The rake became one of the most recognized figures of the Restoration Comedies. The rake character was seen as unmarried, cynical, coarse but with the manners of a gentleman, manipulative and self serving. By the twentieth century the rake had given away to the Regency dandy and the dark Byronic hero of Victorian literature. However, the rake does not completely disappear from twentieth century novels. Charlotte Bronte resurrects the Restoration hero in the creation of Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre. Edward Rochester exhibits many of the qualities associated with the Restoration rake; he manipulates the woman around him and his actions are self serving. Bronte’s rake varies just enough that she can present her character as both hero and villain which eventually allows for his reformation.
Readers are often deceived into believing that the rake should be viewed as a villain, hence their resistance in accepting Edward Rochester as a rake. However, as Harold Weber suggests that readers should not be concerned "with whether or not the rake emerges as a hero or a villain – he must [. . .] be both" (Weber 53). The rake’s mistreatment of women categorizes him as villain. Rochester’s mistreatment of Jane and the other women in the story is detestable. He confesses that he used Blanche Ingram to make Jane jealous. Rochester admits that he "feigned courtship with Miss Ingram" (261; ch.24). Rochester deceives Blanche into believing his intent was marriage; yet she was merely a pawn in his romantic conquest of Jane. The whole time Rochester pursues Jane he is already married to Bertha. Rochester hides his marriage in an attempt to find his definition of a more suitable wife. He t...
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In the creation of her hero, Edward Rochester, Charlotte Bronte resurrected the Restoration rake. Rochester posses many characteristics associated with the rake. His past life is nonexistent without discussing some former lover. He deceives Jane into believing he is unmarried. Like many rakes, Rochester can be viewed as both villain and hero. While his actions towards the other characters in the novel are villainous, Bronte presents them in such a manner that the reader’s sympathies lie with Rochester. Rochester repents for his debauched lifestyle and is rewarded by the death of Bertha and his marriage to Jane.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Beth Newman. Boston: St. Martin’s, 1996.
Weber, Harold. The Restoration Rake-Hero: Transformations in Sexual Understanding in Seventeenth-Century England. Madison U of Wisconsin P, 1986.
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