Mr. Rochester is the Worst

Black and white screenshot from the 1943 film Jane Eyre. The image shows Orson Welles in period costume staring off camera. Test in the lower third of the screen reads, Orson Welles is Edward Rochester.I’ve just reread and rewatched Jane Eyre. The more I read about Mr. Rochester, the less I like him. How do I loathe him? Let me count the ways:

  • He locked his wife in the attic for fifteen years. Need I go on? Yes, I do actually.
  • If she wasn’t mad before, being trapped in the dark and the cold, with one drunken servant to feed her, would definitely send her around the bend several times over. Wasn’t there some cottage he could send her to where she could at least touch grass? A nice expensive asylum somewhere? There had to be some Option B that was better than an attic.
  • Not to mention that Bertha Mason, his wife, is from Jamaica. She’s used to a completely different climate. He can’t help that, but he could let her out of the room with a barred window. He could build a little greenhouse where she felt at home. He could give her something other than a bare room and a locked door. My God!
  • His money comes from Bertha’s family. So he pities himself, but marrying a madwoman funded his lifestyle. Shades of Britney Spears’s family there.
  • He kept his ward, Adele, in the same house as his mad wife. Yes, it was a huge castle, but that still seems like an unnecessary risk. Bertha burned him in his bed and successfully burned the castle down. She could have easily killed the child.
  • Poor Adele! He doesn’t really care about her. It’s good that he didn’t leave her to starve, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear.
  • He tries to bigamously marry Jane, a devout and morally principled woman, without telling her the truth. He does this while his real wife is in their house. Presumably he would have consummated their marriage just down the hall from his wife’s prison. 
  • He pleads with Jane to be his mistress, and becomes violently agitated when she refuses. This is one of the scariest scenes in the book and has a certain ring of truth to it. Jane escapes unmolested but it’s a near thing. 
  • After Jane leaves, he sends Adele to a strict boarding school. Strict by 1840s standards, i.e. horrid. It’s only after Jane returns that she gets Adele into a nicer school. If she didn’t come back, what would happen to Adele?
  • Every woman he’s been intimate with was apparently faithless. Bertha was depraved, his French mistress bore another man’s child, another mistress was obsessed with jewels…who’s the common denominator here? Oh, but Jane is ~different~. I bet they all were, at first.

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface on Repulsive Mr. Rochester. Calling him a dog is an insult to dogs. Team Bertha.