Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brontë's Mr Rochester named most romantic literary character

Charlotte Brontë's brooding Byronic hero Mr Rochester has been named the most romantic literary character in a poll.

Rochester, the lead male character in Jane Eyre, published in 1847, topped the Mills & Boon survey despite his moodiness and lack of good looks.

Brontë described Rochester, who in the novel marries Jane Eyre despite her lowly position as a former governess, as "very grim" to look at.

The results were announced at an event at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on Tuesday afternoon, where guests were served pink champagne by scantily-clad waiters.

The above published in the October 13th

From Suite

Influence of Byron
Byron first introduced this type of character in his epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, published from 1812 – 1818, and continued to depict such individuals throughout his later work. We know that Bronte was much influenced by Byron’s poetry; indeed, Jane Eyre, published in 1847, even makes reference to one of his works, The Corsair.

Many readers of Jane Eyre over the years have been fascinated by Rochester, as he is not the type of love interest normally found in a romantic novel. He is rude, difficult, and far from handsome. However, Jane Eyre is no ordinary romance, and it seems in keeping with the novel’s gothic atmosphere that its hero should be decidedly Byronic.

Qualities of the Byronic Hero
So what exactly makes a hero Byronic? First of all, he is prone to moodiness. Rochester is often snappy or terse with Jane, but is also capable of shows of great affection and physical tenderness: “He kissed me repeatedly” (chapter 23). This passionate side to the Byronic hero’s nature means that he may have strayed sexually in the past, and slept with a number of women. This certainly seems true of Rochester: young Adele is “the daughter of a French opera-dancer, Céline Varens, towards whom he had once cherished what he called a ‘grande passion’” (chapter 15).

A Dark Secret
As well as these indiscretions, Rochester’s past also hides a much darker secret: the existence of a mad wife he married purely for her looks, and who now lives in the attic of Thornfield. The Byronic hero is usually widely travelled, and has often got into trouble whilst on one of these journeys: again, this reflects Rochester’s experience in Jamaica. Much as we may criticise Rochester for keeping such a secret, he does undeniably fall genuinely in love with Jane, demonstrating another Byronic trait: complete disregard for social rank. Rochester cares nothing of what people will think when he marries a former governess: “‘You—poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are—I entreat to accept me as a husband’” (chapter 23).

Physical Appearance
Rochester is certainly not possessed of traditional good looks: “with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw—yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake. His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy” (chapter 13).

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