Edward Rochester is nothing if not divisive. I spent last weekend harassing Megan Frampton about whether Edward Rochester (the ostensible hero of Jane Eyre) is actually heroic. We disagree. However, to do justice to a book that I read repeatedly during my teenage years, I present the five reasons Rochester is a hero, as well as the five reasons he is not. You decide.
Yes—Of course he's a hero:
5. Edward Rochester keeps his wife in the attic. What? You don't think that's heroic? Have you considered the alternative? What would life be like for poor Bertha Rochester in a Victorian insane asylum? Rochester at least has the grace to see that his wife is well cared for.
4. Edward Rochester is tortured. This doesn't necessarily make him a hero, but it makes him appealing in a heroic way. We find we can often forgive a man for past mistakes if he is tortured by them.
3. Edward Rochester is kind. He has taken in Adele, the child of a former paramour, and given her a home without even being convinced she's his.
2. Edward Rochester risks his life to try to save his crazy wife from a burning building. Yes, she doesn't want to be saved. And yes, his life would sooo much easier without her. But he does try to save her.
1. Edward Rochester is a passionate man. He may display that passion in odd and sometimes twisted ways, but there is no mistaking his passion and no doubt that his love for Jane is genuinely passionate.
These are pretty heroic characteristics but are they enough?
Are you kidding? He's no hero:
5. Edward Rochester keeps his wife in the attic. What kind of a life is that? Yes, we see that she's crazy and kind of hard to manage, but what about the possibility that if she were treated as something other than a dirty secret, she might have improved?
4. Edward Rochester keeps his wife a dirty secret. He married her. He brought her back to Thornfield. She's in his house (albeit the attic. See #5). He's having her cared for. It's apparently neither her fault nor his that they end of married. Why deny her? Doesn't she have enough problems?
3. Edward Rochester is manipulative. He strings Blanche Ingram along, leading her to think he's going to propose marriage and then uses her to make Jane jealous. He pretends to be a Gypsy fortune teller in order to manipulate Jane and other members of his house party. Not very heroic.
2. Edward Rochester intends to commit bigamy with an unwitting (and ultimately unwilling) young woman. What more can I say?
1. Edward Rochester tries to seduce Jane into adultery when his attempt at bigamy fails, disregarding her strong moral core and concentrating only on his own desires.
Not. A. Hero!
Weigh in. Edward Rochester: hero or not?
Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.