Every girl dreams of finding her Mr. Darcy, a handsome man to sweep her off her feet and pledge his devotion, no matter the consequences. However, as they grow up, many come to the realisation that looks and wealth aren’t everything (although they do help).
In fact, the alluring nature of Darcy’s surly personality cannot compare to the depth of character and feeling that a certain Mr. Rochester brings to the table.
”This is, of course, the main point of contention between those who see Rochester as a sympathetic Samaritan and those who consider him a cruel captor’’
Charlotte Bronte’s Edward Rochester is a troubled, complex character, burning with a sense of pain and melancholia at his deranged wife’s condition, and his duty to tend to her lunacy by cocooning her in the attic of his manor.
This is, of course, the main point of contention between those who see Rochester as a sympathetic Samaritan and those who consider him a cruel captor.
”However, when his and Jane’s paths intertwine, it is clear that he is blinded not only, in literal terms, by the house fire at the tale’s climax, but metaphorically by his love for her’’
With the lack of scientific knowledge at the time, it is likely that most bewildered husbands would have incarcerated their insane wives in an asylum.
Considering the fact that his family tricked him into his loveless marriage with the ‘madwoman’, Bertha, it seems Rochester cares for her in the best and most generous way he can. Rather, his most negative decision seems to lie in his deceiving Jane.
He masquerades as an eligible bachelor, when in reality, he has secretly been married for many years. However, when his and Jane’s paths intertwine, it is clear that he is blinded not only, in literal terms, by the house fire at the tale’s climax, but metaphorically by his love for her.
Indeed, the intensity and fervour of Rochester’s passion is enough to set even the most pragmatic woman’s heart aflutter. Their first meeting is shrouded in mystery and deceit, not the best way to spark an epic romance. The reader first encounters Rochester riding on horseback, a seemingly knightly suitor.
However, this illusion is immediately shattered by his subsequent fall from his horse, copious profanities and Jane’s description of his ‘stern features’ that cover a ‘dark face’.
”Not only does he save Bertha from the terror of a Victorian asylum, he liberates his ward, Adele, from becoming an abandoned orphan’’
Bronte reverses the conventional roles, by casting this male lover as the damsel in distress, whom Jane must save, both when he falls from his horse and when a fire is lit in his room by Bertha later in the novel.
However, as the story progresses, the reader discovers Mr. Rochester to be the true saviour of the novel. Not only does he save Bertha from the terror of a Victorian asylum, he liberates his ward, Adele, from becoming an abandoned orphan, and releases Jane from the mundane life she is so desperate to escape at the beginning of her tale.
It is a case of putting yourself in Edward’s shoes; how would a modern-day suitor handle a mad wife in the loft while dealing with his feelings for a younger governess? Probably with just as much insensitivity and self-indulgence that the critics berate Rochester for. Granted, it’s an unlikely situation to arise in modern society, but I’m fan-girling Team Edward… And I’m not talking Twilight.
Olivia Nichole Kittle
Image Credit: Olivia Nichole Kittle