There are many things at this point in the novel that I am critical of about Mr. Rochester. First, I have read ahead and am already aware of the fact that he has a secret wife. Second, there is an oddly specific praise for Jane when she fits the societal roles of a submissive woman.
Before Mr. Rochester and Jane are to be married, they wake and have a discussion in his office. Mr. Rochester says,
“’I never met your likeness. Jane: you please me, and you master me—you seem to submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart’” (389).Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2020.
Is this because unlike Bertha, Mr. Rochester’s hidden wife, Jane is easy and susceptible to control?
This is by no means to criticize Jane for being more inclined to fit the standard for women at this time. It is understandable that she should feel this way after having seen womanly submission to men all her life, beginning with her cousin the very day her Aunt conceded to him simply because he was a boy and believed him over Jane, to her boarding school where she was often degraded and made to feel small by the abusive male overseer. Jane’s submissive nature is often perceived by Mr. Rochester and other men of his likeness as idealized simply because of the power dynamic between a man and woman and the antiquated sexist gender norms of the era.
Are we to believe that Mr. Rochester did not like the likeness of Bertha? Did he not like that he could not tame her? That she was too difficult? That she was a burden to him and yet he kept her trapped away in that horrible Thornfield house a hidden, shameful secret? Mr. Rochester idealized Jane because of her submission, and in my opinion, this is disparaging.