Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte / Was Mr. Rochester handsome?


I finished rereading Jane Eyre weeks ago, but I still haven’t written my thoughts down properly. Of course, I still love the book, but I want my post to bring something new to the table. Then, I became bored, and read the back summary of copy of Jane Eyre. My big Eureka came next. This is the book back blurb of my 1962 Scholastic edition of Jane Eyre:

A dark deception stands between the shy, plain governess and her handsome, moody employer. Even Jane’s passionate love cannot erase her fear: What is the strange, crazed laughter she hears in the night? What forbidden secret is Mr. Rochester concealing from her—and the world?

The summary, as a whole, is okay, but there’s one description that irks the hell out of me. Handsome. I don’t know why they put that there, but Mr. Rochester is definitely NOT handsome. Jane actually describes him as quite ugly, and, correct me with I’m wrong, not that tall.

Mr. Darcy is wonderful, but I don’t think every romantic hero in history has to be breathtakingly handsome. Jane isn’t initially attracted to Mr. Rochester, because, let’s face it, he’s not that attractive. Things changed, though, once she got to know him. Even if he’s slightly neurotic, Mr. Rochester was passionate and truly cared about Jane, and maybe that’s why she fell for him. Take a look at this quote:

And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude, and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the object I best liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire.

See? Not ugly anymore, but definitely not handsome. I don’t know. I guess I was just bothered by the utter misrepresentation of Mr. Rochester. His deficiencies in the look department is what makes him unique as a romantic hero, the same way Heathcliff is known for his almost obsessive love for Cathy.

What do you think, though? Was Mr. Rochester ugly, handsome, or just unappealing?

16 comments:

Jillian said...

I think he was ugly! That's the whole point -- ugly like the tangled woods, raw, but vibrant.

My lit professor last night said that Mr. Rochester was "kind and mysterious." I was floored. Um, kind? No, he was rude and cranky.

theeclecticreader said...

Mr. Rochester wasn't handsome; he was quite unattractive as it's written in the book. He just starts to be handsome for Jane when she begins to fell for him.
I think the blurb says he’s handsome just to attract a possible reader.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

You are right on the money, of course. Handsome? No. But I've always thought of him as being very interesting looking, perhaps even striking in the literal sense.

Kristi said...

He certainly wasn't handsome. Like you said, it's pretty clear in the book that he isn't. As Jillian said, I think it's kind of important to the book to understand that he isn't handsome and that Jane still falls in love with him.

Amanda said...

It bothers me when movie adaptations of this book make him handsome. I prefer the not-so-handsome versions that you eventually come to love or think of as handsome through getting to know him.

Red said...

Clearly, as your quote and the other commenters have pointed out, Rochester was not a handsome guy. Maybe the publisher thought it would help sell books if they were playing into the fantasy that a plain woman was going to end up with this ravishingly handsome man.

Bex said...

I think the main attraction of the book is that Rochester isn't handsome. It shows that Jane really does love him, and not just because he looks pretty. Although I love them both, it's what made Jane Eyre so much more profound than many Austen novels (Pride and Prejudice springs to mind!).

Brenna said...

I don't think Rochester was handsome in the conventional sense, but more intriguing.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nope, I'm with you, definitely not a handsome guy. That's one of the reasons the book is so great. She's not swept off her feet by some swoon-worthy guy, she falls for him because of who he is, not his looks.

Biblibio said...

Very interesting point. To me, this seems like an attempt to portray an ordinary novel as more of a romance - which is of course ridiculous because it's enough of a romance as is. Jane Eyre is characterized in part by the fact that the characters aren't beautiful or handsome. Isn't it weirder still, though, that Jane is nonetheless referred to as "plain" in this description? It makes the book sound like wishful thinking romance... appealing to some readers, perhaps, but grossly inaccurate towards the book.

Zibilee said...

I finished this book a few months ago, and would have to agree with you that Rochester was not handsome in any way. It says so plainly in the text, and it is the subject for many conversations and insights in the book. I don't know why this jacket copy included that misleading little tidbit on the back cover, but it's certainly not true. I do think that after Jane fell in love with him he became attractive in her eyes, but I also know from reading the book that he was nothing special to look at.

Funny thing, I think I have this exact copy on my shelf right now! The cover looks very familiar.

lisa :) said...

LOL! - I love how many commenters here are eager to add their voices to the argument that Rochester was ugly! I do think it's odd how publicists and movie-makers want to play up Rochester as good looking. It's almost an insult to the reader/viewer that the marketers don't expect people to come to the same acceptance of Rochester that Jane does.

Emilee said...

Mr. Rochester wasn't supposed to be handsome. But neither was Jane. She was supposed to be plain. I haven't seen the latest film version yet, but I've seen the previews and you can't tell me that Jane is plain. It doesn't seem to matter how an author imagines their hero or heroine, the film industry and publicists want to make them out to be good looking.

ksotikoula said...

I think the mistake here is due to the fact that in the mind of most people handsome means sexy too, as if there aren't people out there who can be sexy without being extremely beautiful. Rochester in the book feels sexy and appealing to Jane but he is not handsome. All the other women in his life did not found him to be handsome either and Jane no matter how in love she is with him does not spare him at this point.

Nicola said...

He wasn't handsome and neither was Jane! So refreshing to have a novel with central characters who are not beautiful.

ebookclassics said...

I'm currently reading Jane Eyre and enjoyed your comments.

Rochester was definitely not handsome. He was rude and obnoxious, but later showed he had a charming, romantic side.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...