Rochester’s not so bad
To say that Mr. Rochester is a hero would be a bit of a stretch, but to knock him for his actions is also extreme. He may lie to Jane and keep the fact that he has another wife a secret, but he does so for good reasons, and we must look at the motives behind his actions instead of just the actions by themselves.
Rochester was tricked into a marriage that he didn’t necessarily want, but rather that he needed being the younger of two siblings who stood to inherit nothing after their father’s passing. At the time of his betrothal to Bertha Mason he had no idea of the degree to which her family was afflicted with madness, of which Bertha was unable to escape. These facts didn’t come to light until after the marriage and by that point Rochester was stuck. However, instead of just committing Bertha to an asylum he locked her in his attic. Which although not an ideal situation, was far better than having her committed. In that sense he actually saved Bertha from an even more deplorable life. Being that Bertha was insane, Rochester wouldn’t have been able to secure a divorce, and so he really did do the best with the hand that he was dealt.
It could be argued that he should have treated Bertha better, but he did higher a maid to look after her, Grace Poole. She wasn’t just locked away and left to rot, he still cared for her, he just didn’t love her anymore, which isn’t a crime.
We can also see this side of Rochester in taking in Adele as his own ward. We can’t say for sure whether she is his biological daughter or not, but either way he saved her from the poor house and becoming an orphan. No, he doesn’t necessarily relish in the fact that he has taken her in, but he did the right thing and made sure that she wouldn’t have to live on the streets.
The way that Rochester goes about his actions isn’t always the wisest, but he still does good, in that he has a conscience that tries to make him do the right thing, even if he doesn’t want to. He lies to Jane about Bertha and keeps her a secret because he knows Jane will leave, and he doesn’t have feelings for Bertha anymore, like he does for Jane at least. It may seem selfish on the surface, but it would be more selfish to commit Bertha to an asylum and forget about her, just to be able to marry Jane without anybody knowing his state of affairs. Rochester is in a tough spot, and does the best that he can with the situation, and thus we shouldn’t view him in such a negative light, in the wake of these events.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.