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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reader, I Married Him: Mr Rochester, and M. Heger

I had to split the segment into two halves to make it fit, so here are parts one and two. I must say that I am still surprised by the nonsense some of the 'experts' have to say about Mr Rochester- especially Lucasta Miller. At least now I know where the 'Mr Rochester is a rake who's had lots and lots of mistresses' myth comes from. Incidentally I also find her description of Charlotte's attitudes to Jane Austen to be exaggerated as well. It makes her seem as though she thought 'great romantic tempests' were the only kind of real emotion one could experience. If you read her letters on Jane Austen, she is critiquing the depth of the characters in Emma. She says she cannot sense their arteries and blood beneath the surface. In other words, Jane Austen does not fully penetrate the psychology of her characters. That is a authorial strategy (not a fault). Charlotte was also writing these letters to defend herself from a rabid Jane Austen fan who had been writing to her about how she ought to write like Jane Austen. When the fan wrote back demanding that she acknowledge the superiority and genius of Miss A that's when Charlotte let him have it. She was, as I have said... a snark.

Since the clip makes reference to Monsieur Heger in discussing Mr Rochester, I have included a clip from the Brontes of Haworth, a mini series about the lives of the Brontes. In this clip Charlotte has returned to Brussels alone after the death of Aunt Branwell, and has a talk with Monsieur Heger.


ChrisV said...

They make Rochester sound like a terrible guy....he marries a mad woman for her money, locks her in the attic and then goes after a young girl...so out of context and incorrect. I was especially surprised when Lucasta Miller (I think it was her) observes that who knows when he would lock Jane up and go for the next young thing that comes along. Wow, is that missing the mark! Which version of the story did she read?

Kathleen Bolton said...

I, too, wanted to throw a book--THE book--at Lucasta Miller and say "read it again." Bronte takes pains to make it clear to the reader that Rochester is a product of his class (mad wife aside) but despite the attitudes he was raised with, the pursuits that are commonplace for rich wordly men, he's searching for something different, something good, and finds it in Jane. The tragedy is that his love for her is so consuming, he could not see that he was destroying the very thing he loved most about her: her innocence and faith. But Jane sees where he cannot--"Reader, may you never be the instrument of destruction to what you wholly love," she says when she's fleeing Thornfield.

There's a continual theme of blindness and sight throughout the whole book, so in the denoument when Rochester is blinded, Bronte brings full circle the notion that sometimes to see, one has to be blinded first. Light in the darkness--basic Christian metaphore. I disagree with the reading that Bronte blinded Rochester so that Jane could 'tame the lion.' Jane had already tamed him when he was in his full power. It was only after Rochester was blind that he could "see" his own faults and put them aside (pride being one), and become a more worthy partner for Jane.

One good thing has come of all this JE talk--I've re-read the book for the umpteenth time and found MORE genius within.

Liz said...

Oooh, M Heger!! My recent rereading of Villette has made me very interested in him at the moment. I am v. worried he’s not to appear in the upcoming biopic.

I think with this programme the point was to show the positive and negative sides of each hero’s character – so there was a mention of Darcy being rather priggish and Rochester manipulative and Heathcliff a psychopath.

Personally I like the whole symbolic castration theory but then I am a fan of Freud. I agree it can be overplayed, though.

Brontëana said...

to chrisv:

I think that was something one of the journalists or writers said, but Miller might agree. She did say how Rochester 'is this rake who's had lots and lots of mistresses' meaning... 3 in 15 years. ;) But there's a lot of writing out there about the book which argue that Rochester is a rake who is only seducing Jane.

'Can Jane Eyre be Happy?' argues that Rochester picked Jane out as a potential mistress early in their relationship because she has no connections and he could pretend to marry her to keep Jane content but no one would have to know about their marriage. If he married Blanche there would be an enormous scandal. It's a snarky comical article but some of the interpretations are a little unbeliable. Mrs. Fairfax is a betrayer who wrote to the Masons to tell them about the marriage, Rochester was waiting for Blanche to come to him at Ferndean but since Jane got there first he thought he'd take what he could get- until people started to fancy the maimed-type and then he'd run off with some young thing.

Brontëana said...

to kathleen bolton:

Lucasta Miller is a highly respected Bronte scholar. I was a bit surprised to hear her say some of these things about the book. But then, it's a popular interpretation.

I think one of the most interesting things about Rochester is that he DOES see that he's destroying what he loved most about her. He says how he knows that if there were any bitterness in their 'cup' that 'youth would fade' etc. He's extremely conflicted between what he feels intuitively right and what is conventional and what is moral.

JE was also written while she was nursing her father while he recovered from eye surgury. Would she have viewed her father's blindness as God's judgement? From what I know, he was a strong-willed man but he leaned on her for strength. Besides, she tells us that he just looked desperate and brooding but just as 'vigorous' as ever.

Brontëana said...

to liz:

I don't understand the castration thing. Is it that she now has some control over him because he is blind? I don't agree with critics who say she does. She leads him now, but he tells her where he wants to go or do, he dictates his letters to her, she writes them. In short, they share power.

I think Freudian theory can be useful sometimes, but I just don't see how it works at the end of JE.

Liz said...

Yes, I think the point is that it has allowed them to be equal, where they weren’t before, rather than Jane being more powerful than him. It is a tricky one and more about Rochester’s masculinity than his status in patriarchy (which, as the younger son, is equivocal anyway). He’s described quite ‘virilely’ in terms of body and personality – muscular, powerful, abrupt, commanding etc. Jane ‘castrates’ him the first time when he falls of his horse – temporarily reducing his masculine ‘power’ and then there is a permanent castration at the end. The blinding in particular has come to be seen as an all-purpose symbol of castration – Samson, etc. and as for the hand… well, we have Darth Vader! I don’t think it is an entirely persuasive reading (as I say, I am more interested in Rochester as a victim of patriarchy, like Bertha) but a good basis for a more satisfying post-Freudian reading, maybe.

MaureenE said...

Interesting...I think I dislike experts.

" But then, it's a popular interpretation."
Popular interpretations annoy me. :D