Tepid Feelings at First Site
The first time Jane ever sees Mr. Rochester he is preceded by a “rude noise” as his horse rushed toward Thornfield. The rude noise turns into a “din” and a dark horse approached. Jane is afraid it may be a spirit and is relieved when there is a man on the back of the horse because that means it is not a spirit. Mr. Rochester and his horse fall and when Jane approaches to offer assistance she remarks, “I think he was swearing” which is a rather coarse activity for a gentleman in front of a lady at the time. He ordered her to stand aside as he inspected himself. When Jane finally remarks on his looks, she sees “stern features and a heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful” and is not put off, because if he had been heroic looking, Jane fears he could not have borne her presence. Instead, “the frown, the roughness of the traveller set me at my ease.” Jane is not immediately repulsed by this man, though his initial appearance is somewhat frightening. Because he is not handsome, she is able to meet him as an equal and offer him assistance.
A Gentle Warming
When Jane reaches Thornfield, she is as yet unaware that the gentleman she met on the road is her master who she has been anxious to meet during the long time she has already been his employee. She is told that Mr. Rochester has arrived and she comes down to meet him. She sees him “half reclined on a couch.” She observes of his physique, “I suppose it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term.” He is brusque with her and this intrigues Jane, for “[a] reception of finished politeness would probably have confused me.” Mr. Rochester is now at ease and Jane is more at ease with him than before. Questions have been answered as to who her master is and it appears he may be someone she can relate to. He is not handsome and elegant and all of the other things Jane thinks she is not. But it is not yet love although they engage in amiable banter.
At Last, My Love Has Come Along
Weeks later, Jane retires to her room and re-observes Mr. Rochester and his behavior during the first several weeks of their acquaintance. She thinks about how much more even his temper has become and that “he had always a word and sometimes a smile for me.” As Mr. Rochester is opening up to Jane more, she is opening up to him. She goes on to think, “[T]he friendly frankness…with which he treated me, drew me to him.” More directly she asks the question of whether he was ugly in her eyes and the reply is: “gratitude, and many associations, all pleasurable and genial, made his face the object I best liked to see.” Jane likes him very much at this point, whether she is yet in love with him or not.
When Mr. Rochester brings guests into the house, Jane compares him to his company and finds a certain kind of handsomeness in the softening of his demeanor that is much more attractive to her than the easily seen handsomeness of Lord Ingram or Colonel Dent. I would posit that Jane is now fully in love with him.
It is true to this character that Jane only gradually warms up to Mr. Rochester, because she has been treated harshly in life. It is also consistent that she takes comfort in the unconventional nature of his looks. Jane could not have fallen in love with a conventionally handsome man. Because this book is narrated in a retrospective first person voice, the reader is allowed to see the unfolding of Jane’s feelings from inside her mind and it is natural to experience her observations of other characters. The reader is allowed to fall in love with Mr. Rochester at the same time as Jane does because we are privy only to her view of the world.
I worked with something similar in my novel, Polska, 1994, with Szymon. I also have a first person narrator. Magda encounters Szymon several times throughout the story and because initially he is someone she has never met, Magda examines him and reexamines him each time she meets him. The reader will get to feel what Magda is feeling without me having to explain whether she now likes him.
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