The Rake Figure in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

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The Rake Figure in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

Edward Rochester, the male protagonist of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre embodies a number of different roles of masculinity. One of the least recognized but very influential roles played by Rochester is the rake. The idea of the "rake" is commonly related to the Restoration period in England; yet this figure does not completely disappear during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Historical figures such as John Wilmot the second Earl of Rochester are described as leading rakish lifestyles. Literature and Art also played an important role in defining the rake.

The rake character is primarily defined by his sexual nature. A rake was concerned about his status among other men. He spent most of his time in search of sexual liaisons or relating tales of past sexual escapades. Harold Weber in The Restoration Rake-Hero explains that "most rakes possess little identity outside of the love game, their lives responding largely to the rhythms of courtship and seduction, pursuit and conquest, foreplay and release" (Weber 3). However, as Weber further points out "the rake is too complex and enigmatic a figure to be reduced to a sexual machine: his love of disguise, need for freedom, and fondness for play all establish the complexity of the rakish personality" (Weber 3). The rake’s sexual desires can be seen as a call for freedom and a break from social order. He balks at the idea of marriage and family in pursuit of personal gratification. While a common characteristic of the rake is his pursuit of personal gratification there are a number of different types of rakes: the Hobbesian libertine, best explained by Horner in The Country Wife; the philosophical libertine, seen through th...

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...rake was so strong that he continues to influence the perception of masculinity well in the twentieth century. Charlotte Bronte was attracted to rake model of masculinity and modeled Edward Rochester after this Restoration figure.

Works Cited

Cohan, Steven M. "Clarissa and the Individuation of Character." ELH 43 (1976): 163-183.

Johnson, Samuel. The Life of Cowley. The Penn State Archive of Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets. Ed. Kathleen Nulton Kemmerer. 3 March 2003.

Norman, Charles. Rake Rochester. New York: Crown, 1954.

Weber, Harold. The Restoration Rake-Hero: Transformations in Sexual Understanding in Seventeeth-Century England. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1986.

"William Hogarth and Eighteenth-Century Print Culture." Northwestern University. 10 March 2003.

"William Hogarth: A Rake’s Progress." Haley & Steele. 10 March 2003.

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