Michelle has taught high school and college English and has master's degrees in eduation and liberal studies.
In this lesson, we'll briefly discuss the novel ''Jane Eyre'' and analyze the character of Mr. Rochester. Our focus will be on his character traits and his importance to the plot and themes of Charlotte Bronte's novel.
About the Novel and Author
Jane Eyre is a novel written by English novelist Charlotte Bronte. It was first published on October 16, 1847, under the pen name Currer Bell. Jane Eyre is considered to be a bildungsroman (coming of age story), and it focuses on the childhood, education, and young womanhood of the title character, Jane Eyre.
Jane's story begins at the home of her aunt and uncle, where, after her parents' deaths, she is emotionally and physically abused. Jane is then sent to school at Lowood, a school poorly run by the cruel and overly religious Mr. Brocklehurst.
After leaving school, Jane takes a governess position at Thornfield Hall, owned by Mr. Rochester. Jane forms close relationships with her student, Adele Varens, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. Jane and Mr. Rochester have a complicated relationship but eventually fall in love and get engaged. It is then revealed that Mr. Rochester is already married. His insane wife, in fact, lives in the attic at Thornfield Hall.
Jane refuses to become Mr. Rochester's mistress and leaves Thornfield Hall. She stays with the Rivers family for a while, and she discovers that she has received an inheritance from an uncle she never knew. After rejecting a proposal of marriage from the religious St. John Rivers, she returns to Thornfield Hall, only to discover the house has been destroyed by a fire. She learns that Mr. Rochester's wife killed herself and set the house on fire and that he was blinded and maimed in the fire after trying to save his wife. Jane and Mr. Rochester reunite, and he eventually regains his sight and is able to see their first-born son.
Jane Eyre is a very famous and popular novel, and it delves into many social issues, including religion, sexuality, feminism, morality, and family. Mr. Rochester's character is at the core of many of these themes!
Mr. Rochester: Byronic Hero
Mr. Rochester is a famous and somewhat controversial character. Let's discuss why he is important and controversial!
Mr. Rochester is a wealthy man with a large home, Thornfield Hall. He is often angry, lustful (Adele Varens is very likely his illegitimate daughter), and emotional. Mr. Rochester is what we call a Byronic hero. The Byronic hero is a type of literary character named after poet Lord Byron, part of the Romantic movement in literature, a movement in the 1800s that focused on nature and intense feelings. The Byronic hero is usually dark and moody, sexually intense, mysterious, emotional, troubled, and arrogant. Mr. Rochester is all of these things. In fact, his passions are only controlled after the fire nearly kills him.
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Mr. Rochester represents a long line of men in Jane's life who are, in some ways, 'above' her.' He is wealthy and has a higher status in society, and, like her uncle and Mr. Brocklehurst, he tries to subdue Jane. However, Mr. Rochester is also the only man that Jane has been able to meet as an equal (after she gets her inheritance and refuses to be his mistress). At the end of the novel, Jane is able to marry Mr. Rochester because his strength has been damaged by the emotional and physical distress of the fire, while Jane's strength has been increased. Only then are they able to enter into a true partnership.
Some people have criticized the character of Mr. Rochester because he is so violent, lustful, and deceitful. He explains that he only married his first wife out of lust, and then keeps her in the attic. At one point, he subtly implies that he will be violent against Jane, perhaps raping her if she doesn't agree to be his mistress. Mr. Rochester is extreme, which is why Jane's strength and morality are so evident in comparison. This contrast helps to illustrate Jane's strength of character.
Mr. Rochester's character helps to illuminate some of the key themes of the novel, such as forgiveness and religion. Throughout the novel, Mr. Rochester shows he is attempting to do the right thing and atone for his sins. He is taking care of Adele even though there is no law to force him to do so. He also shows some regret for the treatment of his first wife. After the fire, which is symbolically cleansing, he is reborn in a way and is forgiven.
Mr. Rochester also helps to define the theme of Jane's search for family. We see her go through several situations in which she is treated as an outsider (at her uncle's, at Lowood, and even at Thornfield Hall in the beginning). But, in the end, she and Mr. Rochester form an equal relationship, and she is able to return 'home' to Thornfield Hall and be a part of a real family for the first time.
Mr. Rochester is a controversial but key character in Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel. He is considered a Byronic hero, a type of Romantic literary character that is usually dark, mysterious, troubled, moody, arrogant, and sexually intense. Mr. Rochester is violent, lustful, and deceitful, but he is, in the end, forgiven and able to give and receive love, illustrating the novel's themes of forgiveness and the search for family.
Studying the character of Mr. Rochester provides an opportunity for you to:
Summarize the background of Jane Eyre
View Mr. Rochester as an example of a Byronic hero
Relate Mr. Rochester's character to the main themes in Jane Eyre
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