#2: Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre
First, a disclaimer—cool your jets, Jane Eyre fans, we’re not attacking the Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece or her immortal heroine here. That being said, it’s worth pointing out a few of the more, um, “problematic” elements between Mr. Rochester and Jane which pop up in unhealthy relationships.
To begin with…
Pro Tip: If you find out your employer or boyfriend/fiancée/partner has a “mad woman” locked up in the attic of his home…that’s a relationship you need to end ASAP.
That should go without saying, but even as she thinks for herself and—best as she can—refuses to put up with Rochester’s nonsense despite being employed by him, Jane still stays put at Thornfield Hall. Rochester is an overall brooding, suspicious, and domineering figure, none of which scream “good life partner.”
On the one hand, Jane and Rochester aren’t lovers, they’re employee and employer; on the other hand, “brooding, suspicious, and domineering” aren’t exactly qualities that point to an employer being on the up and up, either.
What’s more, Rochester exploits his position of power over Jane, which is a theme we’ll be coming back to throughout this article, but while that makes for great 19th century drama, in the 21st century, that’s not just a huge red flag for unhealthy relationships of the romantic variety, but professional ones as well (see: sexual harassment lawsuits.)
The ending of the book is classic, classically Romantic, and romantically problematic—blinded, Rochester is now dependent, and so Jane comes back and decides to be with him on equal footing and on her own terms. All well and good, but coming back to a person like that is highly questionable, to say the least.
What’s more, that blindness? It suddenly vanishes when Jane returns. She may not be coming back to Mr. Rochester to “fix” or “redeem” him, but that reading is there, and those are never good reasons to come back to someone who (we repeat) acted suspiciously, didn’t tell Jane about the woman he had locked up in his attic and, oh yes, tried to marry Jane without first telling her that said woman in the attic was, in fact, his wife.
Finally, if you need one more reason (albeit a somewhat tongue-in-cheek one) to see this as an unhealthy relationship, consider Mr. Rochester’s first name—Edward. Now, can you think of another brooding, suspicious, domineering, pale rich male romantic lead? Whether or not that’s where Edward Cullen got his name, he certainly seems to be taking a page out of Charlotte Bronte’s immortal book on how to go about having unhealthy relationships.