Rochester, the Original Misogynist

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, is a very intriguing and controversial text from Victorian-era England. Following Jane along in her life as an orphan through her cruel relationship with her aunt and the events that follow that also are laced with neglect and ignorance. Jane Eyre is packed to the brim in different psychological effects on young Jane, some could say could be considered a form of PTSD due to her red room flashbacks. Jane shows an inability to trust anyone around her which is a constant notion driving her through almost every decision throughout the text. It delves into concepts of disability, misogyny, and sexism mostly through Mr. Rochester who has found himself in a state of constant backlash from readers due to his actions – then, and now. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester, and the controversial character that he is, has found himself being one of the original “players” of modern British literature. A pure representation of a secret misogynist.

Throughout the text, it is no secret that Jane struggles with social interaction in many different situations. Being a headstrong female protagonist, she has found herself stumbling over words intending to lead conversations and further them, without the fear of being belittled. Being a woman in Victorian-era England it was hard for women, in general, to speak their minds and lead conversations without being thought little of, so Jane’s words were constantly riddled with secret ambiguity.

“”You examine me, Miss Eyre,” said he: “do you think me handsome?””

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, Chapter 14

This is a prime example of Jane’s fear to speak up, as well as knowing her place in the time period. It is also a representation of Rochester being pretentious in an attempt to make himself look better than he truly is.

“”You are dumb, Miss Eyre.””

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, Chapter 14

To further this notion, Bertha, Rochester’s wife, is a constant reminder of the neglect he obtains over women, as well as the lies he told from the very beginning to Jane. With this in mind, it proves that Jane is cursed with the inability to trust others, due to the instability in her life, and the number of times she had been lied to and stomped over.

Being aware that Rochester has a pretentious atmosphere to him, leads to the idea of his ability to trick others into his arrogant know-it-all attitude that makes others somehow want to be in his company. 

“I did as I was bid, though I would much rather have remained somewhat in the shade; but Mr. Rochester had such a direct way of giving orders, it seemed a matter, of course, to obey him promptly.”

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, Chapter 14

One big cursor from this is the one and only Rochester. His entire initial proposal was thwarted on the concept of keeping his actual wife a secret, so that he could marry again, without Jane knowing. His entire proposal was a trick to get Jane stuck with him. He was able to do this in the way that Charlotte Bronte wrote him. In a way that made men admire him, and women find him desirable due to his social status. Only once it is known that he had a wife, and was going to marry again, did it strip him of this desirable nature.

It is only learned in chapter twenty-six that Rochester actually has a wife and that she had gone “insane”. This is when we are introduced to Bertha, how she acts, and her mental disability that is described as a behavioral and cognitive disability. Bertha, in this case, is used as symbolism through her disability, being trapped in her room, as Jane what disabled would be to Rochester in wedlock. Trapped in the marriage, she would metaphorically become Bertha through the concept that the husband owns the wife, and the wife is essentially his “property”. This is where feminism comes into play. I was somewhat confused at the notion that Jane was supposed to be this feminist character, and at first, she was, denying the marriage because of Rochester’s previous marriage, and going off to live for herself, but it all turned on its head when she decided that she would marry him anyway in the end. 

In conclusion, Jane Eyre is a story about a young woman who came into the world lost and found what she wanted in life through actions of pure intent. Jane, a headstrong woman, not only turned down Mr. Rochester when she found out the truth about his wife but chose to forgive him in the end apparently “making up” for his mistakes for his attempted saving of Bertha. Through these actions, it is unknown if she is forgiving him, or giving in. Needless to say, Jane Eyre, being the feminist that she is, was unable to escape the Victorian era grasp that Rochester’s misogynistic nature had on her, and gave in to society’s expectations on marriage and life for a woman. 

3 thoughts on “Rochester, the Original Misogynist

  1. This is a really intriguing post, I like how you talk about how Rochester is clearly egotistical and uses his social status to get what he wants. You bring up how he proposes to Jane to make her be stuck with him and how he somehow forgot to mention that he was previously married and that his wife is “insane” and locked in the attic. Another point could be that he kept telling Jane that he was going to propose to Ms. Ingram and then suddenly turning around and proposing to Jane. The whole situation was so weird.

  2. I agree that Rochester uses his social status to get what he wants, along with his wealth and high standards in the book. it is kind of sad to see this from Jane’s perspective as she is so simple and only needs so much to be content. But nice post and it was interesting to read through your project on this!

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