Edward Rochester is almost the opposite of a hero. At first reading he has little to commend himself to anyone. No morals, no social graces, no sense of what is right and wrong, and a bad habit of not telling the truth. In short Mr. Rochester is a liar.
But whilst this last claim is unavoidable many of his other faults can be overlooked. They might even be doubted when you read the conversations between Jane Eyre and him. There seems to be a positive aspect to his character that is brought out of him by the company of Jane. But it is inescapable that he is dishonest throughout the book until the redemptive ending when he at last is forced to be true in speech and deed.
The Biggest Lie in Jane Eyre
The biggest lie in Jane Eyre is of course hiding the existence of his wife Bertha. She has been his wife for fifteen years and lives in a wing of his house, Thornfield Hall. Because she is insane Mr. Rochester has hidden her away to be looked after by a nurse, Grace Poole. Her identity however is not known to the staff and household of Thornfield Hall.
More important than this is that Edward Rochester continues his wooing of Jane in spite of the fact of his wife still being alive. This is a lie of omission and a serious one at that. In his explanation after the failed wedding he says that he wanted to tell Jane about Bertha but was afraid that Jane would reject him. Jane Eyre says this is exactly what she would have done and that she would have been right to do so.
Other Examples of Edward Rochester’s Lies
When Jane rescues Rochester from his bed being in flames, Rochester allows Jane Eyre to believe her guess, that Grace Poole was the cause of the fire. This is another case of lying by omission. I think there is some evidence that Rochester wanted to share his secret with Jane but held back for fear of losing her company. At this point of the story they were not romantically connected in any way. Having said this there is an obvious mutual affection and respect between them by this time.
The strangest example of Edward Rochester’s dishonesty is when he dresses himself up as a gypsy fortune teller. His aim is to try and find out whether Jane Eyre has any feelings for him. He also uses the ruse to upset Blanch Ingram and make her cooler about a possible marriage for her with Rochester.
The Fortune teller episode reveals just how devious and underhand Mr. Rochester is. It also shows his determination to win over Jane Eyre no matter what methods he might have to use.
There are numerous other examples of this dishonesty in the book Jane Eyre. One wonders how Edward Rochester ever managed to live with himself and all his double speak. The most amazing thing is that he did win Jane’s hand eventually. This was not until after the tragic events surrounding the burning down of Thornfield Hall.
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