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Mr. Rochester: Romantic Hero or Jerk?

 
 
Reply Wed 7 Mar, 2007 06:13 pm
The recent BBC production of Jane Eyre featured a scene in which Rochester tells Jane a carefully edited, third person version of his life. Played by an extremely handsome actor (the son of Maggie Smith), this teleplay Rochester continually said that "this youngish man . . . through no fault of his own." Wait a minute? Did Charlotte write that namby-pamby through no fault of his or did the scriptwriter? So, I had to reread the book.

That speech isn't there. However, what makes the novel believable is that only a naive and sheltered, 19th C. eighteen-year-old orphan who has barely seen a man her age would fall in love with a pompous, pleasure loving grump like Rochester.

The guy has nothing to recommend him. He's a manipulative fraud who seems to hate everyone.

Comments?

What other "heroes" or "heroines" do you find over-rated and does Mr. Rochester annoy you as much as he annoys me?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 5,417 • Replies: 21
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 7 Mar, 2007 06:15 pm
I've always disliked Mr. Rochester.

Heathcliff annoyed me too. I mean I get the romance and stuff but he acted like an idiot.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 7 Mar, 2007 06:34 pm
Sozobe -- Someone at some point wrote about how abusive Heathcliff is. At the time I read that, I hadn't looked at Wuthering Heights in years and I haven't looked at it since and, frankly, I don't even have it on my list.

What is so amazing is Jane's independence and ethics and then her complete infatuation with Rochester. It just doesn't add up.

The edition I am reading was done by a Welsh woman who is both a literary theorist and novelist named Stevie Davies. I love her footnotes! I'm learning a great deal about the time and the book. For example, there are allusions to every other book written up to that time in Charlotte's novel.

The other interesting thing, is Davies links Jane Eyre to the same spirit that engendered the French uprising of 1848 which later gave us Les Miserables. It's a great edition and I recommend it over a non-anotated version.
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Noddy24
 
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Reply Thu 8 Mar, 2007 07:15 am
Back in the '50's when Women's Lib was just aborning, an English professor told my class in the Victorian Novel that women were incapable of understanding Tess (of the D'Urbervilles) as a heroine.

The sweet, naive Bronte heroines were overwhelmed by men who possessed power and sex appeal.

My objection to them is not so much their choices in men, but their uncritical adoration of these men.

Look at Elizabeth Barrett Browning and "Sonnets from the Portugese". Woman Exists To Adore Man.
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Roberta
 
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Reply Thu 8 Mar, 2007 07:39 am
Certainly the Rochester in the book bears little resemblance to the Rochester in the PBS show. I read the book a long time ago, but my memory serves me well enough to know that. The reality of the book wouldn't play on modern tv. I never understood what Jane saw in him. But I was never all that clear on what he saw in her either.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Tue 13 Mar, 2007 04:53 pm
I hadn't finished this reading of the book when I posted the topic. After meeting St. John Rivers, Jane's cousin who appears deus ex machina, Rochester looks like a gem! What a prig! Jane was wise not marry him.

Yes, Mr. Rochester bears no resemblance to the matinee idol handsome young man -- the son of Maggie Smith -- who played him on television. The critics commented on how handsome the actor is and how unlike Rochester, but, then admitted that most of the actors playing Rochester were rather handsome and that most Janes were anything but plain.

I'm convinced that Jane liked Rochester because he exuded sex. Here was a man with a wife who must have been an initial treat in bed who later had several mistresses. Obviously, he wasn't a virgin. In fact, when Jane tells him she is leaving him -- and you have to hand it to the girl for doing so -- he suggests that he could turn violent, ie, rape her. Charlotte must have loved writing that line for several reasons.

I'm convinced in a world that valued beauty -- when the women like Blanche Ingram were feted -- that the Brontes were probably plain girls with brains who thought intelligent women were sexy.

As for Jane's slight stature, well, a malnourished child would grow into a slight woman.
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Linkat
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 10:25 am
I always disliked Heathcliff - I enjoyed the novel, but couldn't stand the guy and wondered what these women thought of him. I think it is the wild dangerous type - sort of like even now you hear of women. Women fall in love with the worst types that abuse them and treat them poorly - looks like things haven't really changed all that much.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 10:34 am
Yep.

How many of you have read "Wide Sargasso Sea"?

I never liked Rochester, but I liked him even less after reading that book, and it seems to have permanently colored my perception of "Jane Eyre."
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cyphercat
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 11:15 am
I heartily agree. I never really cared for the book because of ol' Rochester. (I will take a nice mannerly Jane Austen hero, though. *dreamy sigh*)
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Green Witch
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 12:55 pm
Trivia : Branwell Bronte, brother of the sisters, had an affair when he was very young with a married woman named Mrs. Robinson. A century or so later, Charles Webb deliberately chose that name for the older woman who seduces the young man in his novel "The Graduate".

I always thought the men in the Brontes' novels were based on their powerful and life tortured father. Mr. Rochester was the typical dark, brooding male that haunted their sheltered hearts.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 04:25 pm
Linkat -- Tom Rush sings (don't know if he wrote it) a song entitled, "Ladies like outlaws." I think women are drawn to the renegade, the outsider. How many women really want a staid and practical man? Well, practical was a trait sorely lacking from most of the men in my life, but, staid?

The interesting thing is St. John Rivers, the cousin Jane refuses to marry, was, in religious term, a wild-eyed idealist. He was convinced he could bring Christ to India. Carrying the white man's burden, if you will.

Heathcliff always seemed a little retarded to me.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 04:30 pm
Sozobe -- My former bookgroup read Wide Sargasso Sea a few years back, around the time the movie came out. I had assumed for years that I had read Jane Eyre but thought that it would have been a good time to reread it. The woman who reviewed WSS for the group thought the same way and we both learned that we had never read it. That shows to go you that Jane Eyre is part of the Western Canon, that is, that it is a book whose plot and characters are so familiar that everyone knows them.

I thought the WSS movie was sexy almost to the point of pornography. It's been a few years, but, I thought Bertha didn't seem so crazy in the movie.

That reminds me, Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca was inspired by Jane Eyre.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 04:35 pm
cyphercat wrote:
I heartily agree. I never really cared for the book because of ol' Rochester. (I will take a nice mannerly Jane Austen hero, though. *dreamy sigh*)


Last year's Pride and Prejudice did a nice job of humanizing its hero, although it took liberties with the book. I loved the way the conceited minister was portrayed, particularly the scene in which he attempted to introduce himself to . . . (the problem with facing one's 60th birthday at close range is the inability to call up names!) . . . and the very tall actor who played the role turned around, his elbow passing over the head of the supercilious minister, making him so insignificant!

Anyway, I liked the way Elizabeth Bennet and her hero were sexually interested in each other and the movie's device of making the men rather tongue-tied, I think, would have met with Jane's approval.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 14 Mar, 2007 04:36 pm
Greenwitch -- That's one of the best pieces of trivia I ever heard!
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princesspupule
 
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Reply Sun 18 Mar, 2007 04:04 am
I never cared so much for Rochester, but I have a soft spot for that abused "gipsy boy," Heathcliff...
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Mon 19 Mar, 2007 01:44 pm
So, are there literary characters that you ever wished were flesh and blood, and, if so, to what end?

I have to chuckle while typing this because, as a quilter, I will look at fabric and say that I might like a piece well enough to own a "fat quarter (1/4th of yard)," or enough to buy a yard or really like it and buy three yards, which is pretty much a commitment to making a quilt.

So, what literary character is a "fat quarter," or a date? What literary character is a yard, or a torrid affair? Which one would you commit to?

And which one is friend?
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Green Witch
 
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Reply Mon 19 Mar, 2007 06:07 pm
plainoldme wrote:
So, are there literary characters that you ever wished were flesh and blood, and, if so, to what end?

I have to chuckle while typing this because, as a quilter, I will look at fabric and say that I might like a piece well enough to own a "fat quarter (1/4th of yard)," or enough to buy a yard or really like it and buy three yards, which is pretty much a commitment to making a quilt.

So, what literary character is a "fat quarter," or a date? What literary character is a yard, or a torrid affair? Which one would you commit to?

And which one is friend?


I can probably come up with a few for different reasons. Mr. Darcy wins everyone over in the end so he gets a full three yards. Rhett Butler would be a fun time, but not marriage material (sorry Scarlet)- thus a fat quarter. I'd probably do any of the Musketeers, but I think I'm being influenced by the movie made in the 1970's with Michael York. I'm sure there are others that I just can't think of now.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Tue 20 Mar, 2007 05:14 pm
I liked the way the character of Mr. Darcy was written and played in the most recent film adaptation.

IT's funny about the effect a film has -- even a film as largely faithful as this Pride and Prejudice (ok, so it was sexier . . . but that was the contribution of the two stars who brought their own real flesh and blood modernity to their roles, which I feel would meet the approval of Jane Austen) -- which, if well done, can make the novel breath more.

I immediately read the book after seeing the movie and didn't find him as soulful as he was portrayed, but, I would give Mr. Darcy more credit . . . and more attention . . . than Mr. Rochester.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Tue 20 Mar, 2007 05:17 pm
BTW -- speaking of Pride and Prejudice, I loved the way Keira's Elizabeth was shown wearing the same dress more than once, in scenes that were supposed to be several weeks apart. After all, the Bennet's weren't rich and real women do wear their clothes again and again.

When you think about it, perhaps, the most attractive man in Pride and Prejudice was Mr. Bennet. Not much in the ambition department but, all in all, pretty human. I thought the casting of the parents was brilliant.
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Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Mar, 2007 06:01 pm
My favorite "P&P" is the A&E version with Colin Firth. Maybe because it's a full 6 hours and very faithful to book. The sexual tension is done in a way that Miss Austin would have approved. The most recent Hollywood version had that weird romance novel ending with the two of them rapped in towels as if they just went for a skinny dip in one of the fountains. I'm sure I could hear Miss Austin spinning in her grave as that scene was played out. Why not just end with the weddings like it does in the book? We all know they go back to grand estate and have wild sex. I did like the visuals of the movie, very authentic looking houses, lighting and costumes. The Gweneth Paltrow version of "Emma" also had an authentic look, but the script made the story dull.

Yes, movies effect my feelings about books and visa versa. I liked the most recent movie version of Nicols Nickleby and the PBS version of "Our Mutual Friend" made re-reading the novel a joy. When I first read OMF I had a hard time keeping all those characters straight.

One of my favorite novels is "Nana" by Zola. The BBC did a brilliant PBS version of it back in the 70's, unfortunately it is not available on video or DVD.
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