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

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Why Jane Eyre should never have married Rochester

Rochester's such a catch? Let's think about this: first he completely snubs Jane Eyre when he's with his wealthy friends, insists that she join them in the room but won't even look at her, but when he gets her off to the sidelines he's incredibly suggestive and flirtatious; then, he disguises himself as a fortune teller and asks Jane all sorts of potentially embarrassing questions about people she may be in love with (fortunately, she can see through his mask). When he's ready finally to tell her that he loves her he torments her first with a long song-and-dance about how he's getting married soon and she will have to go off and find another job. OK, she's crazy about him - and has few other options, anyway - so she acquiesces, and then he's about as bossy as a spouse could possibly be, ordering what she should wear, what she should own, etc. She puts up w/ all this crap - and then the wedding day, when Jane learns, on the altar no less, that Roch is already married. What did he think? That she'd never learn? That all would be OK because his wife is the crazy person living in the attic? That Jane is so kind and sweet that she'll be happy to live with him as if she were his wife - never mind how these complications could affect any chance of her inheritance, or of the lineage of the family should they have children. No telling how far he'd have pushed that had not his brother-in-law learned of the impending marriage (lots of coincidences throughout, in typical 19th-century Gothic fashion, but let's just say you need to suspend a lot of disbelief in order to accept the plot machinations of JE). So naturally Jane leaves him - and we get some of the most harrowing scenes in the book as she wanders the moors and the countryside in near starvation, until someone finally takes her in and may help her find some kind of work. We see through this not only Jane's strength but how utterly dependent she's become on Rochester's support: doe she learn about the suffering of others? Not really. She learns how important it is to marry the right guy, even if he's mercurial and duplicitous. It's impossible, btw, to read this far into JE and wonder about the subtle, or not so subtle, racism at the heart of the novel: why did Bronte have to make the crazy woman a half-Creole? There really seems to be a sense that race is at the heart of the insanity - that no good English wife would ever behave that way (or be treated that way - imprisoned in an attic). Is Brone suggesting that: If only Rochester had married one of "his kind" the tragedy would never have ensued - and marrying the pure-white Jane Eyre is his path toward salvation.

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