Jane Eyre: A Perspective

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Jane Eyre is a novel about personal journey. Even though the story is told from Jane's perspective and chronicles her growth from child to teen to adult, it is just as much a story about Mr. Rochester's journey into self-discovery and growth from an idealistic young man, into a bitter, hardened adult, and his return to the simplicity of joy despite the uneven path he took to get there. Most of the specifics of Mr. Rochester's upbringing are left to the imagination, but the information we are given lends predictability to certain aspects.Although Jane and Mr. Rochester come from different socio-economic backgrounds, they undoubtedly began their respective journeys at virtually the same point - emotional deprivation. Jane, having grown up an orphan, is neglected by her aunt, abused by her cousin John, and essentially left to rot in a boarding school for children who come from low-income backgrounds. Mr. Rochester's affluent background, while alluded to in the fact that he's the owner of Thornfield, isn't spoken of until the day of his wedding to Jane when Mr. Biggs, a solicitor from London, calls the wedding to a halt by proclaiming an impediment “exists in the existence of a previous marriage. Mr. Rochester has a wife now living” (p. 351)*.This declaration hints at what lies beneath and the implications bring about more questions than answers: Where is his wife if she's still living? Why the charade with Jane given the circumstances of a wife? Is it a charade?After finally meeting Bertha and seeing her unfortunate decline into mental illness we're inclined to write Mr. Rochester off as a cad. While it makes sense that he is angry, frustrated and unhappy given the circumstances, it certainly doesn't explain why he should, to use a cliché, have his cake and eat it, too. He married Bertha, after all; willingly, we presume.It is Mr. Rochester's divulgence about how he came to be married to Bertha that places a clearer perspective on the aforementioned questions. He tells Jane how his father “could not bear the idea of dividing his estate and leaving me a fair portion…He sought me a partner betimes” (pgs. 371-372).This explanation, however, beckons an additional question: How could Mr. Rochester stand idly by and let his father dictate to him who he should marry? He answers this question by stating, “I was dazzled, stimulated: my senses were excited; and being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her” (p. 372)*. A love, we discover, that was based on falsehoods and hidden agendas.In an effort to hide Bertha's predisposition to madness, both the Rochesters and the Masons conspired to keep the information hidden until the wedding had taken place, thereby allowing no means of escape for the duped Mr. Rochester. Both families were, obviously, more concerned with their respective agendas, (the elder Mr. Rochester wanted to provide for his son, albeit with someone else's wealth and the Masons want to provide for their unmarriable daughter), than they were with Mr. Rochester and the emotional turmoil the situation would eventually cause him.It is, without a doubt, Mr. Rochester's emotional state that leads him to omit the existence of his wife, not to mention the games he plays with Jane during their courtship. He blatantly tells her that, “…I feigned courtship of Miss Ingram, because I wished to render you as madly in love with me as I was with you; …jealousy would be the best ally I could call in for the furtherance of that end” (p. 319)*.Jane, proving to be the equal Mr. Rochester says she is, calls him on his game, asking, “Do you think Miss Ingram will not suffer from your dishonest coquetry?” His reply of, “Impossible! - when I told you how she, on the contrary deserted me: the idea of my insolvency cooled, or rather extinguished, her flame in a moment” (319)* (referring to his starting a rumor that his wealth wasn't nearly what everyone thought it was and Miss Ingram's subsequent coldness), tells us that he matured in his journey and has learned how to be more discerning in his choice for a wife.It isn't until after both Jane and Mr. Rochester go through the final pits of hell that their journeys come full circle. Each obtains the one thing they've wished for - Jane, family she never knew existed; Mr. Rochester, freedom from being married to Bertha - but neither finds what they've truly been searching for: love and acceptance. It is only in the final turmoil that they realize what they've both been searching for can only be found in each other.

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