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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

The curelty of Rochester and what it signifies - in Jane Eyre

So how can we possibly make sense, much less excuse, Rochester's behavior toward Jane Eyre during their so-called courtship, as he repeatedly teases and taunts her, letting her know he's getting married within a month or so, letting her believe that he's going to marry the beautiful opportunist, Ms. Ingram, without ever quite saying so, hurtfully just leaving open for Jane the possibility that maybe he's interested in her, bringing it right down to the wire, telling Jane she'll have to leave Thornhill and he will recommend a placement for her taking care of five (!) children somewhere in Northern Ireland, all the while she steadfastly says she'll do as he wishes, fighting back tears - until at last he asks her to marry him, actually, he doesn't a quite ask but more or less says it as a fait accompli. I half-wish she could tell him to go to hell - just as I wish Jane could have told Mrs. Reed, the aunt who was so horrible to her throughout her childhood, to die and go to hell. It's not just that Jane is a good person and a good Christian - she's a damn doormat. It's one thing to turn the other cheek and it's another to let others do with her what they will - again, it's the class or caste system of English society (and to a degree the sexism as well, at least in relation to Rochester if not to Mrs. Reed) that keeps Jane "in her place": her worship of and obeisance toward Rochester is partly from her sense that they are of a different class, and partly a wish that he will "elevate" Jane by marrying her. Though she is in my view in every way more intelligent, worthy, and kind than Rochester, she does not enter this relationship as one among equals - she is his complete dependent, or so it would seem. We're still very early in the book for the romantic conclusion, so we are of course waiting to learn about the woman in the attic - the one great hindrance remaining as an obstacle on the path toward their wedded bliss.

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