“Plain Jane” and Mr. Rochester

In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, we are led to believe that Jane is no more than a Governess for Mr. Rochester. Even despite this assumption, it is obvious that there seems to be some romantic tension between Mr. Rochester and Jane. What bothers me is how off-putting Mr. Rochester is with his stance on appearance and beauty in general. It almost seems like a forewarning for what will come in future chapters (I am a little behind on blogging but am ahead of the readings) so it is interesting to me to go back and see things which I overlooked.

               “’You have the air of a little Nonnette; quaint, quiet, grave, and simple’” (194).

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2020.

I of course, had zero idea what a “Nonnette” meant, so bless the world that has working internet and a search engine at the drop of a hat… I ultimately came to learn that this is a French pastry, which is palpable because Adele is French. And to discern the rest of the meaning in that sentence, my interpretation of what Mr. Rochester is saying is that Jane is plain. What else is to be deduced? He compares her to a French pastry, then calls her “quaint” which she is not, “quiet” which she has literally been taught to be since she was stuffed in the Red Room, “grave and simple” of which she is neither—because Jane is hardly simple, and yet Mr. Rochester has the audacity to allege her this word.

               “Plain” does not equate to being undesirable or unworthy of being eye-catching, as Mr. Rochester hints. In my opinion, Jane is brushed off quite a bit in this story as being “plain.” She is no simpler than she is a headless horseman (she is neither). Jane is complex, and brave, and in every situation thus far in her life she has persevered despite the oncoming challenges. For lack of better words, I think Mr. Rochester is a prick for saying this to Jane, who is complex in her own ways.

3 thoughts on ““Plain Jane” and Mr. Rochester

  1. This was a great quote to draw attention to. This simplifying of Jane could be Mr. Rochester’s way to gain control over her. In telling her that she is quiet, grave and simple, Mr. Rochester is insinuating that she is normal and plain, undesirable among the many more interesting people out there. Jane is none of these things, as you pointed out, therefore, Mr. Rochester was trying to make Jane feel bad about herself in hope that she would become more dependent on him.

  2. I agree with what Melissa commented about Rochester. By making Jane feel “quaint” and “simple” he is trying to convince her to believe no one else would desire her, therefore, she should stay with him if she wants to be loved, or even liked. I know I keep pushing this, but this is literally a tactic an abuser would use to maintain control over their chosen victim. Jane deserves her freedom, and I wish she got it in the end.

  3. Rochester seems to never look beyond the surface. Jane has been taught to be a quiet biddable creature, as you so aptly out it since she was stuffed into the Red Room. Rochester seems to exist to praise Jane on how well she has done to fit into society’s standards for women, to show that if she follows what she is told the fancy rich man will sweep her away.

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