ means ‘until after the wedding’, read when she will be enchanted. There is never talk of food in connection with Rochester and Jane together. Jane eats with Mrs Fairfax, and, admittedly, sometimes has tea with Rochester, but naturally he will never offer, as he has servants to do so. The only time she does get something of his hand is in chapter XXVII the glass of wine, after the wedding has been cancelled. We can interpret this as the waking up of the two brothers by the conquered King, if we want to accept that Jane has been ‘enchanted’ for some time by Rochester. Jane has already taken the decision and listens to Rochester, but he will not be able to change her mind, indeed Jane’s enchantment has been broken and Jane will now, as Burd Ellen, leave the castle. In this case again we can see the two-way reading, with the reversal of roles, that was apparent in the link with Paradise Lost.
Of course in the last chapter of Jane Eyre Jane prepares supper for Rochester and they eat together, but then of course the fairy tale has been over for about ten chapters.

If we have a look at Bluebeard, Charlotte mentions it in chapter XI, when Jane Eyre compares the third storey of Thornfield to a corridor of a ‘Bluebeard’s castle’ (78).The curious new wife of King Bluebeard cannot go into one room but does anyway and is to be killed, like the other ones, but she is saved at the last instant by her brothers. Rochester locks his wife up and Jane is not to know. After she has seen Bertha, Jane believes that she will go the same way. Whether because Bertha is Jane’s double or not, is not important, although we would be able to see Bertha as one of the too curious wives of Bluebeard who was killed and now locked in that small room on a story of the building that is ‘a shrine of memory’. Jane is saved by her uncle who sends two men just before Rochester would kill her morally by dragging her into a bigamous marriage. After that his Thornfield gets destroyed as Bluebeard’s castle (79).
We could also be able to link Jane Eyre to Perrault’s Beauty and the Beast, a link which is very obvious (80).
Charlotte links her Rochester to three bad fairy tale figures at least. If we take into account certainly Childe Rowland we can put the ‘enchantedness’ of Rochester into perspective. As he needs the ‘greatest knight in Christendom’ to be rescued, we can then see why, by the end, Jane calls God to her aid several times (81). When she says ‘God help me,’ she does not merely say it in the way it is usually said, but she really means it. She needs all the help she can get to fight as ‘the greatest knight in Christendom’ against this demon. She needs all that strength to be able to resist temptation of staying there and so get enchanted as well. Yet, she almost gives in (82), but her will wins it from temptation. Two months after she has left Thornfield burns down and Rochester is left with one hand and blind. We can see this as the salvation from the malevolent spirit. God indeed can always call back his demons. He does so when he makes Rochester, risking his own life, save everyone in the house, even going up on the roof to get his hated wife out. Life itself can only be taken and given by God, so in risking it, Rochester is prepared to risk the highest thing he has, has had and will ever have. Everything stops and starts with life. By taking Bertha out of Rochester’s life, God frees him from his ‘burden’/’curse’ that he has had put upon him, like Cain, so that he would never be happy. After that there is no problem for Rochester to become religious again, and he starts to realise that the fire and his physical sufferings were a punishment from God. He prays and in the end calls Jane. It puzzled me before how Jane heard that voice in the air, but if we see the story in the way I mentioned before, then we can interpret the voice as an allowance from God so they find each other back. Jane goes without knowing if Rochester is in the same situation as the year before or not. Is she about to give in to temptation and also going to react on a voice like Rochester in the West-Indies? I believe so, but this time, the voice is legitimised by what Rochester tells her afterwards and what the keeper of the inn tells her. Or maybe it can be put down by female intuition. In Beauty and the Beast, Beauty also gets a dream about the fact that the Beast is in danger and goes to him. For one whole year Jane has wondered what happened to Rochester and Rochester has had her sought for, but cannot find her. Mrs Fairfax also didn’t know anything about Jane when the lawyer comes to ask her. But by one little bit of luck, just as Jane is struggling with a proposal of marriage from St John, she gets the sign, which she asked for. At that point she is confused, having heard the one before last chapter of Revelations. St John is desperate to marry her, and so uses that chapter to threaten Jane. She is terribly confused and doesn’t know what she has to do. She cannot keep refusing, because she doesn’t have a reason that St John wants to hear as a reason. They are both on a different wave length, as it were, concerning marriage and love, and even what love is, as such. And at that point of utter confusion, she gets granted the sign she longs for in Rochester’s exclamation.
In chapter XXVI, in the room of Bertha, Rochester uses a verse from Matthew 7:2: ‘with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged!’. It is a shame that he forgot what the verse says afterwards, because this is only the first part. The second part says: ‘and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’ Indeed he will end up alone, like he left Bertha alone in a desolate spot, closed off from the gentry and in a room where he doesn’t see anything from the outside world, if we interpret his blindness that way. In short in a place with no seeming life (84), like Bertha was locked up on a floor with no seeming life (see earlier). Also in connection with the fairy tale Burd Ellen we can see it that way: Rochester locks Bertha up and gets ‘locked up’ himself. In connection with Paradise Lost too: Satan-the voice tricks Eve-Rochester and Eve-Rochester tricks Adam-Jane.
One chapter later, in XXVII, Rochester alludes to another passage from the Bible‘…Thornfield Hall — this accursed place — this tent of Achan — this insolent vault…’. The passage he alludes to is part of The Book of Joshua, chapter 7. The Jews destroy Jericho with God’s help, but they are not allowed to take anything from the city. A man called Achan does anyway and when the Jews go to attack Ai, they loose 36 of the 3000 men they sent. Joshua asks why and God tells him that there is a man among them who took things. A trial follows and Achan is found out, the things – that were buried is his tent - his children and wife are taken and everything is burnt. That Rochester alludes to this story is very strange. What does he want to say if he says: ‘this accursed place’? In the story there is no mention of a curse. If we see the fact that he forgot the second part of the verse of Matthew 7 then we can also suppose that he forgot what the actual story of Achan was about, namely the fact that Achan was disobedient to God and so brought disaster upon his people because of his greed (84).

As we come to the conclusion of this paper, we have seen Rochester from different sides, all of which are not very positive. We can see him as having a link to Satan and Eve of Paradise Lost, both characters causing the Fall of Man, we can see him as Manfred of Byron’s play, we can see him as Byron’s Cain, we can even link him with demons and bad figures of fairy tales, we can see him lying or telling half-truths, and we can also find circumstantial evidence that the treatment of his wife was not very modern to say the least. If one reads properly there is hardly anything positive about Rochester when he is first put into the story. I am not able to see him as a noble character, because it doesn’t fit with the image Brontë made him, nor with circumstances at the time. As in Sturm und Drang of course we are able, as readers, to feel for him and understand him, even sympathise with him and maybe we would even have gone the same road, but ultimately, do society rules, class conventions, lies of others and desperation, justify the faults he made? Schiller’s play Die Räuber ends on a positive note of hope, Goethe’s Faust ends with Faust being brought to Heaven by an angel. Indeed human’s are prone to mistakes but they can turn that around by repentance and God will hear them. Rochester has gone an unfortunate road but can finally put everything straight. We can understand why he did what he did, but never Charlotte nor Jane suggest that they approved. Rochester is a very attractive character and all women nearly swoon over him. Sadly, this makes the cliché every time very true: the fact that indeed people are easily led by appearance, lies and easily disregard bad behaviour because of the good impression the person makes. Charlotte made her Rochester so very lively, so very real, so very manly, so very interesting, fascinating, mysterious, cultivated, intelligent…, in short women fall in love with him just by reading his words. And although he only occupies one third of Jane Eyre, he claims the whole story. Every (woman-) reader and film script writer remembers Jane and Rochester, not what happened before, not what happened after, just the middle. But is it because we like him, like Jane, that he is positive? Is it, because it is understandable what he did, that it is good? We all know what they say: women like bad men. It is not because he is a terrible man (at first) that we are not able to like him as a character, but it is not because we like him as a character, that we should find him a good man? In making him tell lies and linking him with bad figures in general, Charlotte sheds a light on how we should interpret what he says, she uses the very common motif of irony (85). It is very subtle but not undetectable.

John Dryden said: ‘You see through love, and that deludes your sight, As what straight seems crooked through the water.’ And that is exactly what happens to both Jane and readers who do not pay attention.

So, as my title says, what do we have to think of the treatment of the wife of a man who is portayed as a bad person? Are we supposed to think it is good? I do not believe so. It is very obvious, both circumstancial and in literary respect, that the treatment Bertha receives is supposed to be cruel. It is the blow that Rochester as character undergoes and that defines the rest of the tale he tells Jane. After that, and certainly after the bible verse he uses, we are not supposed to believe what he says.

But it is not all bad. Her character is despicable but there is the seed of good nature in him and thus he is able to become good again through repentance. ‘A true repentance shuns the evil itself, more than the external suffering or the shame’ (W. Shakespeare). In the first part Rochester locks Bertha away in an attempt to shun the suffering and the shame. In his second attempt he regrets his behaviour. In that, there is always hope, and that is what Charlotte told us.

(1) http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=81289
(2) http://mulibraries.missouri.edu/specialcollections/Exhibits/brontewritings.htm
(3) Dudley Green, The letters of the Reverend Brontë, recently published
(4) http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/MHHTim.htm#1844, University of Middlesex
(5) http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/xmad1834.htm, University of Middlesex
(6) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/TREATING.htm, University of Michigan
(7) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/FROMATTI.htm, University of Michigan
(8) http://www.stanford.edu/~steener/su02/english132/MoralMadness.htm, Stanford University
(9) http://web.archive.org/web/20040112110532/http://www.qmced.ac.uk/hn/history/seminars03.html
(10) ‘My bride’s mother I had never seen: I understood she was dead. The honeymoon over, I learned my mistake; she was only mad, and shut up in a lunatic asylum. There was a younger brother, too—a complete dumb idiot. The elder one, whom you have seen (and whom I cannot hate, whilst I abhor all his kindred, because he has some grains of affection in his feeble mind, shown in the continued interest he takes in his wretched sister, and also in a dog-like attachment he once bore me), will probably be in the same state one day.’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII)
(11) Janis McLarren Caldwell, Literature and Medicine in Nineteenth-Century Britain: From Mary Shelley to George Eliot, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 70
(12) ‘There is a phase of insanity which may be called moral madness, in which all that is good or even human seems to disappear from the mind, and a fiend-nature replaces it. The sole aim and desire of the being thus possessed is to exasperate, to molest, to destroy, and preternatural ingenuity and energy are often exercised to that dreadful end. The aspect, in such cases, assimilates with the disposition—all seem demonized.’ (Charlotte Brontë in a letter to W.S. Williams about Bertha’s sickness, 4th January 1848)
(13) http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/pq, a website dedicated to all what the Brontës read, might have read, may have read and can have known about.
(14) http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/MHHTim.htm, University of Middlesex
(15) http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=81289
(16) http://www.classicauthors.net/Dickens/sketches/sketches67.html
(17) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dickens
(18) http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/MHHTim.htm, University of Middlesex
(19) http://www.theretreatyork.org.uk/ourhistory.php, the Retreat’s own website
(20) http://www.stanford.edu/~steener/su02/english132/MoralMadness.htm and http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jan/21/ruralaffairs.martinwainwright, Stanford University and The Guardian Newspaper
(21) //www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=81289
(22) http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/
(23) http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/pq?zoom_highlight=Heger, more with other French writers
(24) http://mulibraries.missouri.edu/specialcollections/Exhibits/brontewritings.htm, University of Missouri
(25) http://mural.uv.es/majorher/byron3.html
(26) ‘I believe there were some misunderstandings between them. Mr. Rowland Rochester was not quite just to Mr. Edward; and perhaps he prejudiced his father against him. The old gentleman was fond of money, and anxious to keep the family estate together. He did not like to diminish the property by division, and yet he was anxious that Mr. Edward should have wealth, too, to keep up the consequence of the name…’ (Mrs Fairfax, Jane Eyre, chapter XIV)
(27) http://www.about-shakespeare.com/much_ado_about_nothing.php
(28) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Fairfax
(29) http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/t, http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/f#fairfax
(30) http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/f
(31) http://www.asms.net/faculty/bloom/whlunatic.html
(32) Sir Walter Scott: Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (Lord Byron: Manfred. A dramatic poem (1817), Cain. A mystery (1821)
(33) de Vries, Ad (1976). Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company, p 75
(34) ‘Reformation may be its cure; and I could reform—I have strength yet for that—if—but where is the use of thinking of it, hampered, burdened, cursed as I am? Besides, since happiness is irrevocably denied me,…’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XIV); ‘…I never doubted some woman might be found willing and able to understand my case and accept me, in spite of the curse with which I was burdened….’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII); ‘Then you condemn me to live wretched and to die accursed?’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII)
(35) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_Lost
(36) ‘that house is a mere dungeon: don’t you feel it so?,’(Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XX)
(37) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/ROCH_191.htm, University of Michigan
(38) ‘…though I possess an old house, Ferndean Manor, even more retired and hidden than this, where I could have lodged her safely enough, had not a scruple about the unhealthiness of the situation, in the heart of a wood, made my conscience recoil from the arrangement. Probably those damp walls would soon have eased me of her charge: but to each villain his own vice; and mine is not a tendency to indirect assassination, even of what I most hate.’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII)
(39) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/JANESWAT.htm, University of Michigan
(40) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise_Lost
(41) ‘I visited the Brontë Parsonage Library and was granted the honour of holding in my suitably gloved hands Charlotte’s own copy of Paradise Lost. … She had also corrected some tiny printing errors. For example, line 933 of Book 2 was printed in her copy as: ‘Fluttering his pennons vain, plump-down he drops’; and Charlotte had put a line through the ‘p’ and placed a ‘b’ above, so that now it reads correctly as: ‘Fluttering his pennons vain, plumb-down he drops’. … Such minute changes suggest she had a very thorough knowledge of the poem. (Ian Emberson, Ian Emberson, ‘The Likeness of a Kingly Crown’: John Milton’s Influence on Charlotte Brontë’, BS, 32: 3 (Nov. 2007), 210–211.)
(42) ‘forgetful Lake. The "oblivious Pool" of 1.266. Also reminiscent of the River Lethe; a drink of this river made the spirits of the dead forget their earthly life. In Dante's Purgatorio spirits cleanse themselves of guilt, not the memory of their earthly life (see Inferno 14.136-138 and Purgatorio 28.130)’ from the site of Dartmouth University, Hanover, USA
(43) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manfred
(44) ‘my word is error. … seeking rest in exile…’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XX)
(45) ‘And you would thrust on me a wife? … Favour me with an account of her—with her name, her parentage, her place of abode. … That—if a genuine document—may prove I have been married, but it does not prove that the woman mentioned therein as my wife is still living.’ (Jane Eyre, all chapter XXVI)
(46) ‘You will [be able to forget tonight] when you are out of the country: when you get back to Spanish Town, you may think of her as dead and buried—or rather, you need not think of her at all.’ (Rochester to Mason, Jane Eyre, chapter XX)
(47) ‘A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery,…’ (Jane about the gallery where she sleeps, chapter XI); ‘…the drawing-room yonder feels like a vault.’ (Mrs Fairfax about the drawing room, chapter XI); ‘… the attic seemed black as a vault compared with that arch of blue air…’ (Jane about the attic as she is coming down from the leads, chapter XI); ‘… this insolent vault, offering the ghastliness of living death to the light of the open sky…’ (Rochester about Thornfield after the wedding, chapter XXVII)
(48) ‘…they now stood by the vault of the Rochesters,…’ (chapter XXVI)
(49) ‘I wish I had stood firm—God knows I do! Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life.’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XIV); ‘I know how soon youth would fade and bloom perish, if, in the cup of bliss offered, but one dreg of shame, or one flavour of remorse were detected; and I do not want sacrifice, sorrow, dissolution—such is not my taste.’ (Rochester as the gypsy, Jane Eyre, chapter XIX)
(50) ‘When you came on me in Hay Lane last night, I thought unaccountably of fairy tales, and had half a mind to demand whether you had bewitched my horse: I am not sure yet.’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XIII); ‘What have you done with me, witch, sorceress?’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XV); ‘He said I was a capricious witch,…’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXIV); ‘How well you read me, you witch!’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXV);
(51) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/WOMANASD.htm; ‘Just as Jane is the angel in the house, Bertha represents her opposite--the demon in the house.’, University of Michigan
(52) ‘ …I knelt down at, and unlocked a trunk which contained a brace of loaded pistols: I mean to shoot myself. I only entertained the intention for a moment; for, not being insane, the crisis of exquisite and unalloyed despair,…’ (Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII)
(53) http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04032007-145610/unrestricted/Millstein_Dissertation.pdf
(54) ‘…and he grew savage—quite savage on his disappointment: he never was a wild man, but he got dangerous after he lost her. He would be alone, too… He would not cross the door-stones of the house, except at night, when he walked just like a ghost about the grounds and in the orchard as if he had lost his senses—which it is my opinion he had; for a more spirited, bolder, keener gentleman than he was before that midge of a governess crossed him, you never saw, ma’am.’ (The keeper of the Inn The Rochester Arms about Rochester after Jane had left, Jane Eyre, chapter XXXVI)
(55) ‘My bride is here,” he said, again drawing me to him, “because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXIII)
(56) http://www.utulsa.edu/tugr/canine.html, University of Tulsa
(57) http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/byron#byron
(58) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_demonology
(59) ‘I am a fool!” cried Mr. Rochester suddenly. “I keep telling her I am not married, and do not explain to her why. I forget she knows nothing of the character of that woman, or of the circumstances attending my infernal union with her. Oh, I am certain Jane will agree with me in opinion, when she knows all that I know!’ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII)
(60) ‘Of course: I told you you should. I pass over the madness about parting from me. You mean you must become a part of me. As to the new existence, it is all right: you shall yet be my wife: I am not married. You shall be Mrs. Rochester—both virtually and nominally. I shall keep only to you so long as you and I live. ‘ (Rochester, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVIII)
(61) ‘I think he was swearing, but am not certain; however, he was pronouncing some formula which prevented him from replying to me directly.’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XI)
(62) ‘…Mr. Rochester, on his black horse, Mesrour…’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XVII)
(63) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_demonology
(64) ‘… his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair….’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapterXIII) ‘…and in his great, dark eyes; for he had great, dark eyes,…’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XIV)
(65) ‘…beneath which glowed in rich contrast crimson couches and ottomans; while the ornaments on the pale Parian mantelpiece were of sparkling Bohemian glass, ruby red…’ (chapter XI); ‘…the large fire was all red and clear…’, ‘…receiving the light of the fire on his granite-hewn features,…’ (chapter XIV); ‘…We found the apartment vacant; a large fire burning silently on the marble hearth, and wax candles shining in bright solitude, amid the exquisite flowers with which the tables were adorned. The crimson curtain hung before the arch…’ (description of the drawing room at the party in chapter XVII); ‘…she was bending over the fire … and while gazing steadily at the fire … She stirred the fire, so that a ripple of light broke from the disturbed coal…’ (when Rochester is dressed up as gypsy in chapter XIX); ‘…presently I felt the reviving warmth of a fire; for, summer as it was, I had become icy cold in my chamber….’ (after the wedding, chapter XXVII)
(66) ‘Then I repaired to the library to ascertain whether the fire was lit, for, though summer, I knew on such a gloomy evening Mr. Rochester would like to see a cheerful hearth when he came in…’ (Jane talking of Rochester’s love for a good fire, chapter XXV)
(67) ‘…I felt the reviving warmth of a fire; for, summer as it was, I had become icy cold in my chamber….’ (chapter XXVII)
(68) ‘… a neglected handful of fire burnt low in the grate; and, leaning over it, with his head supported against the high, old-fashioned mantelpiece, appeared the blind tenant of the room….’ (chapter XXXVII)
(69) http://www.thebrontes.net/reading/uv#v
(70) http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_2/index.shtml, Dartmouth University, Hanover, USA
(71) ‘…and my master was pacing the pavement, Pilot following him backwards and forwards…’ (chapter XXIV)
(72) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newfoundland_dog
(73) ‘…I beheld a great black and white long-haired dog,..’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XII)
(74) ‘Mr. Rochester has a thoughtful nature and a very feeling heart; he is neither selfish nor self-indulgent; he is ill-educated, misguided; errs, when he does err, through rashness and inexperience: he lives for a time as too many other men live, but being radically better than most men, he does not like that degraded life, and is never happy in it. He is taught the severe lessons of experience and has sense to learn wisdom from them. Years improve him; the effervescence of youth foamed away, what is really good in him still remains. His nature is like wine of a good vintage: time cannot sour, but only mellows him. Such at least was the character I meant to pourtray.’ (Charlotte Brontë in a letter to W.S. Williams on the 14th of August 1848)
(75) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_demonology
(76) http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/eft/eft22.htm
(77) ‘Will it please you to dine with me to-day?’ he asked, as we re-entered the gates.
‘No, thank you, sir.’
‘And what for, ‘no, thank you?’ if one may inquire.’
‘I never have dined with you, sir: and I see no reason why I should now: till I can’t help it’ (Dialogue between Rochester and Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XXIV)
(78) ‘with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard’s castle.’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XI) contents of the fairy tale on http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0312.html
(79) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/price2.htm, University of Michigan
(80) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/price1.htm, University of Michigan
(81) ‘…One idea only still throbbed life-like within me—a remembrance of God: it begot an unuttered prayer: these words went wandering up and down in my rayless mind, as something that should be whispered, but no energy was found to express them—…’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII); ‘…the words “God help me!” burst involuntarily from my lips…’ (Jane when Rochester bears his wrist, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII); ‘Do as I do: trust in God and yourself.’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII); ‘I will keep the law given by God…’ (Jane, Jane Eyre, chapter XXVII);
(82) ‘…My hand moved towards the lock: I caught it back, and glided on.’ (chapter XXVII)
(83) ‘Can there be life here?’ I asked.
(84) http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/brasseur3.htm, University of Michigan
(85) http://www.virtualsalt.com/litterms.htm, by Robert Harris.

06-29-2008, 09:48 PM
In "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys, Bertha Mason is given a voice. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed "Jane Eyre".

08-05-2008, 10:38 AM
Wow. You certainly gave us lots to chew on! Almost too much to digest all at once. You are very well read. Here are my thoughts on a few points.

On Rochester and Love... I don't get the impression that it was common for people of Rochester's class to marry for love. They seemed to look for spouses based on financial security, more like it was a business arrangement. Other cultures of the same era had matchmakers helping to arrange good partnerships, where hopefully feelings of love would grow. In the 20th century this started to change, and marrying for love was a new idea in these cultures. I wonder if Aunt and Uncle Reed's marriage was one of status and security, and not love, since Uncle Reed called for Jane, not his own children, at his deathbed. Plus, he doted on the infant Jane after her parents died, much to Aunt Reed's dislike.

On Adele, Rochester and school... Today it seems there are many teens who seem to want to have babies because babies offer unconditional love to the parent. I know these thoughts crossed my mind 30+ years ago, wanting 'safe' love - someone who wouldn't/couldn't leave me. Love is something we all want. We struggle with learning about love our whole lives. Perhaps Adele stayed at Thornfield so that when he was in town, Rochester would have that unconditional love from her. Granted, he wasn't around much before Jane came into their lives. He showed Adele love as best he could - with gifts of things. He didn't yet know how to offer the gifts of himself.

On hearing voices... Rochester heard them in the West Indies, as you said, and they both heard each other calling out to each other at the end. You didn't mention that Jane, too, heard voices. At the beginning of Chapter XXVII, after the wedding has been called off, Jane, alone in her room asks, "What am I to do?"

But the answer my mind gave--"Leave Thornfield at once"-- was so prompt, so dread, that I stopped my ears; I said I could not bear such words now." And a little later, "Let me be torn away, then!" I cried. "Let another help me!"
"No; you shall tear yourself away; none shall help you: you shall yourself pluck out your right eye; yourself cut off your right hand: your heart shall be the victim; and you the priest, to transfix it."

Granted, she was aware that these words were from her inner self. (Rochester was not so self-aware.) Later in the chapter, after her final conversation with Rochester, when she has returned to her room, she tells about seeing the moon come out.
She broke forth as never moon yet burst from cloud; a hand first penetrted the sable folds and waved them away, then, not a moon, but a white human form, shone in the azure, inclining a glorious brow earthward. It gazed and gazed on me. It spoke to my spirit; immeasurably distant was the tone yet so near, it whispered in my heart,
"My daughter, flee temptation!"
"Mother, I will."
So I answered after I had waked from the trance-like dream.

Concerning Pilot, you wrote
I would see Charlotte’s Pilot as an extension of Rochester, though a very faithful, positive and tender extension of him.

So, Pilot coming to Janes door in the middle of the night (the time before the fire), could symbolize Rochester's starting to care for Jane? That makes sense. After all, the morning after the fire (a few days or weeks after Pilot came to her door, we don't know how long), he leaves to party with his peers, then hatches the plan to make Jane as madly in love with him as he is with her. Rochester, as Rochester comes to Jane's door three times the night he asks her to marry him, to make sure she is OK. Is that his faithful, tender expressions of affection (starting to show/feel real love), or is that his wanting to make sure that her "yes" was not a dream? ("Or is he hoping she will open her door?" says a cynical voice in my head.)

I wonder sometimes, if we as humans do not read a lot into situations in our life, or what we read, based on our prior experience. The lives of all humankind have a lot of universal themes to them. I know you think that Charlotte put a lot of intention into creating her characters, drawing parallels from other books, plays, or papers she had read. I am sure they did influence her. I question whether her characters could have been as intentionally designed, as you suggest. To my way of thinking, these characters would not have been nearly as interesting if she had so intentionally worried so much about the symbolism of each character. They would have felt forced. Looking back at the finished product, yes, we can see the similarities of themes. But can they be created in such a wonderful story from the planning stages?

You wrote how too many women see Rochester all swoony. I identify with Jane with certain parts of myself. I identify with Rochester with certain other parts of myself. I also identify with their relationship as I, too, dated men much older than myself (12 yrs and 38 yrs older) when I was Jane's age. I wasn't as smart as Jane back then. I think this is such a universal story about love... what is 'true love'... love of self... love of others... being honest with self... not being manipulative in love....

My two cents.

08-06-2008, 09:02 AM
That is a quite impressive assemblage of information!
Did you do all that work just for us, or is this a Thesis Paper for some kind of college degree?

Your arguments seem quite convincing.

08-07-2008, 04:59 PM
I did my best to incorporate pretty much anything that there was to be seen in Rochester. After that firy discussion we had on Bertha, a year ago, I was convinced that he was being bad, only I couldn't make it hard, so I decided to investigate properly. I didn't really do it for a real purpose... I made a lot of papers before and I enjoy it, so that's actually why... Although, some people said it was kind of good :).

On Rochester and Love... I don't get the impression that it was common for people of Rochester's class to marry for love. They seemed to look for spouses based on financial security, more like it was a business arrangement. Other cultures of the same era had matchmakers helping to arrange good partnerships, where hopefully feelings of love would grow. In the 20th century this started to change, and marrying for love was a new idea in these cultures. I wonder if Aunt and Uncle Reed's marriage was one of status and security, and not love, since Uncle Reed called for Jane, not his own children, at his deathbed. Plus, he doted on the infant Jane after her parents died, much to Aunt Reed's dislike.

You are right. People who had money, middleclass like Rochester (high middle class in his case) and nobility like Ingram, did not at all marry for love. However, Jane's parents did (early in the book it says that), her mother being of a rich family and her fiancé being a curate (like Charlotte's father), but her mother got disinherited and didn't receive a dowry. By marrying her curate she would have married 'beneath' her and that was not accepted.
So, you see, that's how they tried to prevent stuff like that...
I suppose the working classes were not so bothered (unless farmers with a lot of land and money did probably look at what their daughter-in-law would inherit), because they stayed poor anyway... Although, there were women who were better off with a clerk than with a textile worker...
The Indians, for example, still practice arranged marriage... It is, of course, good if the husband then respects his wife and vice versa.
By some people it is argued that, after 20 years of marriage f.e., partners who didn't really get married for love but were married for financial reasons, have sometime a better bond than people who did get married for love... Because love wears off, but friendship stays, and so 20 year partners who formed a bond out of friendship and sympathy rather than out of love, would in many cases have a bond to be jealous of...
I would probably agree that Aunt and Uncle Reed's marriage was also an arranged one. Although, you have to keep in mind that it was not all arrangement... In that way, it was very peculiar... People did, and still do in those cases, think about money and such things, but also look for one that appeals to them... It's very ambiguous and curious. When Rochester tells Jane about Blanche Ingram being 'big and buxom', you can hardly say that he is being neutral... Buxom meaning either healthily plump, attractive and vigorous or even full-bosomed (Collins English Dictionary), whereas he calls Jane 'plain etc.'. I would say that Rochester, as a man, knows what's nice in a woman and sees it in Ingram, but nontheless, still wants Jane because he can talk to her better than to Blanche, although, if he had still cared about society rules, he would have married Ingram and left Jane for what she was. I think Charlotte made him look for a woman that could have taken the role of wife for Rochester. She needed to give him a courtship that was plausible for her readers and in Ingram, she found a beautiful woman, and kind of cultivated (...), more than the sisters Eshton, f.e. or even Mary Ingram. I think she made a second Bertha (even beginning with the same letter!): tall, charismatic, beautiful etc. that Rochester was prone to court and that readers would believe... Ingram would have been a good marriage candidate if Rochester had been free and conditioned enough still...
Probably Rochester and Ingram as Mrs Rochester, would have ended up like Mr and Mrs Dent or Lynn: an old couple without love but with affection to each other, but it could also be worse, like Mrs Reed who talks with contempt about her late husband... It all depended on how you really 'suited' each other, like Rochester tells Jane in the end... I suppose they fell in love in the beginning, like Rochester did with Bertha, but being in love wears off and then you start to notice bad points about each other (that's the fear of Jane when she says: 'in the beginning you will like me... and I hope you will like me again'. She gives it three months before that will happen. That's the period that usually marked as the period of being in love. After that it wears off. Then, of course, it is the question whether you made a good or a bad choice. If it was a good choice, you develop affection, if it was a bad one, you develop nothing, and irritation will grow... A person like Rochester had to 'court' which means basically to 'win a woman' for him... Ok, he was under slight influence of his father to marry Bertha, but he did go and court her, and eventually approved. I can't think that Rochester would have courted anyone if he didn't find her attractive... Sadly for him his decision was too rash and so ended up with contempt and (unfortunate for him) a mad wife...

On Adele, Rochester and school... Today it seems there are many teens who seem to want to have babies because babies offer unconditional love to the parent. I know these thoughts crossed my mind 30+ years ago, wanting 'safe' love - someone who wouldn't/couldn't leave me. Love is something we all want. We struggle with learning about love our whole lives. Perhaps Adele stayed at Thornfield so that when he was in town, Rochester would have that unconditional love from her. Granted, he wasn't around much before Jane came into their lives. He showed Adele love as best he could - with gifts of things. He didn't yet know how to offer the gifts of himself.

That's a good point... He wants someone who doens't judge him and depends on him so he cannot be dumped like he was dumped by her mother... And she provides him with unconditional love. Seems like a good deal...
Although, like I said before, I think she resembles her mother so well that he sees in her a miniature Céline Varens and he even dresses her up like that... So she doesn't only provide him with unconditional love, but also with an image of his 'grande passion', which he talks about to Jane that time. I don't think he had forgotten her by the time Jane turns up. Admittedly, he had had two mistresses in the mean time, but he talks about Céline with a kind of melancholy as if he longs for those times again. He must have loved her very much and Céline must have hurt him very much. He dared the young army officer who was with Céline to a duel and went the next morning, at dawn no doubt, to the Bois de Boulogne, the place to be for duels in those days... In other words, he must firstly have been quite confident of his shooting skills and secondly also risked his life for a woman that hurt him so much five minutes before. If it had been fatal, then he would have died for her. He must have had great respect for her and wanted 'satisfaction' from his ennemy. He says that he didn't even hate him because he despised him too much, so then Céline must have been the reason for the duel... No matter how much he must have hated her at that moment he still felt for her enough to feel that this 'vicomte' had challenged his honour.
He wouldn't have done that for Bertha, no mention of it although she was no doubt unfaithful as he calls her Messalina (one of the most notorious unfaithful wives in Roman history). I think he believed to marry Céline some day, when Bertha finally died, but his dreams were trashed as she cheated on him. So, as he still dreams on, he enjoys the feeling of bliss Adèle provides him with.
When Jane finally turns up, Rochester finds bliss with another woman than Céline, and so can take leave of Céline and fill that empty spot in his heart up with Jane. Then he only needs to think of Adèle as a product of a relationship that wasn't a good one and on the other hand makes him think about 'bliss' in itself and of Jane in particular because Jane=bliss. And that's too painful, so he sends her away and only 'sees' her back when he has bliss with Jane.

On hearing voices... Rochester heard them in the West Indies, as you said, and they both heard each other calling out to each other at the end. You didn't mention that Jane, too, heard voices. At the beginning of Chapter XXVII, after the wedding has been called off, Jane, alone in her room asks, "What am I to do?"

But the answer my mind gave--"Leave Thornfield at once"-- was so prompt, so dread, that I stopped my ears; I said I could not bear such words now." And a little later, "Let me be torn away, then!" I cried. "Let another help me!"
"No; you shall tear yourself away; none shall help you: you shall yourself pluck out your right eye; yourself cut off your right hand: your heart shall be the victim; and you the priest, to transfix it."

I didn't include the voices Jane heard because they were not important to Rochester himself, but now you mention it...
The voice quotes a verse from Matthew 5: 29-30 about adultery: 'If you right eye is your undoing, tear it out and fling it away; it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for the whole of it to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand is your undoing, cut it off and fling it away; it is better for you to lose on epart of your body than for the whole of it to go to hell.' Translations may differ and I seem to remember that at some point the bible said something about plucking out the right eye... But anyway, the voice Jane hears is no doubt coming from God... Charlotte takes away any doubt that was left by this verse. If Jane had heard a voice that (even if it had come from within), would have told her to stay with Rochester, it would have been clear that it was a demon speaking to her, but she made the voice quote that verse of the bible...
The voice Jane heard after the year in Morton was the one from Rochester. It can not only be associated with the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, but it also gets justified as something 'innocent' (read: not comming from a demon) when Rochester tells Jane after: 'Jane! you think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now. ...
Some days since: nay, I can number them—four; it was last Monday night, a singular mood came over me: one in which grief replaced frenzy—sorrow, sullenness. I had long had the impression that since I could nowhere find you, you must be dead. Late that night—perhaps it might be between eleven and twelve o’clock—ere I retired to my dreary rest, I supplicated God, that, if it seemed good to Him, I might soon be taken from this life, and admitted to that world to come, where there was still hope of rejoining Jane. ...
I was in my own room, and sitting by the window, which was open: it soothed me to feel the balmy night-air; though I could see no stars and only by a vague, luminous haze, knew the presence of a moon. I longed for thee, Janet! Oh, I longed for thee both with soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented; and might not soon taste bliss and peace once more. That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged—that I could scarcely endure more, I pleaded; and the alpha and omega of my heart’s wishes broke involuntarily from my lips in the words—‘Jane! Jane! Jane!
And Jane inquires further whether it was really Monday night he prayed... Monday night, around midnight, was the time she heard the voice calling... And if that is not enough, Rochester goes on saying that he heard a voice, with an echo, like from within hills, ask 'I am coming. Wait for me. ... Where are you?' That were the words Jane exclaimed when she ran out of Moor House...
In other words, the fact that Jane reacts to a voice, like Rochester, is justified, unlike his reaction to the voice in the West-Indies. The two voices Jane reacts to are clearly identified as voices that are good. The voice Rochester hears has no name and clearly gives him a bad suggestion.

The thing with Pilot: that's a good suggestion you made there, Meweed. I really didn't think about it in that way... It is really touching :). It would probably be an image that Charlotte hid in there...
The fact that he came to her door repeatedly, I should still think about that. I will come up with someting, to be sure...

About analysis:
I don't think it is intentional what artists and especially authors in this case put into their work... I sometimes wonder what authors would think if they read university papers about their works... They would probably be amazed at what people find in their works. But other than that I think, I am convinced, that artists do get ideas through things they have seen, read, heard, experienced, did, went through... Not only their family life, political things that happened and they read about, but also things of other writers they might have read. Byron said it in the forword of Manfred: I probably read too much of Paradise Lost for nothing of it to have brushed off on this work. (something in the style of it). Byron was right: he read so much of Paradise Lost that he probably did incorporate something of it, althouh unintentional. I believe that's what Charlotte did: she read so much, and this was her first work after the try with The Professor. It was published in the autobiography form, but she intended it not in that way. Anyway, she probably got an idea and wrote about it and developed it. It is how a painter paints, an artist makes an instalation, a sculptor like Rodin makes an image like The Kiss, how a writer writes a book. In fact, Charlotte wrote her book when her father was lying in a dark room after his cataract operation. They still had to wait a few days before they would know whether he would ever see again. In that uncertainty she wrote her first ever commercial work. I would say she probably, unconciously though, incorporated everything she ever read in that one book.

About Rochester and women:
Rochester is, up till now, the only character I really love. I don't know, I also swoon over him. I'd probably fall head over heels in love with him if he really existed... It's very strange, but he still seems very dangerous to know...
It is really a very universal story. You can indeed relate to both Rochester and Jane at the same time. I relate to Jane in the way that I have a husband 9 years older than I, because I can talk to him and I find that very important. On the other hand, at some point I could have related to Rochester on the passion side (I'll not tell you why).

I think that all the things Charlotte incorporated in it really made the story universal. You can feel it when you read it, it is larger than life, larger than a story, it is just 'love' itself.

Your arguments seem quite convincing.

Thank you, sciencefan, I love discussing this book. It doesn't seem to end.:)

08-08-2008, 10:19 PM
In "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys, Bertha Mason is given a voice. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed "Jane Eyre".I wholeheartedly agree. Adds an intriguing twist to the relationship between Rochester and Bertha.

Also, a heads-up - if you're writing a formal paper, Wikipedia citations are virtually meaningless in the academic spheres.

08-10-2008, 10:55 AM
I wholeheartedly disagree with the fact Jean Rhys' provided an intriguing twist on the relationship between Berthe and Rochester... Wide Sargasso Sea is a fictional work (if 'work' it can be named) that was based on a story by someone else and that really interprets the story of Rochester in chapter XXVII.
It puts Rochester in certain role and it is highly risky and unacademic to interpret him with Wide Sargasso Sea in the backround.

I didn't use wikipedia an awful lot because I know it is not very trustworthy... I used it for the years of publication of Dickens' books (which is very hard to get wrong, it seems to me), for a little backround on Edward Fairfax, for a little information for anyone who might not have read Paradise Lost, for Manfred for the same reason, for Christian demonology because it was the only full document I could find (it not being a very scientific topic) and for the Newfoundland dog whose nature it is very hard to get wrong as well. It seems clear to me that my paper does not use unscientific documents for major interpretations. I used mainly university papers of others and even a phd dissertation for it.

If people are against Wikipedia as academic backround they should be against Wide Sargasso Sea as backround as well, because both do not maintain scientific standards.

08-10-2008, 04:52 PM
I was thinking more about the symbolism of Pilot/dogs. I remembered there is a second dog in the story - Carlo--St. John's dog. (Chap. 31)

Rosamond Oliver:
Good evening, Mr. Rivers. And good evening, old Carlo. Your dog is quicker to recognize his friends than you are, sir; he pricked his ears and wagged his tail when I was at the bottom of the field, and you hve your back toward me now.

and 2 pages later:

As he stood mute and grave, she again fell to caressing Carlo. "Poor Carlo loves me,' said she. 'He is nto stern and distant to his friends; and if he could speak, he would not be silent."

As she patted the dog's head, bending with native grace before his young and austere master, I saw a glow rise to that master's face. I saw his solemn eye melt with sudden fire, and flicker with resistless motion. flushed and kindled thus, he looked nearly as beautiful for a man as she for a woman. His chest heaved once, as if his large heart, weary of despotic constiction had expanded, despite the will, and made a vigorous bound for the attainment of liberty. But he curbed it, I think, as a resolute rider would curb a rearing steed. He responded neither by word nor movment to the gentle advances made him.

If we see the dog as the "faithful, positive and tender expression" of the owner, then this helps to describe the warm, friendly side of St. John that he keeps burried deep inside himself.

Comparing the two men, Pilot is the best of Rochester, what he is working towards. Carlo, on the otherhand, is the denied self of St. John, leaving him cold and distant. I was surprised St. John even HAD a dog. He doesn't seem the type to express affection, even for a pet.

08-11-2008, 04:41 PM
It's great discussing this, MeWeed...

And you know what? Carlo is a pointer dog, known for their athletic and graceful features. So the 'grecian profile' of his master is not far off... Pointers are hunting dogs that are always ready to go. They need to be able to exercise, be out... So his master's ambition and missionary is not far-fetched either...

Pointers are also family dogs (evoked in the first image of Carlo with his head on the knee of either Diana or Mary) and can easily co-exist with cats (also evoked in the first image).

Unfortunately there is one little difference between Rochester and St John... Rochester is dominated by this demon and so dominates his dog, standing for his good nature. In the end Rochester will be freed from his demon and in the last and one-before-last chapter there is still talk about Pilot. St John, on the other hand, has his dog Carlo, symbolising his side that cares for people and especially Rosamund, cares for his family (his sisters and Jane) and also likes to be around his family. Sadly he goes to another country half-way across the world and doesn't see them anymore. He has fulfilled his ambition but is not happy. Being associated with his pointer dog, we can then understand why... So probably that's why there is no word of Carlo anymore in the last chapter... It is, unfortunately, not relevant...

12-08-2008, 11:18 PM
Meganne 12 years old, 05-24-2005,

I read this book when I was 12 years old. I am still 12 years old now .
Contrary to other opinions, this is a work of genius.
Mr. Rochester was very impetuous indeed, but he never meant to hurt Jane with his past. I've never read about a more caring and devoted man than him. He is NOT what we would call a "playa" these days.

12-09-2008, 02:50 PM
I only read the first paragraph but I do have an opinion I'm not sure if you covered or not. Maybe Mr. Rochester housed his insane wife with him becasue he felt horrible for her. He probably wanted to keep a close eye on her to make sure she was okay, no matter how much he disliked her. If she would've been sent to an asylum do you mthink they would've tried to save someone as ghastly as her during a fire? I don't think they would've. The workers would've been more concerned with they're own self preservation. You also talked about how he could've put her in a house by herself, and that was pretty much what he did, but the house just happened to be his unused third story to his house. I think the way his wife was treated all comes down to him not wanting to feel cruel, because truth be told he was a good man.

12-09-2008, 03:17 PM
I just sat and thought about it for a bit and since Bertha was so murderous and bad maybe he kept her out of an asylum for the saftey of others, which of course also makes him very noble. (again I only read the first paragraph)

mona amon
12-10-2008, 07:45 AM
Very impressive and well reserched posts, Kiki1982. Just a few comments-

You have done a good job of showing that Rochester should have put Bertha in an asylum as it was the more humane option. But I think you have not taken into account just how much he hated and despised her. "What a pigmy intellect she had, and what giant propensities! How fearful were the curses those propensities entailed on me! Bertha Mason, the true daughter of an infamous mother, dragged me through all the hideous and degrading agonies which must attend a man bound to a wife at once intemperate and unchaste." (chapter 27) Here Rochester speaks from the heart. And there is nothing in the text to make us doubt his words. His life with her is unbearable, and there is no legal way out of it. So what he does is deny her existence by burying her alive in Thornfield, while he leads the life of an unmarried man. If he were to put her in an asylum, he would have to acknowledge that hated part of his life that he is trying to expunge. By secretly hiding her in Thornfield, he thinks he can deny her existence. But it doesn't really work, for there she is, vocal, substantial, cunning and violent. He is a little like a man who has murdered his wife but can't get rid of her body.

So no, he is definitely not noble. But I can't blame him too much. He is no saint. He cannot accept what he considers a gross injustice and feels he has a right to a better life. Yes, he does feel he is above conventional morality, but in his circumstances, only a saint or fool would not. It's true that Jane, even though her circumstances are special, does accept conventional morality. But in her case her common sense and worldly wisdom also agree with that conventional morality, even if her heart wants to rebel.

So I am not convinced that his treatment of Bertha was particularly bad. Certainly he felt he was being quite humane. "That woman who has so abused your long-suffering, so sullied your name, so outraged your honour, so blighted your youth, is not your wife, nor are you her husband. See that she is cared for as her condition demands, and you have done all that God and humanity require of you." (Rochester soliloquising in chapter 27) And to his credit he doesn't lock her up in Ferdean with it's damp walls, and he risks his life to save her from the fire. In the end his main fault is the way he tries to trap Jane into becoming his mistress. That was dishonest, criminal and completely inexcusable

Rochester tells Jane that his father was ‘an avaricious, grasping man’ (chapter XXVII) who didn’t want to give him any money. But is this really true? The only thing the man did was leaving his money to his oldest son, Edward’s brother, and secure a rich marriage for his youngest son. This was very normal in classes as the Rochesters belonged to (37). So this is not credible, not even in the days the book was written.

Well, since Rochester felt that his father could and should have divided his estate between his two sons, I think it's reasonable to suppose that the property did not necessarily go entirely to the elder son, leaving the other children with nothing. Anyway, he is mainly blaming him for fixing his marriage to Bertha when he knew certain things about her and her family which he hid. Rochester feels his father sold him for 30,000 pounds.

But the fact is he does feel guilty. Twice he uses the word ‘remorse’. According to the Collins English Dictionary it means ‘a sense of deep regret and guilt for some misdeed’. If Rochester takes the word ‘err’ into his mouth he talks about the fact that he made a mistake, which is understandable later. But what does he talk about when he takes the word ‘remorse’ into his mouth? The word is connected with crimes, misdeeds etc.

One doesn't feel remorse only for misdeeds of a criminal nature. We feel remorse for doing anything which we later regret. We wish we hadn't done it. Rochester has a knack for choosing and tying himself to women for whom he has no respect (until he meets Jane). Later he feels ashamed and degraded because of his association with them, and wishes heartily he had not chosen such away of life. There is ample cause for guilt and remorse here, so why seek further?

After the fire at Thornfield he goes to live there and still lives there for the next ten years with Jane, but it isn’t good enough for Bertha? There is something that doesn’t fit in his reasoning in this case.

After the fire (after Jane's departure actually) he does not take any care of himself. He does not seem to be bothered whether the walls are damp or not, and he stays there for a year. After they are married there's nothing to indicate that they continued to remain in Ferndean. Jane says to him jokingly that as she's a rich woman now, she'll build a house next door to him if he doesn't allow her to live with him. It's probably what they really do. (Build a new house, I mean).

12-10-2008, 02:07 PM
You are right, Mona Amon, when you say that Bertha's locking away has to do with Rochester wanting to forget.
You can indeed feel for him, and that is what makes his character so peculiar and real: he is not totally bad, yet not totally good either. Human...

The treatment of Bertha can at least be called oldfashioned, if not cruel. The thing that puzzles everyone is the fact that Grace Pool's son is the keeper of the Grimsby Retreat. There have been people who have argued that that stood for the York Retreat, an institution that was and still is leading in humane treatment of lunatics (beautiful surroundings, occupational therapy, moral management... far from 'a room without a window'). I haven't been able to find the original essay about it, but I would certainly be interested. If that contrast is made, it is certainly clear that Rocheser was cruel to her, but the problem with it is that there is not a lot in the book about her treatment and that the proof is all circumstancial.

About his father and brother:
Essentially he starts his 'defense' with a complot-theory. He believes that his father and brother plotted against him because they were selfish and unreasonable, married him off, knowing that Bertha was not all sound up there...
It was and still is a practice (in Enlgand at least) that the eldest sons of a rich family inherit the grounds, the fortune and the management of it all. To say the least Edward was at the mercy of his brother when his father would die. This is not a problem if the two brothers see eye-to-eye but it could certainly become a problem, because legally the money is still Rowland's. Bertha was for him an ideal way to escape, but for her mental state.
However, he puts a spin on things when he says that his brother and father plotted against him and married him off knowing of Bertha's mental state and, more to the point, of the mental state of her mother and little brother. His father and brother might have seen the 30000 pounds as a good idea, but I am not able to believe they would have married Edward off to a girl with a mad mother and idiotic brother. Several reasons: firstly because reputation was everything and the fact that, in your family, there was a history of madness, could damage the chances of the children to get a good marriage. Thus I don't believe that Bertha's father would have disclosed the madness of his wife and the idiocy of his youngest son to Rochester's father in their first correspondence, because Rochester's father would never have consented to the marriage, not wanting to associate himself with the disgrace of a (possibly in future) mad daughter-in-law. Secondly, because old Rochester and Rowland indeed didn't make the marriage public by publishing it in a newspaper, because of the behaviour of Bertha which was disgraceful. As madness was suposed to be hereditary, they could have foreseen that Bertha would turn out like that. So, if they had known about the madness of her mother and the idiocy of her younger brother, they would never have willfully married Rochester off to her. Thirdly, there is another clue in her age. Bertha was 5 years older than Rochester. Rochester being 26 when he wants to commit suicide and then decides to go off to Europe and lock Bertha up, we can presume that he got married when he was about 22. A reasonable age at the time of Jane Austen, which is around the time the earliest episode of Rochester's story takes place in Jamaica. If Bertha was 5 years older, she would have been 27 at the time. This would certainly have stuck in old Rochester's head, as Bertha would have been an old maid by that time. Like Lydia is afraid that Jane will become an old maid soon in Pride and Prejudice when she is only 23. Old Rochester would certainly have inquired after the reason why... Either she hadn't been introduced into society, and would have been very odd. Or she wasn't able to secure a husband, but that is equally odd, certainly with a fortune of 30000 pounds. Rochester himself says that she and her family lied about her age, indeed they made her younger than she was as to not arouse suspicion to the reason why she was still unmarried. In an age where the Napoleonic wars had dramatically reduced the amount of eligible men, more to the point in Europe/England, as a man you had your pick. There is no apparent reason for old Rochester to plot against his son and marry him off to a mad woman for the money only. There were enough girls with a fortune on the look-out for a man, that he didn't absolutely have to marry Bertha. For all this, I think it is very unlikely that Charlotte wanted to imply that Rochester was plotted against. He may want to make you believe that, but I don't think it is supposed to be true. I suppose that for the average reader then, it was kind of obvious that old Rochester not being able to go and see Bertha for himself, Edward (and his family) got lured into a trap by old Mason to marry his daughter off, finally, already being saddled with a mad wife and son to care and pay for.
The fact then that Rochester starts his 'defense' with a complot-theory is a way of highlighting that he may tell you other lies. In that Charlotte used irony to contribute to Rochester's character.

You can indeed make an argument of it, that it means the same as 'regret'. But at the same time Charlotte could have written 'regret' in stead of 'remorse'. Even if the word is not connected with crime or misdeeds, the verb 'err' in the same sentence is connected with immoral actions. As the locking away of Bertha and the dissipated escapades of Rochester are inherently connected, he cannot feel guilty about his dissipation without feeling guilty about the locking away of his wife in such a manner. He errs in the way that he is on the track of bigamy, not in the way that he has mistresses (which was excusable to a certain extent, certainly in his case). He argues that repentance is not the cure, but that regeneration is. Indeed, he would be able to make it all alright again, repent, by caring for Bertha and acknowledging her presence as his wife, but he doesn't want to do that, or he is too far on the track of bigamy for it... He can indeed choose the other way and regenerate himself as husband. It is totally impossible and in the end we know what happens.

I didn't look at it like that yet! That's an interesting thought.

01-27-2009, 06:38 AM
As I have said before (which you might not have seen/read), following research about the King Lear allusion (Off ye lendings), I concluded there is a transformation in Rochester. In contradiction to how you think I interpret Rochester, and more to the point how I get to have the opinion I have of him, I do not use any moral modern grounds, far less a theological interpretation where I doubt that it wasn’t intended by the writer. My demonic interpretation of Rochester and connected with that on another level his narcissism, is based on the coming-together of allusions and images. Transformation in romantic literature is not rare. You can find it in Austen, Brontë, Dumas, Hugo and more writers I can’t remember off the top of my head. What you fail to see is that Rochester after Jane has left has realised that he was in the wrong. The fact that he rescues his servants is a normal thing, but that he risks his life for Bertha is a totally different thing on the whole and is brought on by Jane and the realisation of the real extent of love. Suddenly he has realised that the absence of Jane/love in his life makes him wretched and not the presence of Bertha (before you get to see what I wrote about Céline and Rochester’s relationship, I think he thought he loved her, but realises when Jane leaves (again) that that was not at all true). He has suddenly realised that when one doesn’t have people around and when one is/feels alone in the world that one is really wretched. He realised after Jane left that when he went up in Bertha’s room with Jane, Briggs, Wood and Mason, denouncing Bertha as his wife, he really reduced her to nothing: away from family at the other side of the world, her husband who doesn’t even materially care for her let alone will try to seek some treatment. By reducing her to nothing, in a way he also reduced himself to half a human being, because a human being who can’t have pity is not a human being, but is reduced to beast. Beasts, in most cases, do not care about weak ones in their groups because they are too busy surviving to help them. We as humans have evolved to a state where we can afford to care for a weak one, whether unemployed, ill or handicapped. When Rochester realises what he was during the month after Jane’s leaving, he decides to finally do something for Bertha as Thornfield burns down. Although he can’t help her as such any more because 15 years have gone over it already, he doesn’t leave her on the roof, hoping she dies in the fire (which he could do after all).
Bertha is indeed characterised as violently insane and Charlotte was criticised for it! She writes in a letter to W.S. Williams on the 4th of January 1848: ‘It is true that profound pity ought to be the only sentiment elicited by the view of such degradation, and equally true is it that I have not sufficiently dwelt on that feeling: I have erred in making horror too predominant. Mrs. Rochester, indeed, lived a sinful life before she was insane, but sin is itself a species of insanity—the truly good behold and compassionate it as such.’ So, according to Charlotte herself, Rochester should have been compassionate and should have had pity… Not only that, but his sinful life she saw also as a type of insanity. Of course… Jane even said ‘I pity you, I honestly pity you’. That is what the people at the Retreat of York were doing, and that world was far from confining someone for 15 years (!) in the same place, with no natural light and little physical care… Whatever you may say about mixing the vies of the author with the views of his/her characters, there seems to be a definite parallel between Jane and Charlotte here. Jane calls Bertha ‘an unfortunate lady’ and pities Rochester. When Charlotte then writes that ‘the truly good behold and compassionate it as such’, where does the horror she made predominant (in her own words) refer to?

Of course the Quaker-approach was a little too modern and humane for the time, but we need to acknowledge that 1792 (actually 1796) was about 50 years prior to Jane Eyre. In those 50 years public opinion had changed from the lunatic punished by God to the unfortunate mentally ill person. It has been argued that Rochester is old-fashioned in his view and consequently subjects Bertha to the old method of restraint and locking up. During the 1830s-1860s there was an optimism in the management of lunatics in even county-asylums. There were commissions who were to visit asylums in order to modify the laws that had already been in place since 1774, and were updated in 1828. The commissioners were to report on things concerning: ‘whether there has been adopted either in whole or in part, any system of non-coercion, and if so the particulars of such system, and by what means practised, and whether by medical treatment or otherwise, and what has been the result thereof’, ‘the classification or non-classification of patients, the number of attendants in each class, and, so far as practicable, the proportionate number of attendants before and since the adoption of non-coercion, if such system shall have been adopted’, the occupations and amusements of the patients ... and whether the same be in-door or out-door ... and the effect ... indoor and out-door respectively, on the condition, as well mental as bodily of the patients’, ‘the condition, as well mental as bodily, of the pauper patients (if any), when first received ... and whether the condition has been such as to prevent or impeded the ultimate recovery, either mental or bodily, of such patients, and also as to the dietary of the pauper patients’. All asylums were also supposed to have religious guidance in an attempt to bring the lunatics on the right path again. Not only the presence of a commission in that respect holds proof of Bedlam not being the standard for lunatic care, but also Parry-Jones states about Mary Lamb (a well-known 18th century case in this field): ‘The house in Islington, London, at which ... Mary was confined in 1796, after she had murdered her mother, contained accommodation at about £50 per annum, which was less expensive than that occupied by Mary, who had a room and a servant to herself’ and a little further ‘Charles Lamb's description of the care and affection ... Mary received at an Islington madhouse, also supports the view that humane treatment was practised in some eighteenth-century madhouses.’ The £50 per annum taken in the year 1796, converted to 1840 (if we were to apply that to Rochester’s and Jane Eyre’s period of time) makes £55 (indexed). Bertha could have had (even in the 18th century!) affection, care, a room for herself and a servant to herself, for a quarter of the money Rochester was prepared to pay Grace Poole. To add to this, the newspaper The Lancet reported in 1845 (two years prior to the publication of Jane Eyre) that there was no-one physically restrained in Bedlam hospital. There are records from ex-inmates of Bedlam that show that there was dramatic change in managing patients. Where in 1804 it was normal to be chained, in 1817 this was far less the case. And although it is mentioned that there were people on the ground flour sleeping on straw, this was not normal in the rest of the hospital and was only for people who couldn’t keep themselves clean. It was no punishment, although the keepers were criticised by some inmates for punishing them that way. (Metcalf). It is clear to me that Bedlam was not the standard in lunatic care, however people seem to think it was; not least because it was a state institution, with paupers into the bargain. State institutions did not have the same meaning as they have now. Bedlam Hospital was merely controlled by the City of London, but as there were no laws to protect the mad or poor, there were no rules they had to abide by, let alone be the example to the others. More the opposite, I’d say. I would call it, controlled by the City of London, in a privatised way. Bedlam was heavily criticised on its first visit by the commission and improved a little, but there are far better examples to look at. Even in the year 1700, David Irish in Guildford advertised ‘good fires, meat, and drink, with good attendance, and all necessaries far beyond what is allowed at Bedlam’. This about 100 years prior to the period Bertha would have been confined! Then already Bedlam was criticised. If Mary Lamb dreaded having to go to Bedlam Hopsital, what does that tell you? That there was no better? Apparently yes, because she was confined in a pretty good place, as it seems to me. From Bethlem Hospital’s own website: ‘Restraint of patients had been used sparingly at Bethlem in the 1840s and was abandoned in the 1850s. There was more emphasis on the surroundings and opportunities for work and leisure as a means of facilitating recovery. The women, where possible, helped around the house making beds, washing up, cleaning, sewing and working in the laundry,’ and ‘those who had not recovered at the end of a twelve-month period were generally discharged.’ Admittedly, it seems that that is so, but after that on their website they continue: ‘from the 1730s, however’. That suggests (and is probably the case) that this was the case before the 1730s and consequently doesn’t at all apply to the time Charlotte wrote her book. The cases and practices you quote are relative to the 18th century and not at all to the modernisation of the 19th century where compassion was everything. If Rochester allowed Grace Poole not to care for her at all, not to even try, if he confined her in a windowless room (who wouldn’t go mad?), if he himself restrained her, then he at least had a mere 18th century pauper view and was not at all caring and compassionate, like Mary Lamb’s brother was to his sister. We also need to mention that in 1815 Bethlem Hospital moved for a second time and that the quotes you make are taken in a time where the hospital was overcrowded and part of it inhabitable. Outdated, so to say. So, again, Rochester at least subjects Bertha to an older view and not at all a modern compassionate one. If Charlotte herself was criticised for the portrayal of Bertha as raving and violently insane, and admits to horror being its cause, then there can be no doubt as to the justification of Rochester’s way of dealing with it, given the circumstantial evidence. If there is any horror that needed to be predominant in that part of the novel, given the context of Bertha’s appearance, I thoroughly believe that it should be sought in Rochester’s management of his wife rather than in Bertha’s violent conduct. Only the description Jane gives of Bertha’s room, Grace’s alcoholism prior to that scene (given that keepers were more criticised than physicians), Grace’s assertion ‘ah, sir, she sees you!’ (as if there is danger involved when Bertha sees Rochester) and the shock of Rochester’s lying, are clear indications that Rochester is severely criticised and that the scene is not merely a display of ‘[the] unfortunate lady’. If Charlotte found pity and compassion only appropriate, why did she write that in her book? At least not to give a realistic account of a mad person. This is a speculation Jean Rhys made as well, but I didn’t read that book, and there is on this forum what I only think in principle about it. What I do know for certain is that Bethlem was a bad example rather than a standard and that Charlotte knew about lunatics and their ways. She knew that pity was rather in place, so I can’t see what Charlotte tried to do when she made Bertha violent in a windowless room. Probably the same as Shakespeare who made King Lear lament his lot for ever and ever, but started his play with pledges of love in exchange for a dowry…

The demonic nature of Rochester can be argued on the basis of a number of things and consequently that judgment is not a subjective one, far less a theological one, but one embedded in literary allusions and imagery. How does one account for his boudoir of ‘ice and snow’, for his black horse, for his Manfredian tendencies (his insistence that Jane is a fairy and being equal (or even superior to her)? If Rochester has tendencies of a Byronic hero (and I say tendencies, because he has not all qualities although most readers consider him a Byronic hero) then he is in a certain sense demonic. If Rochester does not transform from wretched human being into amiable person, the iconic man he becomes doesn’t come to his right heights and he would never have ended up in the big list of great characters had he not transformed. Rochester becomes lovable in a strange way, but it doesn’t imply that he is lovable from the start. All literary allusions point that way, but he puts up a different façade, as King Lear.

The word ‘noble’ is not from my usage alone. If you look on the website, you find others that have used it before me, but if you want a discussion on it, no problem.

Indeed, what you quote is what it implies: people of high birth should be generous, do good, and so hold up their honour as their position requires. Let’s call it ‘honourable’ behaviour.

The example you state of the Battle of Agincourt is a good one as to what the word ‘noble’ (both in French and English) can mean, but should not do. The image you have of the battle seems to be quite Shakespearian, but there is a truth that Shakespeare also knew, but left out of the play. When Henry V got barred from Calais he could not have known to be so lucky, but the weather also contributed a lot to that battle. It rained namely a whole night! On a freshly ploughed field, that is bad news for heavily armed men… On the morning the battle would begin, the French conétable goes to inspect the battlefield and senses that the ground is soaked so much that his horse can barely move because it sinks into the mud knee-deep. Vainly he tries to reason with the French nobility to postpone the battle. Partly because they didn’t want to be seen as cowards by each other (with a history of rivalry and the assassination of the Duke of Orléans and a civil war), but also because of the English ‘canaille à pied nu’ (English ‘Rabble with bare feet’) they didn’t want to be considered as scared of. Of course, any reason went out the window and the French went on with the battle taking their normal positions: foot-soldiers and behind them the cavalry and somewhere in between ‘because they were not needed’, the archers and some crossbowmen. Henry marched towards them in a half-circle with the flanks slightly more advanced than the centre and, as the French army was 5 (?) times as big, they were piled up in this half-circle 20 rows thick because of the lack of space. To add to the problems was the fact that crossbows have a shorter range than longbows, so the crossbows didn’t really serve a very great deal because they couldn’t reach the English at first. When the cavalry charged, let through by the infantry and the crossbowmen, they fell off their horses because they couldn’t walk, because the horses got shot by the arrows or because they stumbled over the others. By the time the infantry could charge, most of the knights were lying on their backs, in the mud, unable to get up because of the weighty armour, as ‘silver beetles’. The infantry had to climb piles of horses, bodies etc. to get to the battle. They pushed and pushed and because of that the situation became worse and more people died. In the meantime Henry V had seen that some French were looting the baggage train that was only lightly guarded because of his lack of men and he had to send soldiers to defend it, however his crown in the end was reported missing. As they were now occupied on two fronts, the English started to loose and they were pushed towards their own row of stakes they constructed in order to defend themselves against the cavalry (if there was any left). According to chivalry, they had taken the ‘silver beetles’ (read the French nobility, almost entirely) prisoner, and hadn’t killed them, on the contrary guarded them because they represented ransom. But… Henry V had now a decision to make: either he kept the prisoners guarded and waited until their compatriots came to free them and they could rearm, or… he took the guard away so they could fight (because they were just the men he needed). Yet, he could not let the prisoners run… He did something that went against chivalry altogether: he ordered the prisoners to be killed. The English nobles were against it, but failing them, he asked his archers to do so. As they were criminals, and only escaped the gallows because of enlisting in Henry’s army, they didn’t weary of killing people. When the prisoners were killed, the English won the battle, because of a judgment totally against history, yet a brilliant move. That is why all of the French nobility was killed, or let’s say slaughtered. (Durschmied, Wikipedia)

It was not the longbows of the English that made their victory, it was the conceit of the French nobility amongst themselves and their failure to hear reason of someone who inspected the battlefield (because of their own pride). It was the English king who took a decision that was very un-noble that handed him the victory. If the French had fought on a good day on a better battlefield, they would have won, alone because of their sheer number. The French nobility had maybe at home the name to be generous and kind, but not so on the battlefield where they were proud and conceited. It was not at all fighting for a lost cause at that moment, far more was it a lost cause when the English in 1453 faced a French army with artillery rather than longbows. Had king Henry V preferred war-etiquette over victory, he had lost the battle, but instead he decided, willingly, to do something despicable; something that would forever brand the word ‘anglais’ in French history as something bad, disgusting or inferior. The battle of Agincourt/the Hundred Years War started a new era in warfare as it marked the transition from a feudal army with heavy cavalry and occasional foot-soldiers to a professional enlisted army with specialised artillery. That period also marked the transition from the nobility with political power onto themselves (which paralysed the whole economy) to a more centralised state-construction (as the English already had it at the time of Agincourt).

Thus, the word ‘noble’ in its entirety gained another meaning from when it was first established. From a feudal position of power and self-decision, it became a more charitable and philosophical position When the chivalric code was first established around the 11th century (although across Europe the time differs a little) a knight was supposed to pursue the good and the truth, be generous, be courteous and serve. But this goes further than one might suppose. The underlying belief is a profound belief in Love, but Love as an ultimate goal and something that is owed by the knight to all. Pursuing the truth is not only looking for it, but presenting it to others. It is serving one’s neighbours as it is an act of love to present the good and the truth. A knight or nobleman has the duty to pursue truth in itself and to represent the reality as best he can. It is for a common goal. It is a service to his fellow man. Lying is misrepresenting the truth and comes out of a desire of personal gain. A knight has the duty to serve others and so does not lie. The kindness and generosity a knight should pursue are not only kindness and generosity in their material meaning, but also in their spiritual meaning as they spiritually mean to allow others to have their beliefs. Being as generous as that is an act of love as it displays one’s strength of character. Open-mindedness is absolute. Foremost, a nobleman should protect the weak. All weak. Because, again, it is an act of love, truth and good. It is giving the weak a stronger voice, because of the noble’s strength and power. A knight should use his strength and power to serve, as that is what the word ‘knight’ means. If he is not reverend and if he does not serve his fellow man, he denies him love and he reduces him to a possession. If we now consider Rochester’s appearance again… He lies to Jane and the rest of the world about having a wife, but when she challenges his views, he is not man enough to see the sense of hers. Thus he misrepresents the truth, and is not spiritually generous enough to consider Jane’s opinion. He even calls it unreasonable, or that is what he implies when he asks Jane to hear reason. The main problem for me is that he does not seem to want to do anything good for Bertha. If Rochester were striving for the truth and striving to protect the weak, he would not have been indifferent as to how Grace Poole took care of his wife, whether infirm or not. However, in the end he does see sense, and not least through a good example of knighthood. Jane, in her approach to life, is not only stoic but also chivalric in its original meaning: she is spiritually generous to Rochester, tries to understand his view and pities him, but prays for him to be helped. She has presented the reality to him, she has tried to ‘serve’ him as it were. Instead of staying there (which would be a comfortable solution) she puts her career and her name on the line to flee Thornfield without reference, but for her eternal soul and his.

As portrayed in Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, generosity and kindness can go hand-in-hand with pride and conceit in practice. Darcy says that Elizabeth shocked him when she said ‘had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner’ and that because of that he started to think how he was in public, which was a big difference with how he acted with his sister and servants. And it is also like that with Rochester: to Mrs Fairfax he may be a ‘liberal landlord’, but it does not at all imply that he has to be kind to everyone. You cannot possibly find what he did to Jane very kind…

If this is the case, then Rochester caring for his servants, rescuing them from the fire, settling an annuity on their life does not at all imply that he was kind to Bertha. More on the contrary in fact: because of his conceit he clearly walks towards his downfall blindly (if you absolutely want to make a parallel with Agincourt in general). Besides, the place in the story you are quoting from is a place where he has already started to become another man; where he already started to grieve Jane; where he for the first time in my opinion shows any kindness towards Bertha; where he for the first time calls her by her name, and not in a context of estrangement (‘Bertha Mason is mad’) or with a derogatory name (‘fearful hag’). At the time Thornfield burns, he has already been thinking about himself and his conduct. As I stated above, he has realised, by then, what he did to Bertha: he hated her, because she was inferior. According to chivalry, he reduced her to a mere possession and used his power to control and not to serve; he used his power not to give her a voice, but to silence her; in short he indeed didn’t love her, but hated her. He didn’t strive for the good and the truth, he didn’t strive to represent the truth to the best of his ability when he lied to Jane about being a bachelor. He was maybe generous to Jane in the material sense, but not in the real sense of open-mindedness and respect, forcing her into a bigamous marriage she wasn’t even able to choose. Thus, even in its chivalric meaning, Rochester is far from noble. When he then, at the end of his monologue, says: ‘but Jane will give me her love. Yes, nobly, generously.’ He hopes for her chivalric tendencies to come to the surface, but even a true knight couldn’t comply with his wishes because they are not good, not of service to anyone. The only thing they are is selfish and self-centred literally: only of service to him. A knight needs to serve the common good and not the gain of one person only because it is bound to harm others. Jane, as the knight, does what she can to present the reality and the good before him: she tells him he has a wife living, she tells him that Bertha is unfortunate, she listens to him, comforts him and directs him to God for guidance and solace, but that is not what he wants. Thus, for her, there is nothing more to do than go to stop him wanting her.

The reason Rochester wants Jane to hear is his reason only, not the reason of the common law, not the reason of the church, not the reason of Jane, not the reason of morality. Although we can understand why he sees things like that, we cannot say that his views are normal. Perhaps it is only the bad treatment of his wife that makes it so bad. If Bertha had not been locked up in secret, but in a nice place we could make excuses, but as stated above, Rochester comes across as a lamenting King Lear who has himself to blame for what happens to him; who doesn’t understand unconditional love, but requires proof; whose ‘love’ is thrown back in his face by people who he (naively) thought loved him. King Lear does not understand why his daughters deny him his 100 people strong court they have to support financially and thus curses them. Yet, his two daughters, Goneril and Regan, are the same ones that ‘proved’ their ‘love’ to their father the way he wanted it. The only one who refused, Cordelia, is the one who will eventually come to die because of her unconditional love for her father. As King Lear Rochester does not understand unconditional love and wants proof of it there and then. Not only that but he consequently cannot give it. Love, in the chivalric meaning is a love that both is an ultimate goal and something that induces entire devotion. King Lear expects material devotion from his daughters, but is prepared to exhaust it to the brink without any devotion from his side. When his devoted knight challenges him over his refusal of Cordelia’s dowry, he banishes him. Yet, that man was a true devoted servant, because he presented the truth and the good before Lear, who refused and dismissed it. When the nobleman gets dishonoured and banished he will impose himself in disguise so that his king will not come to any harm. That is true devotion for you: unconditional, serving, protecting and for the common good, regardless of what the past is/was or what the weak have contributed to their weak situation. Rochester asks for devotion from Jane with a pledge of fidelity, but is unable to supply her with entire devotion beyond the material. It is only when he is not able to supply her with anything material because of his physical state, that he can finally supply her with his heart. When Jane says that she loves him more than in his proud independence, she indeed intimates devotion from his side as a knight to his lady: blind devotion (literally), a devotion that is unconditional, that will protect, that is generous, that is just devotion for the sake of devotion. Without gain, without actual goal, without interest. In short chivalric Love: Good, Truth and Servitude. A Love with a capital L.

01-27-2009, 09:12 AM
Your enthusiasm is admirable. It's a great novel, I have friends who read very little and don't enjoy reading but this is their favourite book.

05-28-2009, 07:06 PM
I've read kiki's assessment, research and tried to read up myself on what I found on the internet regarding mental treatment in the 19th century in the UK.

It seems to me that time establishment is important for that:

Jane's story of her childhood (Lowood) is early 1830s, with the first Cholera outbreak in the UK. Her time in Lowood is approximately the same time Rochester travels abroad in Europe, already in possession of Thornfield and Bertha already confined secretly in her room. And I surmise he married Bertha around approximately 1821.

So, when Rochester marries Bertha, George 3rd had just died a year or so. Prince of Wales had become Regent 9 years before George 3rd's death because George 3rd had become too insane. Before his death George 3rd remained 9 years in private confinement in Windsor.


"During the 19th century, Bethlem caught up, somewhat belatedly, with a prestigious new type of treatment, "moral therapy". This was a psycho-social technique which held that the insane would recover best in cosy, domestic environments which reproduced as far as possible the security and support of the bourgeois home."


This article describes how after George 3rd and the 1815 report on Bethlem abuse (both would have been fresh on Rochester's young mind before he left to the West Indies) the call for Asylums and moral treatment gained influence. However it also mentions how private care, and for the rich this would have been home care, was favoured over placing a patient in asylums. (and article mentions Jane Eyre)

So, Rochester leaves for the West Indies for an arranged marriage to make sure he has a living. The death of George 3rd fresh in mind as well as growing social interest in fighting abuse of mental patients such as in Bethlam.

Rochester arrives in the West Indies, in his mind not being adverse to what most non-first sons must do... find a rich wife, especially if the father demands it. And he finds himself in good luck, he thinks. His prospected bride is a beautiful woman. He may not know her well yet, but the little he knows (even through lies... they even lied to him about her age, she was 26 already when he married her) and her beauty make him think he's in love with her. Her behaviour and the lies of her family make him think she returns the feeling. So, for a dependent 21 year old, he thought himself lucky: acquire fortune, comply to his father's wishes, and marry a woman he's infatuated with, mae the bride happy, and he has a lifetime ahead to get to know her. Every second son should be so lucky as him.

NOT! As a young bloke, foolishly misled by his preference for beauty he commits a tragic flaw/error (hamartia): he's unaware of the lunacy running through Bertha's family and the onset of lunacy symptoms in Bertha, and binds himself to her for life.

He learns Bertha's ways once he has to spend daily life with her: coarse and foul language, promiscuous, and raging fits. No, I don't think rich daughters of landowners in colonies in the Caribbean were raised that way at all. Many Creole were of Spanish or French descent, so was Bertha. Creole originally meant someone of pure French/Spanish descent, but born in one of the colonies, not mixed. CB would have used the term with that meaning probably.

Anyway, all his foolish imaginary dreams turn into an unexpected nightmare. While he only just learns about the lunacy aspects within the family, he has no explanation for Bertha's abhorrent behaviour, other than that must be her character. His self avowed hate for Bertha stems from that nightmare experience. He never knew her before, his infatuation was solely based on lies and outside appearance, and all he learned that was of more consequence was horror. I can't blame him for hating her on a personal level, even though he was a fool to marry her while knowing so little of her. Only later is he sure that she's insane.

His mentioning of "- her excesses had prematurely developed the germs of insanity -" (p 345, vol III, chapter 1) shows he believed her promiscuity and foulness to be her character first, the lunacy the result of it. We would suppose Bertha's earlier behaviour as starting lunacy symptoms, but Rochester's supposition [of Bertha's lunacy being the result of her behaviour] coincides with the public suppositions regarding lunacy: "Insanity is the scourge brought down on sinful men by the wrath of the Almighty" (George Man Burrows, opening words of Commentaries on the Causes, Forms, Symptoms, and Treatment, Moral and Medical, of Insanity 1828. Quoted Kraepelin 1918, pages 38- 39 (See 1811)

While he tries to think of himself as clean, not the person who is responsible for her conduct, he experiences how Jamaican society associates him with her. "Still, society associated my name and person with hers;" (p 346, VIII, chapter I). After 4 years of this, he's starting to be so desperate that for a moment he contemplates suicide. " - let me break away, and go home to God!" 'I said this whilst I knelt down at, and unlocked a trunk which contained a brace of loaded pistols: I meant to shoot myself." (p 346, VIII, chapter I)

In any regard, 4 years experience, has taught him that
a) society would shun him for his lunatic wife's language and actions
b) he'd rather be dead than have to listen to her horrific behaviour

He returns to Thornfield with Bertha around 1826. George Comb's work on Phrenology had been published 2 years before that. And Rochester has studied it, or he would not have alluded to it so often. At his time of return though moral treatment debate was in full swing


"The moral treatment movement was initially opposed by many madhouse keepers and medics, the latter partly because it cast doubt on their own approach. By the mid-19th century, however, many medics had changed strategy."


"Therapeutic Optimism: The optimistic period in the history of asylums runs from about 1830 to around 1860. It was at its height in the 1840s. Asylums built under the 1808 and 1828 County Asylums Act tended to be left to the management of doctors. As the theories and techniques of managing lunatics in asylums developed, so did the belief that this asylum treatment itself was the correct, scientific way to cure lunacy.

Signs of the therapeutic change can be seen in the changing legislation. The 1828 Madhouses Act, unlike the 1774 Act, was concerned about conditions in asylums. These included the moral conditions. Official visitors were required to inquire about the performance of divine service and its effects. In 1832, this inquiry was extended to include "what description of employment, amusement or recreation (if any) is provided". (see law)"

Rochester returns with Bertha to the UK before the 1828 act and right before the optimism about curative moral treatment. However it can be argued that Rochester tried to have Bertha treated with moral treatment.

"The idea of moral management provided theoretical support for asylum-based treatment (see insanity: history). It advocated the abandonment of physical restraint and an appeal to the will of the patient. It aimed to restore the dignity of the patient and to enlist him as an ally in the treatment process. Two requirements of moral management were the early detection of insanity and separation of the patient from the circumstances precipitating his attack, usually his home."

a) Bertha was not chained or physically restrained. She was only restrained momentarily when she aimed to harm someone, and that without striking or other violent means, which would be called "mild-restraint". (Jane makes an explicit point of it to mention how Rochester refuses to strike Bertha when she attacks him in her room, while Jane, Mason, Briggs and the others are present). Ellis system was one of mild-restraint for example. Debate between mild and total non-restraint only came up in the 1840's when in the story by then Bertha's already dead.

"The Ellis system was not non-restraint, however, because instrumental restraints were used when needed. In the early 1840s asylum doctors divided into hostile camps of those who practised "mild restraint" and those who followed Lincoln and Hanwell in establishing non-restraint."

b) She was confined in her own private room. And this was what the non-restraint or mild-restraint asylum's endeavoured themselves.
c) she was supervized by a private caretaker and physician
d) she was removed from her home (the West Indies, Jamaica)
e) Rochester was almost never around himself

Both the West Indies' home and Rochester could have been seen as possible triggers for Bertha, and so Rochester not being around most of the time might even have been advized by the physician.

At this period, from the research I could do so far, private small group lodgings, single houses and home care was preferred by those who could afford it against asylums of large groups. Only those who housed more than 1 lunatic needed a license, especially if they required money for it. Private home care needed no license. Why? Because it was believed to be the best care, and moral treatment tried to mimic home care circumstances in asylums.

So, imo, Rochester indeed tried to have Bertha treated with moral management, in his own home, while at the same time this moral home treatment gave him the opportunity to enjoy society and its refinements once more without being shunned.

On a last note, I use Rochester's own arguments of how he could have kept Bertha at Ferndean where her health would have detoriated with the dampness of that house. He chose not to hasten Bertha's death.

Rochester was a foolish young man. He hated what he and society back then would have regarded as Bertha's character (rather than first symptoms of her detoriating mind), and within the circumstances it seems a natural feeling to what he lived through for 4 years. He did imo try to do what he supposed to be most humane, and follow medical advice and back-then modern management ideas regarding lunacy in what he knew to be preferred - home care. And he used it as opportunity to enjoy society once more. His concealment of Bertha's existence was a cowardly act, but not necessarily a cruel act. He was wrong to deceive Jane and tempt her into her own hamartia (marrying Rochester without knowing he had a wife still living), but it does not make him a cruel man to Bertha either.

05-29-2009, 06:41 AM
I agree that in the 1820s (the times that Rochester first got saddled with Bertha), there was not a lot of possibility in asylums. But better treatment was available in private or single madhouses. Although, Charlotte had one in York that by the 1810s even already had established moral treatment.

About George III:

He was taken away for a first time from Windsor to Kew for a more therapeutic environment. This was already in 1788. Dr John Willis (a reverend), was the doctor who took charge of George’s treatment. He was the rector of an asylum in Bloomsbury, Lincolnshire and was leading figure in the world of the rich for treatment of that kind of disorder. In 1796, his asylum was written about thus:

‘As the unprepared traveller approached the town, he was astonished to find almost all the surrounding ploughmen, gardeners, threshers, thatchers and other labourers attired in black coats, white waistcoats, black silk breaches and stockings, and the head of each 'bien poudre, frise, et arrange'. These were the doctor's patients, and dress, neatness of person, and exercise being the principle features of his admirable system, health and cheerfulness conjoined to aid recovery of every person attached to that most valuable asylum.’ (occupational therapy as a treatment was a very much used practice, even in Bethlem a little later.)

The king was again treated by the same people (Willis and his brother) in 1801. From 1810, Dr Robert Willis (after the death of his father) took charge of the king entirely in Windsor castle.

Furthermore, there was a large industry involving private care for rich lunatics or idiots. Partly because of secrecy. This does not mean, however, that conditions were the same there as in asylums! Guildford advertised good beds, fires, good diet ‘far beyond what is allowed at Bedlam’ in 1700 already! The reputation of Bedlam as a bad place goes back a long way and should not be taken as a standard. Andrew Roberts even states that private houses ‘might provide more humane custody at a lower price.’ It remains to be seen if the king would be confined in the half-dark for 24 hours a day, and not cared for physically, like Bertha in Windsor Castle...

Johann Kasper Spurzheim was the one who combined phrenology with lunacy, stating that the environment should be adapted to the propensities of a person. This provided a scientific base for moral management, which would indeed come into use really in the 1830s.

The Ellis-system indeed used confinement, but not continuously. Conolly used confinement as well, as did the Ellises, but in order to calm patients down (de-exciting the brain) (Haw). But, he did not approve of too much of that, and ordered the meticulous recording of any use of the padded rooms. So seclusion was used as a calming method when nothing else (medication) was available to calm the patient down, but it was certainly not used as a restraining method, unlike Rochester permanently makes use of it. Conolly noted that abolishing restraint had a calming effect and that ‘the wards [were] less noisy, frantic behaviour and manic paroxysms [were] less frequent, patients [were] more cheerful and cleaner.’ (Conolly, reprinted 1973)

Indeed, Bertha was supervised by a private caretaker. We also have to mention that he paid his caretaker about the tenfold of Conolly’s caretakers who received £25 per annum instead of £200 for Grace (which is a real fortune taking into consideration that Jane’s wages are an equivalent of 2000 dollars a month, which then was 30 pounds!). It was acknowledged around 1815 that it was actually the caretakers in Bethlem Hospital that were the real villains… Anyway, Conolly also did not trust them in the beginning and ordered them to report to medical staff at all times if they deemed seclusion necessary. This as indication that specialists were rather valued than paid, unskilled staff (which Grace Poole would belong to).

We also have to acknowledge the perception of the readers at the time Jane Eyre was published. They would have been aware thoroughly of this moral management-practice. They cannot have approved of a man who confined his wife to one room, in permanent dusk (try to burn one candle in a room at night, you’ll see what I mean) as there was no window in Bertha’s room, bad air (no ventilation) and for 24 hours a day. This is a shrill contrast with the more wholesome treatment of King George III at Kew, or the patients of Willis who worked on the fields, or the patients of Conolly who were only restrained in order to calm them and for the rest were allowed to be occupied in the garden, with sewing or whatever.

Moral management was about removing the strain on the brain by which the excitement which it had as an effect, would go away. A wholesome environment was therefore indispensible. How is a person supposed to get out of madness if confined without useful occupation (which was also deemed wholesome then, hence the work in the fields, a practice that was also the case in York and with the Ellises), in the dark and for ten years all day (literally!)?

The combination of Rochester’s character under the surface and Brontë’s own opinion about pity for lunatics are an indication that nor readers nor the author approved of Bertha’s situation. In the 1820s it might have been difficult, though not impossible, to find her decent confinement or a decent place, but had Brontë cared about Rochester’s character as a good man and wanted to portray him like that, she would have had him confine Bertha in an asylum (as circumstances changed) or a private madhouse, like that of the Willises, which offered much better conditions than Thornfield from the start. Or he could have disapproved after seeing his wife abused by Grace. The point is that Rochester just did not care.

Rochester is a very ironic character and puts forward a façade that fools everyone, like Lear. Although one should not mistake his lament for real remorse. It is striking how Jane still insists on his conduct being wrong and that he insists on it being right. It is clear she feels pity, he does not. That is why Brontë got criticism for the portrayal of Bertha, which was the last thing to be revealed about Rochester (his view on women/wives and marriage) and which was not relative to her own image of it as she herself intimates in a letter.


Camilla Haw, John Conolly and the treatment of mental illness in early Victorian England, 1989 for the Psychiatric Bulletin

Andrew Roberts, Mental Health History Timeline

05-29-2009, 01:23 PM
Jane insisted Rochester was wrong on trying to marry her or make her a mistress while he had a wife living, but makes no moral judgement on how he keeps his wife. On the contrary, she made a point of insisting how he refrained from defending himself against Bertha's violent attack with violent means.

For my part, if there was any irony meant then it was badly executed, both in having Jane marry him, and her CB's own words on Rochester's character.

The hint on Rochester's role imo lies in the mentioning of the Gytrash before her first meeting of Rochester. The Gytrash was believed to be a large dog or horse traveling the roads, and dangerous because they would attempt to lead the unknowing traveler to the wrong path. That, is in a nutshell what Rochester attempts, trying to trick Jane onto a morally wrong path without her even knowing it... hamartia.

Grace's failings do not seem to be that she's abusive of Bertha, but isn't always as watchful as she ought to be. We never learn how Bertha spends her time in her confinement, and what her relationship is with Grace. Sowing is mentioned, as being done by Grace, but Bertha may have been sowing too. We just don't know.

I've read how Bertha attempting to kill Rochester might be indication of his cruelty to her. I'd rather doubt it. Mental patients can act very violently towards their primary caretaker without provocation. I had a cousin who was schizophrenic and who hit and beat my aunt, her mother. While my aunt was not really a cuddly type, hardy knows how to hold a baby, she was not uncaring, nor abusive: she knows even less how to hit a child.

The physician doesn't seem to have any problems with Bertha's treatment. But it's important to know that Rochester did hire a physician for Bertha, and would have followed his advice.

As for the moral management, while several advocated it, there was also strong opposition to it, especially in the 1830s. That is when the debate about it starts to rage. I don't see why Rochester should have surrendered Bertha to a single house, when he had a physician and a 24hr caretaker for her at his own home. Also, the non-restraint confinement was the practice in asylums for the incurable. Moral management insisted on early detection in order to be a cure (and it wasn't a cure really). Bertha was beyond early detection, and an incurable. Community life, employment and taking walks was advocated for possible curable lunatics. We "now" know that even curing lunatics in this way was bollocks. Medicine is needed for it. Only those who would have been cured in this way would have been people who were in a crisis because of circumstances, not pathalogical mental disease, such as with Bertha.

Also, CB wrote the novel towards the end of the 40s, when it already became clear that moral management did not succeed much in what it professed it could do: cure the lunatics.

05-30-2009, 05:14 PM
Jane clearly states that she will also be locked up, like Bertha, if she turned mad. She clearly expresses disapproval about how Rochester talks about his wife. She finds her 'an unfortunate lady' while he goes on playing the victim and does not at all express pity. The most unsettling thing is that he makes a difference between Jane and Bertha. Not because the one is sane and the other insane, no, because Jane he 'loves' and Bertha he hates. That is profoundly unsettling, because as his wife he has total power over her. As his mistress, if she wants him to still care for her, she has to be very careful. Essentially, the statement that he hates Bertha, shows how he goes about treating people he hates: with no decorum whatsoever. The contrast is great with how he treats Jane he loves… With Rochester it is all or nothing.

There was definitely irony involved. The character he displays is totally different from the characters that are alluded to in his words. Certainly Bluebeard is very unsettling. The irony was not badly executed, because Rochester does not marry and become happy before the end, when he has gone through his change. As such, the irony is only present until chapter XXVI. When he has repented there are no unsettling references, only better ones when Jane returns. (Sleeping Beauty and Vulcan as a main)

I am not saying either Grace or Rochester were explicitly abusive. They were implicitly abusive. Granted, Bertha could have done sewing, although that is speculation. But in the dusk? I doubt whether I could sow in the dusk… Of course caretakers, no matter how good they are, are sometimes attacked, but we need to acknowledge that mad patients get easily excited, so aggravating them with bad conditions is certainly not done.

When Rochester talks about the physician, Mr Poole presumably, from the Grimsby Retreat, we have only his word for it. The only physician that was ever seen in that book was Mr Carter who was another one. So, as the sewing, the physician is only a matter of appearance… Was he ever called? Does he even exist? We cannot be sure of that.

There was a debate going on about moral management, yes. But, we should not forget that by the time Jane Eyre was published only good things were being said about this. Early discovery was deemed indeed beneficial, but more advanced patients were not refused. On the contrary, everything was done to take them up, because they felt it their duty to do so. By the 1860s, of course specialists saw that moral management did not really help, but they still kept on managing asylums that way, because it was good for the patients. It was no longer seen as a cure, though. That was only in the 1860s, not in the 1840s. Then they were all for it. An article was even published in Blackwood’s Magazine in terms that at least show that ‘the old days are past.’

03-24-2010, 05:24 PM
As a Byronic Hero archetype, without the handsome appearance (of course), Rochester is educated, worldly, and believes in his own moral code. There is a repartee about this early-on with Jane. He says, "Nature intended me to be a good man, Miss Eyre, yet you see that I am not....When fate wronged me, I did not have the wisdom to be cool. I turned desperate. . ." Ch14. He has struggled with his past, dealt with his errors and has reached a point where he believes he is intitled to grasp some happiness in this life. Whether he was justified is subjective; however, it is clear that he believes he has the right to pursue her. The fact that she was tiny, penniless, and plain with not a friend or relation in the world to claim--only added to his concept that perhaps she was sent there to him. I rather like Rochester, for all his faults. I suppose it is because he genuinely loved Jane. His reasoning--or rather, his explanation for his behavior--is flawed. He clearly states early on, when he is playing the gypsy, that he knows Jane is resolute and chaste. Ch19: ""I see no enemy to happiness except in the forehead. That brow says, I can live alone if self-respect requires me to. I will not sell my soul to buy happiness..." He knew he could not be honest with her; he knew she would never agree to live with him if he was already married. Therefore, his arguement after the thwarted wedding does not hold up. Rochester's desperation in the novel is poignant and I really could not help feeling empathy for his plight. However, he tried to trick Jane into a false wedding, which is also pretty reprehensible. This is why I have always wondered how others interpet Rochester's character. Brontë, herself, was involved in an unrequited love with a professor in Brussells. She fell into a rather intense affection for him, mentioned it in letters, but he rejected her every mention of the attachment. As a school master of an all girls' school, he would be outraged at any hint of inpropriety. Actually, the novel went at a rapid speed from the beginning until Jane leaves Thornfield, a shift easily identified in the novel.

03-25-2010, 05:02 AM
Don't get me wrong, I love Rochester absolutely. He is the most intricate character ever and the most interesting one. But I really couldn't feel any pity when he took his plea.

There is a line, and going over it is too far. Fine, he was in love with Jane, but he knows she will not consent to be his mistress, though she would probably have stayed had he proposed and had they waited for Bertha to die. It is doubtful whether he would have been able to keep himself, but she could have certainly. She at least considers that posiblity when she returns.

But he chooses the route of deceit and decides to trick her into a marriage which she does not know is not valid. She would have given her honour to him, not knowing that she didn't give it in wedlock. And what would have happened if he went to prison for bigamy (I don't know if any goods were confistcated in that case)? Or even worse, he gets tired of her? She ends up destitute and a fallen woman. Fine, he says he loves her, but I am really torn between believing him and not believing him. Whoever can lie so convincingly as to make someone believe that he is single, have the audacity to propose knowing that one cannot offer a genuine marriage (in such an era to such a destitute girl) and that one's wife is even in the same house (as if your new one will never know), I have trouble to believe in other cases.

I have the mpression he has changed severely after the fire and what folowed and he also admits to his mistakes. Indicated by the moon-motif, he has not dealt with his errors, but has only hidden them and as such, is only rid of them when she returns to 'Sleeping Beauty' as it were. He is then a lot more humble, a lot more thankful that she has returned and wants to love him, a lot more pleading and genuine, a lot more 'I don't knowif she is going to say yes' instead of 'she must say yes, why would she not'. I have the impression that the first time, he was just trying to keep her. He was madly in love like he was with Bertha, but I don't think it would have been bliss for Jane. Not when you take into account his narcistic streak.

03-25-2010, 05:30 PM
Thank you for your reply!

I have to admit that I have studied the British Victorian period, culture, gentry, etc. a great deal which makes it somewhat easier for me to believe that the wealthy or privileged class certainly felt –like the Buchanans in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925—that they were in some ways above the regular rules and social values. Plus, the idea of arranged marriages was not as uncommon as it is today. His basis for “loving” Bertha, I think, was more in the physical aspects. She was obviously beautiful and exotic. How could anyone really be in love with someone they just met and barely know—not to mention from a totally different culture. Rochester didn’t like the tropical climate of Jamaica. And he was young. Life’s experiences have an interesting affect on an individual.

Yes, he deceived her convincingly. And he was a scoundrel for doing so! But I saw this man as a desperate man, consorting with a number of mistresses—in an attempt to create an intimate relationship that mirrored marriage—unsuccessfully. All were doomed to fail before they began; however, the fact that Rochester doesn’t know this has always been a mystery to me.

I rather think he did know that he could not replicate a truly loving relationship in that fashion. But it has always bothered me that he keeps trying. He tries again with Jane, but he offers her marriage. The real puzzle is that he appears to know himself so well, as quoted in his early repartee with Jane; he knows Jane from the classic orphan schooled at a religious boarding school. I have even considered that Jane’s dislike of Brocklehurst might have led Rochester to believe that she was rejecting more than the pious vicar himself. Believing that she had no one and no one would inquire as to his situation—which is ironic when someone did know and did inquire—that he would marry her and keep everything from her.

I see Rochester as a man who felt trapped, cheated, tricked –whether it was justified or not---and saw Jane as his last hope in this world to grasp a small bit of happiness. He might have even told himself that the incident in the causeway was “meant to be” and that Jane was sent there to him. It was surely desperate on his part, which explains why he is so absolutely shaken when Mason shows up. Physically shaken.

And when he tells her after the thwarted wedding that he should have been honest from the onset—I knew immediately he was lying. I think he lies because once again, he is desperate. He knows Jane will not stay even though he makes his passionate plea and rationalizing argument. He knew before he speaks; he knew when he was the gypsy. It is possibly like seeing the last threads of happiness slipping through his fingers and he desperately tries to save them. Perhaps, like trying to hold water in your hand. Futile, however, we inevitably try!

But he did love her desperately. When she is gone, he wears the pearl necklace around his own neck under his cravat. The servants say he hardly left the property. That was where Jane was; that was where his memories were; he could not leave Thornfield. Think about the name of the estate: Thornfield. He stays in a field of thorns.

Repentance was slow in coming because I believe his passion for Jane overwhelmed all other emotions including common sense. [Having once been in love myself—the particular kind of love that leads you to believe you are soul mates, thinking identical thoughts & sharing similar ideas, etc. without articulating them—I know this sort of passion tends to be overwhelming especially in the early days of romantic love.] As time passes, Rochester begins to view his actions in retrospect and is able to see himself in a far different light. He does repent and, at the window, he asks God to take him. That is the night Jane hears his words.

The true Byronic hero character does believe in the moral values but because of some secret tragedy in his past, believes he has the right to adhere to a different set of rules. He tells Jane [Ch 14] “It [repentance] is not its cure. To reform may be its cure. I could reform—I still have the strength for that—but what is the use of thinking about that, cursed as I am? Besides, because happiness is forever denied me, I have a right to get pleasure out of life. And I will get it, whatever it costs.” And he tells her in that same scene: “I think that when such a guest asks to enter my heart, I must let it in.” I might argue that it is in this scene when the idea occurs to him.

There is a comment Rochester makes, when she returns to him, in a conciliatory manner that indicates he had thought about what he tried to do was regretted his actions. I cannot seem to locate that exact scene.

What he did was unconscionable, to be sure. However, a desperate person—man or woman—may resort to desperate measures even if they are reprehensible. And when he asked Jane to forgive him, she does immediately—although not aloud. Something about this man, in spite of his actions, endears him to me.

03-25-2010, 05:56 PM
hi Kiki ,
i really enjoyed reading this .. this is such a remarkable work ..
I frankly love the character of Mr. Rochester.. that strange mixture of everything and his noble love for Jane..

Well , great efforts !

03-26-2010, 06:48 AM
@Hoope: Thanks for the comments. For some time I really got obsessed by this book (and character :redface:). But I am glad I make sense ;).


I agree with what you say, but I don't think Rochester's despair should be exaggerated. He is endearing (I keep saying it), but at the same time also a little hard-headed.

Maybe that does not so much bring on vengeful feelings in a reader, but rather profound sadness. Sadnes at the state of him as a person. There is something about him that is so sad that he is kind of lost and cannot be helped because he does not want to listen to the one who can help him (Jane). I believe the whole novel carries a 'grand plan' that sends Jane to Thornfield for him to be helped (as she has often been called a Christ-figure), but a Christ also needs to be sacrificed to save the world. In that, Jane saves Rochester not through her love, but through her 'death' when she leaves.

How he dealt with his past and his wife was really not productive. Fine, this bride had been courted for him and actually the marriage was pretty much done. They only needed a 'yes' from him (and her). It is understandable that it was hard for him to say 'no', but I don't believe that he wasn't able to. You are right that arranged marriages were common (certainly when there was one main object: money), but the prospective daughter-in-law needed to be honorable. In that, I don't think it is implied that Rochester's father knew that Bertha was in fact mad or at least weakly gifted. If he had known about that (and her escapades afterwards), he would never have married his son to her as her honour and mental state also had their reflection on the honour of the family but furthermore her mental state would have demonised Rochester's children (that is at least what they thought back then and what Rochester intimates himself about it). That is also what is indicated when the reader is told that Rochester's father didn't publicise the marriage in the newspaper because of the letters of Rochester himself about his wife. Not only her promiscuous nature was an issue or disobedience (as has often been a subject in feminist research), but also merely the fact that she cannot have any decent conversation which is quickly going to show if she is brought into a situation like Ingram, as Rochester's wife and host of his parties (if she is at all able to pull something like that off). Not to mention Ihe servants who talk... I think blaming his father and brother for the marriage entirely and accusing them of trickery is not really realistic as it was also in their own interest that he wasn't married to Bertha. They would never have agreed with Mason if they had known, yet probably Mason wanted to get rid of his daughter and saw his chance with this overseas gentleman who was only interested in money and did not know about his (Mason's) wife and yougest child who was 'an idiot'. In my mind, Rochester only blames his father and brother for that marriage in order not to have to blame himself; narcistically trying to get out of his own respnsibility in all of it. He could have looked better and informed his father about Bertha's mental state, yet he did not, fell passionately in love with her beauty without even so much as talking to her and then is surprised that he has made the wrong choice.

He also does not truly understand how despicable his trickery was. He blames his concealed marriage for it. It can be considered as an act of desperation, yes, and I agree, but at the same time, one cannot demand to be happy. In pursuing happiness, he gets it wrong. Epictetus's principles of happines (which Brontë refers to indirectly) were to not to want to control what is incontrollable. Rochester would like to turn back the clock 15 years and say 'I am single', but in constructing that lie for himself, he only becomes unhappy, because continuously he is reminded of the fact that it is not like that. One cannot have a wife if one is already married no matter where or how the other one is, bottom line. In absolutely wanting to live a lie, he also limits himself as to the women he can consult to become his (second) wife. There is no young lady of honour who will want to marry bigamously. So he descends to the material side of things (that is what mistresses are for), but then of course grows unhappy. Those women are namely not really 'loving', but only see their gain. As soon as something else comes up, they disappear. He indeed tries to control what is incontrollable: happiness. One does not find it, it comes upon one (possibly eve as a reward for good living if the grand plan in the novel is taken into account). That is something totally different. One needs to let it come. It is not summoned. That is what he does with Jane in the first place. In the second place, though, he let it. When it comes it comes, when it doesn't it doesn't. It is all really fine for him: there is nothing else to live for.

I do think that at the end he is much happier than he ever was during that first year because he has come to appreciate happiness because of unhappiness. He thought he was unhappy and alone when he met Jane, but that was nothing compared to his loneliness when she had left. There was something that penetrated him (as the India Rubber Ball) during that year, but he didn't realise it. Only when Jane had left, he realised the emptiness in his heart. Before, he took it for granted. After, he realised what it was that he missed. And that made him humble, because he realised that he could not demand that happiness; he could not summon it. It had come, it had gone and now it had to come back, but he could not controll it. And that is I think what defines him in the end: he will be happy with his situation, his blindness because that is it. He can cry over his blindness, over not being able to anything alone, but does it serve? No, the situation will stay the same, and he should have realised that 15 years earlier. Life would have been much easier.

In that, Jane as 'the apple of [his] eye' could refer to knowledge and wisdom as implied in Byron's Cain: of an infinite nature. Indeed, it is wisdom that he gained through eating from the forbidden fruit, but also not fathoming it, because it is infinite. Not understanding, but knowing it anyway in a limited way. The only thing he knows is that now, everything is bliss and before it wasn't. His age of innocence and not knowing is gone.

03-26-2010, 06:59 PM
This will be short as I am about to leave work for the weekend!
Gosh, you take my breath away!
I guess I meant to argue somewhat on Rochester's behalf; however, I still could never rationalize his behavior to Jane. How do you do that to someone you claim to love? Jane would have been devastated by finding out she was nothing more than a mistress. I used to ask my students, how can he love her so much and do this horrible thing--or try to?
He is a paradox, to be sure. I have to say.. my assessments of Rochester may possibly be colored by the fact that I have read Wide Sargasso Sea a few times and taught it once following Jane Eyre. If I have stretched at all, I apologize.

In any case, I wish to further our discussion on Rochester, who is without doubt a very intriguing character. A scoundrel? Yes. Passionate? Yes. Narcissistic? That, too. However, he is such a more interesting character than Rivers, who by the way, also believed Jane was sent to him.

I will try to add more later. [I need to lock up and leave.] Again, thank you for the interaction on this topic. JE is my favorite novel and I did get my degree in 19th Century British Victorian literature... but I love to read and when I can't, I use audio books for my vehicle.

03-29-2010, 05:58 AM
I used to wonder as well about that, until I started to look up all allusions to his character. The irony in it is amazing. While he is making the most charming impression, the references become ever more shocking and scary. It is amazing how it was done.

It starts with sinister Bluebeard of Perrault's fairy tale, continues with various Shakespeare references, goes on with Milton and finally ends with Lear. Not to mention half the bible.

That gypsy scene is very important one. Not only for his trickery, but mainly for his role in connection with Bertha and his look on the world. It is the most intriguing part.

03-29-2010, 02:13 PM
And if you read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhyes, the characterization of Rochester is even more sinister. He marries Antoinette [middle name is Bertha] for her money and admittedly for her exotic beauty and things move along swimmingly until he a cousin, Daniel Cosway begins to tell Rochester about the family history and secrets. His character is rather enigmatic when you begin to dissect it. And the other component that probably should be considered is that Brontë herself was not "worldly" when she wrote the character. While she had an enormous infatuation with M. Heger in Brussels, unrequited, she clearly did not understand the depths of romantic love other than from the point of literature [I am including the Bible]. And there is some data on the web concerning her correspondence to him: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/zoebrigley/entry/charlotte_bronts_letters/
I have always thought there was a connection to her emotional attachment to M. Heger, his stern rejection of her infatuation, and the creation of Rochester.

03-29-2010, 04:44 PM
I haven't read Wide Sargasso Sea and I prefer to keep it out of my mind. Not to keep it out of the dscussion, of course, but Rhys only wrote it based on what she thought. It is by no means, to me, a definite idea of Rochester. Of course Rhys's interpretation is partly based on the feminist idea (the man as the definite bad guy), but also on the idea that Rochester was lying (or Charlotte made him lie) about what really happened after their marriage, that she wasn't really mad, but that Rochester told Jane that in order to really divert the guilt for locking her up (and driving her mad). I don't really agree with that, but at the same time, it is a possibility.

But I agree that it seems sinister, yes.

Héger certainly has somethin to do with it, yes. Did you know that the air which Rochester sings at the piano to Jane after they have returned from the shopping trip, was a poem about a 'he' connected to Charlotte's time in Brussels? She made an extre piece for it, but the first part, I think, was original.

03-30-2010, 04:12 PM
Rochester has always bothered me. However attached I have been to this character, I have always wondered what you tell yourself to inspire you to do such a horrible trick on your beloved.

I did not know about the poem. In fact, I actually believed Heger had a great deal to do with the creation of Rochester long before the recent information available online. I know Charlotte was obsessed with him and torn that he insisted she not write to him. She felt a horrible inner pain over the loss of her close friend and teacher, which nothing could assuage.

02-17-2011, 10:37 AM
I have always liked the character Rochester and the whole love story surrounding him and Jane but I have never liked the treatment of his first wife. I guess that is his evil side as they say everyone has some evil in them.