Leslie's Bookcase

celebrating and recommending unforgettable books

I finally read Jane Eyre and am sorting out my feelings for Mr. Rochester

My thesis advisor told me that even professors of literature have at least one book they are embarrassed to admit they have never read (she wouldn’t even tell me hers!!) so I am not too embarrassed to admit: This is the first time I have read Jane Eyre. (This is of course not the only classic I have not read, but I’m not going to admit to the others right now!!)

Intrigued by the recently released Mr. Rochester, which I put on my summer reading list,  I knew I finally needed to read Jane Eyre first.

Because this is a book many of you have already read, my forthcoming discussion will contain spoilers. I hope you will join me in discussion about Jane Eyre & Mr. Rochester.

First of all,  I liked this book a lot. After getting away from “old books” and now reading mostly new books, I found it challenging to get into this story at first, but I especially enjoyed the last third of the book which kept me guessing, especially towards the end.

I had inferred the “wife in the attic” part of it, but the despair, and near death of the wandering Jane Eyre was riveting. And then I just had to know how it was all going to end!! As the pages winded down, I wondered if there was even still enough “time” for Mr. Rochester to make another appearance.

I am not going to attempt on a critical scholarly discussion on this book (as that has all been done and I just don’t have the mindset right now) but I do want to mention a couple things about “Mr. Rochester” who I’m now learning is one of the most discussed, loved, and loathed characters in classic literature, and I just can’t sort out my feelings on him.

Discussion on Mr. Rochester

  1.  The Gypsy Woman costume.  I just can’t get past this –  He dressed up as a gypsy woman to scare the person he was going to marry and to find out Jane Eyre’s true feelings. Really?? As ridiculous as this is maybe looking back now makes me like makes me like him more?? It was just so bizarre.
  2. Crazy wife in the attic. I could forgive Mr. Rochester doing this because there probably weren’t other good options at this point for mental illness, but I couldn’t forgive him lying about it. If the person I loved told me he had a crazy ex-wife in the attic I would have thought, well we can figure this out… but not telling me before the  wedding – that’s bad!
  3. His love. Maybe I could have forgiven him the crazy ex wife in the attic because his honesty and love is undeniable.
  4. Is he attractive or ugly…so many conflicting clues on this!! I have not seen any of the movies to see how he’s portrayed.

Which brings me to Jane Eyre:

1. The strength of this woman. As I said, I may have tried to “figure this out” but her resolve and her survival and strength coming back from  wandering around with no food, money, or connections. just wow.

2.  Also I just really liked this woman. I would like to have her as a friend and a conversationalist. She was so real, as she described herself:

For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence. and won a place by their heart’s very hearthstone.

And this brings me back to the new book on Mr. Rochester, which apparently is from his point of view. Maybe we can get some insight into the gypsy costume ha!!! I love how after so long (Jane Eyre was written in 1847!!), a new book can interact with an older one (an example of intertexuality) and revive discussion on the older book. And I intend to read it, but I need a break from Mr. Rochester first.

Fellow readers: What are your thoughts on Jane Eyre & Mr. Rochester??

 

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2 Comments

  1. I finally read Jane Eyre this year as well and had similar issues sorting out my feelings. I mostly found the men to be insufferable mansplainers, though I realize that I see them through a 2017 lens. St. John Rivers was the WORST, and the only time I felt frustrated with Jane was when she was so deferential to him.

    Rochester redeemed himself somewhat toward the end, but I agree the gypsy thing was just weird–that and his long diatribes turned me off to him more than the wife in the attic. She was at least being cared for, so that wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be.

    Honestly, one of my favorite parts (and I don’t have it in front of me, so I could be misremembering) was during one of their initial meetings when Rochester is going on and on about something, and Jane very frankly thinks (or says?) something like, “WTF is he talking about?” It made me laugh out loud and also made me relieved that she couldn’t decipher his rantings either.

    • Leslie

      October 23, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Allison, haha love this: “insufferable mansplainers” and St. John was the worst!!! There were 3 different Johns in the book, right? The kid, St. John, and then Mr. Rochester’s brother also a John!!? Thanks for the great feedback and conversation on this interesting book. Glad we can both check this book off our list!

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