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What's with Mr. Rochester?

What are we supposed to make of Charlotte Bronte's Mr. Rochester? Some of us see him as another Bluebeard, hiding his wife away while romancing another woman, maybe even collecting women in that mansion of his. Others of us see him as a completely romantic figure---he was recently voted the most romantic character in literature, out-polling Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy. Still others are completely flummoxed. He seems to be attracted to Jane, while he still romances Miss Ingram---and then there's that inconvenient wife he keeps hidden away. Is he a hero or an anti-hero? Should we fall in love with him or hate him?

I wrote Mr. Rochester while trying to understand the author's intentions, and it was only after the book was published that I came across Charlotte Bronte's own words, written in a letter sent about a year after Jane Eyre was published: "Mr. Rochester has a thoughtful nature and a very feeling heart; he is neither selfish nor self-indulgent; he is ill-educated, misguided; errs, when he does err, through rashness and inexperience: he lives for a time as too many other men live but being radically better than most men, he does not like that degraded life, and is never happy in it. He is taught the severe lessons of experience and has sense to learn wisdom from them. Years improve him; the effervescence of youth foamed away, what is really good in him still remains. His nature is like wine of a good vintage: time cannot sour, but only mellows him. such at least was the character I meant to pourtray."

How close did I come to Charlotte Bronte's intentions?

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