In Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, many times Jane’s love interest Rochester is seen as a hero. But which type of hero is Rochester? Many literary critics argue between Rochester being a tragic hero, others a Byronic hero. When analyzing the text, Rochester seems to embody much more of a Byronic character, someone dark and moody, yet brilliant who “sometimes hints of forbidden love,” and can be seen as a “wanderer” (UHCL). Through these characteristics and many more that come with being a Byronic character, it’s very clear that Brontë was influenced by this extremely popular Romantic-era personality.
Initially, Rochester’s “wanderer” characteristics are very evident and are announced in Chapter 11 by Mrs. Fairfax: "He is rather peculiar, perhaps: he has travelled a great deal, and seen a great deal of the world, I should think. I dare say he is clever" (Brontë 136). Other times Rochester is seen as a wanderer is when his trips throughout Europe before meeting Bertha are written about, where his promiscuous affair with Celine Varens is revealed. Rochester never can really “sit still,” he is always moving around from country to country, not even being able to stay at his own home at Thornfield Hall for more than a few weeks before departing again mysteriously. The wanderer that Rochester is just begins to classify him as the type of hero Byron developed.
Furthermore, Byronic heroes many times have sinful thoughts and like previously stated, crave forbidden love. Essentially, Rochester and Jane’s love was forbidden, considering his on-going marriage with the insane Bertha. Rochester simply neglects to think of the moral and legal importance of not cheating on his wife by marrying another woman, as he gets as far as the wedding ceremony before his secret is revealed. Overall, his lack of care for Bertha and their marriage, seeing her as “his burden,” as well as his sin of attempting to marry another woman while already married further shows Rochester as a Byronic character. Although sinful and, sometimes, hard to love, Rochester still somehow makes his way into many of the readers hearts as we constantly root for Jane and his relationship to become a reality. Brontë shows us that even the most careless and sometimes evil characters can somehow become likeable for readers in both Brontë’s time and today.
"American Renaissance & American Romanticism: The Byronic Hero." University of Houston - Clear Lake. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Brontë, Charlotte, Fritz Eichenberg, and Bruce Rogers. Jane Eyre. New York: Random House, 1943. Web.