Rereading my way through Charlotte Brontë’s work, I always come back to Jane Eyre.
This, her first published novel (The Professor was written previously, but was only published posthumously) is arguably her most famous work. One could even make the point that it’s the most well-known of all the Brontë oeuvre, although Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall come in fairly close.
Which is funny when you stop to think about it, because Mr. Rochester would probably have been the worst guy to end up with out of the three leading men (Heathcliff, at least, is honest in his volatility and Gilbert, a bit of a wet blanket, is dependable).
Compare that to a man who locks his crazy wife in the attic and only comes clean when his attempt at bigamy is thwarted by her brother stopping the wedding. (In retrospect, locking a crazy person in an attic is probably a reasonable alternative to Bedlam, but still. Not cool, dude)
Let’s not forget he also turns Jane into a doll, dressing her up in finery that is not to her taste at all, and idolizes her to a point where the reality is completely subsumed by an eerily Blanch-like illusion.
And while we’re at it, telling your virginal, soon-to-be wife/mistress about your international smorgasbord of past sexual liaisons is not exactly romantic there, buddy boy. But one does have to admire his thoroughness in running the European gamut.
The fact that he’s only a suitable husband for Jane is when he’s crippled and blind, a neutered Byronic hero shambling about, should really tell her that maaaaybe there’s other, better options out there?
(Not St. John Rivers, though, he’s a whole ‘nother bucket o’ issues)
But all of this doesn’t really weigh much when as a child you read Jane Eyre and fall in love with Mr. Rochester because he’s damaged but I can save him and damn that shit is romantic.
Which, if nothing else, is a testament to both the eternal allure of the bad boy and the stupidity of youth.
I’ll just close by saying that I would have loved to see the book end with Jane and Bertha ditching Rochester and starting a ladies detective agency.