Rochester is one of the most arresting and debatable characters in nineteenth-century British fiction.

Fantasy figure?

Jane and Rochester

  • Some critics have seen him as a kind of wish-fulfilment figure, a fantasy hero with a mysterious background that always suggests unknown tragedies and disasters: there is a sense that he is attended by some kind of unknown fate
  • Two hundred years earlier, Lord Rochester was the name of a notorious rake who seduced a number of women, the association hinting at Rochester's own passionate nature and amorality
  • He represents himself as a restless outsider or a semi-exile from the social world into which he was born
  • In these respects, he resembles the central characters in the narrative poems of George Byron, who are dramatized as wanderers unable to find their true place in the world.

In need of redemption

  • Rochester has clearly seen a good deal of the world and undergone many adventures, some of them disreputable
  • He also likens himself to Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton, a figure who defies authority, is cast out of Heaven and spends his life in Hell
  • Burdened as he is by the wife he confines on the top floor of his house, Rochester feels that he is trapped in a kind of earthly Hell, from which the arrival of Jane offers him a possibility of escape.
  • Initially, he sees Jane rather than God as the agent of his redemption (just as she worries that her love for him may come before her love for God)
  • However, the moral pattern of the novel is that Rochester and Jane have to learn to put their relationship within the context of God's authority and the teachings of the church, and, in the later part of the book, Rochester seems to acknowledge this in his use of the language of repentance and redemption.


  • Rochester's appearance and behaviour set him apart from conventional fictional heroes: his actions are often impulsive, ill-judged and come close to being self-destructive
  • His wooing of Jane is again extremely unconventional: he teases her and uses disguise and trickery to win her attention and devotion
  • By the end of the novel, he is physically a much reduced character, humbled, crippled and partly blind. However, he has grown in moral stature and achieves fulfillment through his marriage to Jane and the arrival of children, his sexuality being now rightly ordered
  • Do you think that at the end of the novel Charlotte Brontë is suggesting that it is only in his chastened and comparatively helpless condition that Rochester is a suitable husband for Jane?
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