A letter to Edward Fairfax Rochester of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
“Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips; for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.” – Jane Eyre
How could you? I don’t know that I can frame a more profound question to ask you at this moment. I am in anguish, I am betrayed and wounded, and so my thoughts are more scattered and less collected even than those of the young woman you have wronged. She framed more meaningful questions than that…but my brain is stuck and my heart repeats the same three words over and over, more quietly and dejectedly with each passing moment, with each roll of the carriage’s wheels away from you.
How could you? What did we do to deserve not only dishonesty and deceit, but also cruelty? For it was cruel of you to hide such a secret – for someone who professes to be capable of such strong and ardent love, you are also capable of producing such indescribable and unbearable pain.
Oh, I love you Edward Fairfax Rochester – and I am often ashamed (and now more than ever) to admit it. I have defended you…I have vehemently opposed my female friends who claim that Mr. Darcy is a much more dashing lover, that at least he doesn’t have skeletons, living skeletons, in his closet, that at least he isn’t a liar. What do I say to these friends of mine? Only that you are passionate, that there is something dark and mysterious about you that is at once intoxicating and intriguing. And this is obviously true…but I am, of course, also denying, shutting my eyes fast and firmly against what I know to be true. You are exactly what they say: a liar, a cheater, a scoundrel. I would never be comfortable marrying you myself, I could not trust you…and yet, somehow I have always wanted my best literary friend to settle for you.
Because it would be just that – it would be settling. What woman wants to be with a man who is so at ease about hiding such a huge, enormous, massive secret? It is one thing to have a complicated past…nobody, no man or woman, is perfect. But it is another thing altogether to hide those complicated circumstances from the person who you are supposed to love more than anyone or anything else on this planet. And not just love – you are also supposed to respect that person, to want to protect that person, to do everything in your power to guard that person from physical and emotional harm.
And yet you, you Mr. Sexy, Brooding Rochester, inflicted harm on poor Jane Eyre – you caused her turmoil. I don’t deny the difficulties of living with Bertha Rochester…and I don’t, I would never ever, doubt your love for Jane. But things were not handled well here, Edward…there were other paths you could’ve chosen…there were other paths that I, as a fond and dedicated reader, would’ve liked for you to have chosen. I can’t think up all those alternatives because I am not Charlotte and I wouldn’t dream of writing a storyline for you that doesn’t align with her vision and literary genius. But I am sure that there is some other road you could’ve turned down…there are some other words you could’ve said to Jane during that proposal that would’ve made all my friends despise you a teensy, tiny bit less.
How could you? That’s what this all comes down to. I think I love Jane Eyre more than you, for I felt her agony and sadness and depression (and I have felt it now more times than I can count) and I decided that I could never do any similar thing to a person I loved in my life. So how did you do it, you the man who she so confidently and contentedly called “dear Edward”? How did you lie? How did you look at her on that night when the wind swept through the chestnut tree, how did you gaze on her on the night when she spoke of the vampire’s visit to her chambers, how did you stare at her with excited eyes on your wedding day and not reveal some truth, some aspect of the horribly heavy secret you had locked away? How did you look into her green eyes and not let every little blot on your soul slip out?
It all ends in happily ever after, just as it should, and for that I am grateful. Jane, if no one else, deserves tranquility and happiness. And I would be lying if I claimed that I didn’t want those things, those tender feelings for you too. I believe that you deserve to be healed and set free – and this is why I continue to defend you. I only wonder how…I never wonder why (I understand fear of self-revelation too)…and I only sometimes wish that you had done differently. Because if you had, my favourite story would be entirely altered, and I don’t want that at all – I just, as I said before, sometimes wish that things had gone more smoothly here, at the climax of the novel. I have to go spend dreaded time with St. John Rivers. I have to watch Jane repress her passion. I have to wait through pages and pages until we can return to you. But imagine if I had never had to endure any of that with Jane? Imagine if we all could’ve lived happily ever after at page 400 instead?
And then I wonder, would Jane and I have loved you so well? Absence makes the heart grow…well, you know what they say. I think it must be true. I will be absent from you now, Mr. Rochester – I will be absent from you, because of you. And I will be missing you, in spite of but never forgetting that simple question, those three little words that replay in my head.
Until we meet again,
Girl with a Green Heart