Sweet Big Fat Lies

Chris R. Vanden Bossche makes the observation that although Rochester rejects the prospect of marriage as kinship alliance with Blanch Ingram, he nevertheless tries to bedeck Jane with jewels and silk dresses to render her a wife befitting his social circle (60). Jane equates this with enslavement (in short). However, Jane overall seems to have an ambivalent attitude towards Rochester’s habit of putting her in certain diminutive roles. He liberally sprinkles his conversations with her with “elf,” “fairy”, “sprite,” and so on; Jane has no problem with this. Mrs. Fairfax notes that Rochester treats Jane as “a sort of pet of his” (263) which is, it may be argued, something she enjoys. Furthermore, let us not ignore the lies (sometimes of omission) he tells and the mind games Rochester plays with Jane – which signals (to this reader, at least…I know there are Edward Fairfax Rochester fangirls out there) either that Rochester believes Jane gullible and very likely to fall for his schemes, or that he does not deem her worthy of honesty and respect. It is almost as though it is Rochester’s mind games, including the very first meeting on the road, and the charade he puts on with the unwitting but nonetheless unworthy-of-sympathy Blanche Ingram – that makes him interesting to Jane (Jane rejects the morally upright and ascetic but somewhat dull St. John Rivers). Jane is perhaps not as accepting of Rochester’s dishonesty when the matter of Bertha is revealed, but there is a certain passivity in how Jane responds to much of Rochester’s behavior which I thought should have been inadmissible. I confess that I laugh out loud every time I read the scene (though it is supposed to be touching and tragic) in which Jane says she must leave Thornfield and Adele, part with Rochester and begin “a new existence among strange faces” and Rochester glosses over that with “Of course, I told you you should. I pass over the madness about parting from me” (300). That’s not cute! That’s overriding Jane’s resolve and her sorrow in having to do what she was about to do. Second-class citizen much?!

Even the fact that Rochester lets Jane think that Grace Poole had been the cause of the fire is something that should be a cause for concern. Since Rochester does not care about damaging the reputation of a long-serving employee to an outsider (if we consider Jane still an outsider at this point – and I’d say she is, just because she is so uninformed about so much of Rochester’s life), how much faith should Jane place in Rochester’s willingness to guard her moral reputation, when she is so often thought of as something so pet-like and undeserving of full dignity? It is not enough for Rochester to think that he can come clean with Jane later, just because she will be his wife and have ample opportunities to catch up with what has really happened. Rochester complains that he had been deceived and seduced into marrying Bertha without knowing of her true nature; it is inexcusable for him to be meting out the same treatment to Jane, who is equally unaware of his dark secrets. What is interesting, however, is that Jane forgives him “at the moment and on the spot” (295) when Rochester is found out – it is some kind of moral and societal consideration that prevents her from living with him, not the cooling of her love that  should, I maintain, come from being lied to. Without even going to the “Jane! Jane! Jane!” scene (which causes Jane to be yanked back to her master), there is already enough to show how enslaved she is. A dismal reading this may be, but it can be said that whatever is apparent of Jane’s resistance to enslavement is diminished by her propensity to be  enslaved in other aspects of her relationship with Rochester.

 

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