Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38
Jane Eyre Notes
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Jane as a ten year old at Gateshead Hall. Orphan - living with Aunt Mrs Reed and three cousins; Eliza, John, Georgiana.
Solitary, unhappy child, outcast from family, reviled & hated by relations.
November weather, cold, harsh, inhospitable. Opening of novel gloomy and hostile - reflects position of JE.
Window seat refuge - book an escape. Note imagery in book, shipwreck, stormy sea, ghosts, graveyards, fiends and pursuit. All images which recur throughout the novel, literally and metaphorically.
Incident with John Reed illustrates the cruelty of the relations and the resilience of JE. She is afraid, but not cowed. Independence of mind and spirit already highly developed, although still childish. Retaliation against John leads to first major incident of suffering. This will recur also.
Reed family servant, Bessie is based on Bronte family servant, Tabitha Ackroyd. Bessie is the only leavening influence in the Reed household. Jane's only human contact at Gateshead Hall.
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JE locked in Red Room for attack on John. Has horrific experience - ghostly apparition (?) and screams. Locked in again by Mrs Reed for disobedience - has hysterical fit and passes out.
Note ref. to Mr Reed (mother's brother) and idea of retribution/unquiet soul - another recurrent theme.
Supernatural element first appears here. Note how it pervades the novel.
Red Room/bedroom/horrific incident - also recurs at Thornfield later (twice) when Rochester and JE face danger at night in bedrooms.
JE reflections on own character first ref. to her independence/fredom of spirit in adversity. Although imprisoned, she is unrepentant. Also perceptive and intelligent. Very different to conventional "Victorian" heroine. Will not bow to injustice/ill-treatment. Is not subservient - will not aknowledge "her place".
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After fit JE treated kindly by Bessie ( is B afraid of her). JE very subdued and sad because unhappy. Cannot enjoy simple treats (plate/tart/book) because spirits low. Visit of apothecary. JE tells him of position. Note her articulate and fair account of Reeds and her own preferences "I was not heroic enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste". NB she is only ten years old.
Her ideas of school reflect education of women at time - useless pursuits/rigid discipline. Naive but accurate. Also prophetic - her move to school is all the latter and little of the former in reality (as was CB's own education in real life)
A man again intervenes to change her life (Mr Reed was first when she was a baby) later there will be Mr Brocklehurst/ Rochester /St John Rivers/her uncle, John Eyre/ Richard Mason, R's brother-in-law. All will change things either for better or worse as the novel progresses. Mr Lloyd persuades Mrs Reed to send JE to school at Lowood
JE's family circumstances interesting - idea of "marrying beneath one's station" very important in CB's time. It recurs of course at Thornfield Mr R is "superior" and wishes to marry JE, the "inferior" governess. Caste again important. The clergyman father directly lifted from CB's own experience. Note also the inferior position of JE's mother "cut off without a shilling" by her father after the wedding.
Loveless atmosphere at Gateshead Hall. JE not loved by anyone - only pitied by Bessie. Despised by all the others. Deprivation and suffering strong central theme. JE refined/strenghtened by suffering and emerges from it slightly stronger every time.
JE wants to be loved/liked/respected. Strong link with CB whose life was constant struggle for same things after death of sisters/brother.
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JE meets Brocklehurst and vanquishes Mrs Reed. Asserts independence and gains measure of self-respect as a result.
Description of Mr Brocklehurst as a "black pillar " very powerful. Repressive religion/hypocrisy/lack of charity embodied in Mr B. Note idea that salvation depends on mortification/denial/submission/rejection of wordly values and suffering. Brocklehurst's Christianity is not based on ideas of love/charity/forgiveness. (Neither will be that of St John Rivers) Bodes ill for JE and the other pupils at Lowood. Will be next trial for JE and her free spirit. NB close parallel with Charlotte B's beliefs and that of her sisters.
Clever use of scene in JE's walk outside in garden after B's departure and the rout of Mrs Reed. Dismal arid cold garden/ no life/ bleak setting/ low point of season - can't get any worse, so must get better. Does it?
Also note sharp imagery with regard to JE's confrontation with Mrs Reed - like a heath fire - elation/heat and black desolation afterwards. Why does Mrs R not retaliate? JE very powerful child. (The critics were rather wary of the passion of the novel when it first appeared - it was very shocking at the time)
"It was the hardest battle I had fought, and the first victory I had gained". Not the last, though, as we shall see!
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JE's arrival at Lowood school and first day's impressions.
Note strong link in novel between forces of Nature and characters' situations. The wild rushing wind and driving rain emphasise the bleakness both of the setting of Lowood hall and JE's situation. Probably influence of Wordsworth and the Romantics.
The arrival is almost like entering a prison, the gates are "shut and locked" behind JE. She will remain at Lowood for nine years.
Atmosphere in school is one of repression and uniformity. All pupils dressed alike; all behaviour heavily regulated; no individuality is allowed.
Lowood school is based on Charlotte Bronte's own first school experiences, and that of her three sisters, Maria, Elizabeth and Emily. The school was called Cowan Bridge, near Kendal and was exactly as JE describes it. The two eldest girls contracted TB and died, probably hastened by poor conditions and deprivation at school. Charlotte and Emily were removed from school shortly after this. The character of HELEN BURNS is based on Charlotte's sister Maria and is apparently a faithful and accurate portrait of a remarkable young girl.
Two important female influences are introduced in this chapter; both admirable and both embodying Christian charity/integrity and compassion. Both have a profound effect on JE. The superintendent, Maria Temple is a cultured woman who provides a firm and kind support for the pupils (note the incident of the lunch which she orders to be served on her own initiative after the burnt porridge). Helen Burns is the doomed, gentle saint, who influences JE with her belief that Heaven is indeed paradise and God is a loving God, not Mr Brocklehurst's God of fire, brimstone and vengeance.
Note also the style of education, which was rote-learning (learning by heart)
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More detail of Lowood and further insight into Helen Burns. Her doctrine of endurance is alien to JE, who is nevertheless impressed by it. Interesting contrast in their views of response to injustice - Helen will bear it and acknowledge her faults - Jane will retaliate and fight back.
Helen "I live in calm, looking to the end."
Jane - "When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard..."
As JE says, "I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance.."
and also....""I suspected she might be right and I wrong; but I would not ponder the matter deeply"
Later events force JE to struggle with this dilemma time after time. The teacher Miss Scatcherd is based on real character at Cowan Bridge. She did apparently treat Maria Bronte as harshly as Helen Burns is treated in the novel.
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Winter term at Lowood. Privations and harshness of both climate and school regime. Visit of the Brocklehurst family emphasises the hypocrisy of the Brocklehurst style of Christianity. Note contrast between Brock.'s treatment of pupils (humiliation laced with cant "All these top knots must be cut off!".."My mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh..") and Miss Temple's forebearance, her face "like marble" as he speaks. Hypocrisy further intensified when his wife and daughters enter - dressed in fur/velvet/plumes and all with abundantly curled hair!
Brocklehurst's treatment of JE is disgusting; more so in that he lards his speech with Christian justification for his denouncement of her as a heathen and a liar. Brocklehurst also based on real character, the Rev. Carus Wilson, and is a faithful portrait.
Ironically JE's humiliation marks beginning of her acceptance of and by the inmates of the school.
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JE comforted by Helen Burns. Further insight into Helen's character and her extreme intelligence - adult perceptions in the mind of a 14 year old (Maria Bronte was exactly the same)Study closely the extract "Hush, Jane! You think too much of the love of human beings...to ""and death is so certain an entrance to happiness- to glory." This parallels exactly the beliefs of Maria Bronte
Miss Temple shows kindness and affection - also justice and tolerance. The tea party in her study captivates JE and after this incident, she is not only resigned to Lowood, but actually happy in it. Her vindication leads to renewed effort and a determination to succeed.
Note the implication of tragedy in references to Helen's cough and the way Miss temple treats her. Although tragic death was a popular device of fiction of this period c.f. Dickens' Little Nell, Charlotte Bronte handles it in this novel with great sensitivity. Certainly her own family experience would not allow her to debase the actual death of her sister from consumption by making Helen Burns' death a parody.
Also note the difference between the "active" Christianity of Miss Temple and Helen Burns, and the repressive way in which the clergyman, Brocklehurst deals with his charges. The tragic irony is that neither Miss Temple, nor Helen are in a position to influence Mr B. Both are subservient - he has the upper hand because of his sex and his position. Their considerable intellects are also restricted by the conventions and rules of the school.
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The epidemic and the death of Helen Burns. Note how cleverly CB juxtaposes the themes of life and death by setting the epidemic in Springtime. As everything around JE is bursting into life( as is her spirit and her intelligence) so death claims her closest friend.
The poetic imagery is very vivid in this chapter. CB and her sisters believed that novels should contain a strong poetic element. Much of their early work is highly poetic, also very much in the Romantic mode.
JE's realisation of the reality of Heaven and Hell and her decision to visit Helen on her deathbed leads into one of the most poignant episodes of the novel. Helen's assertion "..God is my father; God is my friend; I love him; I believe he loves me" must stand as the assertion of Maria Bronte - very possibly of Charlotte and certainly of Anne, the youngest sister (who also died of TB). The comfort Helen gives to Jane is the comfort which Maria gave to her younger sisters after the death of their mother, when they were children. The embrace and reassurance from a dying child is one of the most powerful pieces of writing in the novel. Note also the starkness of the narrative; its power is in its simplicity. "I was asleep and Helen was - dead."
This episode marks the end of the first phase of JE's life - the "winter" phase. Her awakening as an eighteen year old will begin when she moves on to Thornfield Hall as a governess, eight years later.
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Eight years on JE is now a teacher at Lowood; Mr Brocklehurst having been deposed after the inquiry following the epidemic. Miss Temple marries and leaves and JE, too, decides to move on. She yearns for ..what? Restlessness and vagued dissatisfaction parallel the springtime when she decides to advertise for a position as a governess. She goes to Thornfield Hall.
Bessie's visit keeps up the Gateshead connection (clever use of a minor character). Visit interesting in that it emphasises the class distinctions of the time. "You are quite a lady, Miss Jane" Note how the Reed children are active in society, whereas JE is like a nun leaving a cloister.
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Thornfield and its inhabitants a pleasant surprise. Note the passage about JE's physical appearance. Charlotte Bronte was small; thin; pale of face;plain; straight haired and not at all pretty. Her heroine is the same. CB wanted to write a novel with an ordinary heroine with whom the reading public would nevertheless sympathise.
Adele is vapid; a childish caricature of the conventional golden-haired doll-like women of Victorian literature. Her family background is obviously suspect and her manners those of a courtesan. Note the tolerance of JE. It is this tranquility which attracts Rochester to her.
Thornfield is based on two real houses in Yorkshire. One was Rydings, the home of CB's friend Ellen Nussey and the other one a farm which they visited on holiday in 1845. A lunatic had supposedly been locked up in a secret chamber at the farm and CB used this in her novel. There is an undeniable touch of the Gothic in the story - the guarded way Mrs Fairfax speaks of Rochester - the hint of a secret in his life; the darkness and gloom of the third floor apartments and the "distinct, formal, mirthless laugh" which JE hears as she descends from the roof are all pointers towards the final horror of the wedding morning and its dreadful consequences.
Grace Poole the "red herring" character is first introduced in this chapter. JE thinks she is the person who laughed.
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The meeting with Mr Rochester.
Note the clever way CB suggests the longing for freedom and excitement in Jane as she gazes out from the battlements and how ironically it is most intense in the area of the house where the lunatic lives.
In the deepest part of winter occurs the meeting which will change JE's life so dramatically. Note how CB creates a total sense of stillness and anticipation on the walk to Hay; broken by the sound of hoofbeats. Man and horse are a powerful; passionate and sensual image, further intensified by the black dog, Pilot, who glides out of the hazels. The reference to the supernatural is also powerful - the Gytrash was, in legend, an omen of doom and harm to the person who encountered it.
Rochester is the antithesis of the conventional hero. He is dark, saturnine and rough. Ironically these are the very qualities which attract JE; she was unused to men in any case, as was CB in real life. Charlotte's only companions had been her father and her adored brother Branwell, who had, by the time Jane Eyre was written; died of dissipation, drug addiction and drink. There is, however, a Byronic attraction about Rochester which is no accident. All the Bronte sisters were fascinated by Byron. Most of their male heroes are black/wild/wicked and totally ruthless (Heathcliffe especially). The character of Rochester and the relationship which develops with JE shocked the reading public when the novel was published. It was even thought to be "pornographic". Rochester's character is probably an amalgam of CB's fantasy hero Zamorna and her Belgian tutor, Constantin Heger.
Chapter 13[Top of page]
JE and Rochester meet formally as master of Thornfield and governess. There is, however no sense of inequality in their relationship. They fence with one another - a meeting of like minds and spirits. There is little grace in their conversation, Rochester is abrupt and often insulting.."Enough!"..."You play a little, I see..but not well."
The sketches and their effect on R are interesting ( note the Gothic nature of the subjects). They would show R more of the inner nature of JE than her conversation, which is always correct and bland.
Mrs Fairfax supplies more oblique information about Rochester's unsettled life. CB gives us information little by little and skilfully. Too much and we would lose all belief in JE's ignorance of the real state of things in Thornfield.
Chapter 14[Top of page]
The love affair progresses.
Rochester also hints at his past mistakes, but, like Mrs Fairfax, obliquely. "Nature meant me to be a good man...you see I am not so.." JE's ability to litsten without censure draws Rochester to her. Note the contrast between JE's innocence and R's experience - the "fire and ice" theme is very marked; in fact from this point we have constant contrasts; sin/repentance, good/evil, innocence/wickedness, youth/age, and so on.
What R. recognises in JE is the passion underneath the cool exterior. It obviously strikes a responsive chord in him.
Chapter 15[Top of page]
Adele's parentage explained. Rochester's confession and revelations about Celine Varens are received coolly by JE. She is unshocked an apparently unshockable as R. becomes more bold in his conversations. Conventionally an employer should not have spoken to an employee about his illegitimate offspring but their relationship is never conventional.
JE beginning to fall in love, but also disturbed by ignorance of R.'s past.
Bedroom incident is brilliant mixture of Gothic and commonplace. The "demoniac laugh" and footsteps ; the "something" which "gurgled and moaned" outside the door and the fire in Rochester's bedroom are the stuff of Gothic romance; but JE's response is to throw the contents of the bedroom jug and basin over her master, who curses roundly as a result.
Again JE responds to crisis with calmness, but note the suppressed passion implicit throughout the encounters with Rochester so far. Her unquiet sleep (note recurrent storm/sea imagery) shows how far she has fallen in love with R. The mystery of the inhabitant of the third floor deepens. Grace Poole (what a common name for so hideous a suspect!) is blamed for the incident.
Note that JE's acceptance of the explanation is due only to her extreme naivety and lack of worldly experience. She is not a fool - only inexperienced.
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JE warned to bolt her door by Grace Poole. Learns that R. has left the house. Experiences jealousy of R.'s female acquaintances in society, especially Blanche Ingram.
Decision to paint the pictures of herself and Blanche underlines JE's sense of inferiority both in her looks and in her station. This is often seen as self-indulgent weakness, but at the time it would be a real dilemma for someone in JE's position. She genuinely feels unworthy and undeserving of R.'s attentions.
Chapter 17[Top of page]
Rochester returns with society house guests.
JE finds out more about Grace Poole, but is deliberately excluded from the secret she knows exists.
Blanche Ingram supposed by JE to be R.'s intended bride. JE's feelings lacerated by this, but she accepts that it is more fitting than a passion for a governess. Note the description of Blanche. She has everything JE lacks - looks, figure, beauty.The Romantic ideal of the heroine, in short.Note resemblance of Dowager Lady Ingram to Mrs Reed also the superficial beauty of the women. JE ignored by company, but insulted by Blanche. Rochester and Blanche look perfect together. JE suffers in the corner! "He made me love him without looking at me!"
Blanche Ingram proud/haughty/patronising. Also ridiculous "Know that I dote on Corsairs.." CB deliberately draws her as a caricature of contemporary empty headed society belles.
Chapter 18[Top of page]
The house party continues. JE sees that R. does not love Blanche, but still believes he will marry her. Knows that she (JE) could provide all he desires, but still feels unworthy. Very jealous of Blanche - own feelings of desire for R. very strong - but hidden.(Fire under the ice!)
Note that nobody has said that Rochester will marry anyone. All suppositions are JE's.
Arrival of mysterious stranger (Richard Mason) JE notices his "blank, brown eye" and how he "repelled me exceedingly".
The mysterious gypsy (Rochester in disguise) is an interesting interlude. Note the patronising attitude of the Ingrams to the thought of a common person associating with "the quality".
Throughout this section CB caricatures the mores and pastimes of "polite" society. As we know, she never found this kind of company congenial in real life, finding it trivial and false. The Ingram family especially are portrayed as embodying many of the vices which CB abhorred. Note how CB describes the eyes of her characters; Blanche "flashes" her eyes at Rochester, but they are "hard and cold".
Chapter 19[Top of page]
The encounter with the "gypsy", (R. in disguise).
Still JE preserves the coolness and composure which attracts her irresistably to R. She does not recognise him - she is not playing games, but some instinct warns her not to reveal too much of her inner feelings. Symbollically, of course the device of the disguise which R assumes is so that he can speak as a tempter. R.'s assessment of JE's character when he "reads" her face is accurate. Passion will always be tempered by reason in her.
The very obscurity of his declaration to her, because of his disguise, makes it all the more sensuous. They are both under a kind of spell. Even when he reveals his identity the tension is maintained, especially when Jane reveals the arrival of Mason."I've got a blow, Jane..". Roles are reversed - Rochester again has to depend on her. Moments before he was in command - now he is stricken. He seeks reassurance once more "If all those people came in a body and spat at me, what would you do, Jane?" Her assurance of faith in him is not assumed; she is sincere in wishing to protect him from harm, but as he himself has just deduced, reason will overrule passion when the time comes for her to make her choice.
Chapter 20[Top of page]
The attack on Mason.
Very dramatic episode, handled with skill. CB uses again the device of counterbalancing Gothic horror with low comedy (the dowagers bearing down on Rochester like ships in their nightdresses). Once more JE is called upon to exercise her tact, discretion and calming influence - although mortally afraid, she does what is asked. It is tempting to think of her as a gullible fool - she does not try to question Mason or Rochester, but does exactly as she is told. She is not weak, however - far from it. We should see her on the contrary as very strong. The conventional heroine of the time would at least have swooned at the sight of blood. JE does not turn a hair.We can see how great is her devotion to R. and his to her; also the depth of trust they have for one another.
Interesting reiteration of the horrific bedroom theme - the third floor room is very like the Red Room at Gateshead Hall but no vapours from JE this time!
Is JE deluding herself? Remember she still thinks Grace Poole is responsible, and although she does ponder the mystery, her love for R. blinds her to the real truth. Even when R. himself hints at the terrible nature of the secret of the third floor, she does not feel any sense of foreboding. She is totally innocent and naive. This is NOT a weakness in her character - she is the victim of circumstance.
The chapter ends with a pastoral interlude in the garden at dawn. Beautiful contrast to the horrors of the night - like an antidote to poison. Jane is, of course the antidote which Rochester seeks from the poison of his marriage to the creature on the third floor. Again he hints of censure and rejection if his secret were known. Unaware of its real nature, JE promises to stand by him loyally. HE knows that her moral character will never allow her to condone marriage to an already married man, so he must make her as mad for him as he is for her. Ironically the deceit he must practise on her is the very thing he wishes to remove from his life, but he is caught in a terrible dilemma. If he reveals his past he will lose that which can save him.
To bind her even further (remember she has never yet confessed how she feels about him) he taunts her with his marriage to Blanche Ingram. His gamble is that JE will become so jealous that she will not be able to resisit him - even if she finds out that he has a living wife.
Why do this? He believes that Mason will return to the West Indies, saying nothing. The servants do not know who the woman upstairs really is - nobody but Mason can reveal the truth and he would not wish society to know he was the brother of a lunatic. Rochester gambles - the stakes are high but the reward is paradise. He genuinely wishes to reform and he is madly in love with Jane.
Chapter 21[Top of page]
The dream of the child and the return to Gateshead Hall.
A conventional device of novels of this period is to remove the hero or heroine from the scene after a crisis. This time it is not R. who leaves, but Jane - back to Gateshead Hall to see Mrs Reed before her death from a stroke.
This time JE goes back as an independent woman. Her dealings with Eliza, Georgiana and Mrs Reed are quite different. She is composed and very much in command of the situation. They no longer hold any terrors for her - on the contrary, she sees them as insignificant, warped creatures, and the two sisters achieve a grudging respect for her.With Mrs Reed there is no reconciliation. Their mutual antipathy is unchanged. Even JE's foregiveness of Mrs reed is neutral.The long-lost rich relation is typical of novels of this time. Mr Eyre of Madeira's significance will become apparent after the tragedy at Thornfield. For the present it is enough that JE knows she is not alone or without prospects.
Note the satirical portraits of the Reed girls; one a society drone and the other a dried up religious maniac. Nice contrast between them and the integrity/sincerity of JE. Also loveless atmosphere at Gateshead strong contrast with passion at Thornfield.
Chapter 22[Top of page]
Return to Thornfield one month later. Meeting on stile (roles reversed from first time) in high summer (contrast with deep winter of first encounter with R.)
Mixed feeling in JE. R.'s device has worked - she is sick with love for him, but believes him soon to be marrying Blanche. She must leave Thornfield and find another position ( she will, but not as she thinks)
Note they STILL have not declared themselves to one another, but such is the attraction between them that they have no need for words.
Rochester's game is almost played out. She will soon be unable to preserve the shell of composure as the time for her supposed departure comes closer.
Chapter 23[Top of page]
This part of the novel was considered very shocking on publication. It was not usual for a novelist to write so intimately - nor were lovers supposed to display such wild feelings for one another. The disparity in ages and the social positions of R. and JE were also considered unseemly topics for the romance novel. It is a very powerful writing - more so because of the restraint which has previously been shown by both the lovers.
Jane gives herself to Rochester at the height of Midsummer, appropriate if you consider the way CB has paralleled the development of her character with the seasons so far. The description of the orchard is sensual and lush - ripeness and sweetness abound.Once again CB resisits the temptation to purple prose by making the conversation between the lovers very terse and introducing humour ( Mrs Dyonysius O'Gall of Bitternutt Lodge). R.'s description of the string tied round each of their hearts is simple and moving - Jane's tears are at first silent. Note the sea image again as a barrier between them.
Jane's passionate outburst (p281) is all the more dramatic and moving because it is so much unlike her usual controlled self. "It is my spirit that addresses your spirit" She speaks as his complete equal which of course by 20th C. standards she is - but in the mid 19th century such an outburst and such a declaration was very shocking; made by a woman to her employer!
The embrace and the kisses also were risque for the time. She should have swooned and been overcome with maidenly modesty - not challenging and indignant because she thought she was being trifled with. She accepts him; she does not submit to him. His muttered "I have her and will hold her" does not indicate a victory over her, but over his own conscience and the conventions he despises.
CB cannot resisit a Gothic touch, though. The oak tree where R claims his bride to be is struck by lightning,and split in two. The storm is a rather obvious symbol of their union and its tragic consequences (Divine wrath?) but CB's Romantic background accounts for it.
Chapter 24[Top of page]
The morning after!
JE back to her rational self. Her ideas and perceptions about her future as a wife are far ahead of her time. She does not behave in a conventional way, but seems determined to preserve as far as possible the status quo of the relationship with R. His ardour makes her uncomfortable as does his determination to raise her status.
Always fair, she takes him to task for his deceit in pretending to want to marry Blanche. (Ironic - she does not even begin to guess what the real deceit is) and assures herself that Blanche is not hurt by it. She is just - if cool about it with people she dislikes.
Mrs Fairfax is shocked, not because she knows the truth about upstairs, but because she considers JE unsuitable as the wife of a gentleman. Although unconventional, JE is not insensitive - her decision to write to her uncle is an indication that she, too, feels the lowliness of her position. Her conscience will be salved if she is not totally dependant on R. Her refusal of jewels and gowns is not sour grapes, but expediency.
She controls R. very cleverly, by turning his ardour into irritation. Again this is not done for revenge, but to preserve the proprieties. If she had given way, she would have been seduced! She has to control herself as well as controlling him.
This again,would have been shocking to CB's readers. Women did not usually reveal the way they dealt with men in intimate situations. Also JE acts unconventionally - she should be submissive and clinging - coquettish and flirtatious - not steely and firm. Paradoxically, of course, it is exactly the right way for her to deal with R.
The poignancy of the coming disaster is cleverly anticipated in the last paragraph. "My future husband was becoming to me my whole world ..He stood between me and every thought of religion..I could not in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol."
Chapter 25[Top of page]
Signs, prophetic dreams and a grisly visit before the wedding.
True to form CB uses storm/wind/tempest to mirror the disaster awaiting Jane. The second terror filled incident of JE's life takes place in her bedroom. This time the apparition is real - the lunatic comes into the room and tries on the wedding veil before tearing it in two.
Jane's two dreams; one of a small crying child which she cannot abandon and the other of Thornfield in ruins and Rochester riding away are portents of the coming tragedy and traditional Gothic devices. The vision in the bedroom, Jane describes as "a vampyre". Rochester's explanation is weak, but accepted to please him.
The chapter is short and suits the accelerated pace of the action. Jane's dream state continues, although she does not go to sleep the night before the wedding.
Chapter 26[Top of page]
There is no tenderness throughout this chapter - merely an accelerating pace of horror as the ceremony is interrupted and the secret revealed. The mastery lies in the absence of emotion. The denouement is quiet - voices are subdued. Rochester's violent reaction to Mason is checked as it begins and an awful inevitability is felt throughout the proceedings. Jane says nothing at all, she is merely a spectator.
There are some fine moments - Rochester's imperious "..away with your congratulations..they are fifteen years too late" and his growled "my wife" - the struggle with Bertha in the cell and his refusal to use force against her - his smile "both acrid and desolate". He is passionate and defiant (fire) while Jane is icy cold.
Even when she is alone, she does not break down - there are no hot tears, only desolation. CB again uses natural images, this time the summer blighted by freak snowstorms and frosts.
Her desperate prayer "Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help" is a turning point in the development of her character. From now on she will put her trust in God, not man. Her faith will sustain her through the dark days to come.
Note the terse narrative and dialogue throughout the episode.
Chapter 27[Top of page]
The aftermath. Jane leaves Thornfield.
Her decision to leave is prompted by her conscience. She does not want to go, nor does she love R. any less, despite the discovery of his marriage. The strong moral side of her character makes it impossible for her to stay as his mistress. It his her own decision - she is not concerned with what the world thinks of her, but of how she thinks of herself.
Rochester's pleas are passionate and difficult for her to resist, but to stay with him would mean that she could not live with her own conscience and she knows that their relationship would never be the same if she were to do it.
Rochester also knows that she will remain fixed in her decision "Now for the hitch in Jane's character", but he tries his utmost to persuade her to remain with him.
The revelations of his life with Bertha Mason are harrowing - he can be seen as a wronged man, but his basic argument (that he was "never married") is flawed. Jane pities him sincerely but cannot accept anything other than the plain truth that they cannot live together either legally or sriritually as man and wife. Anything less than legal marriage will destroy their relationship in the long term. The same honesty which first attracted her to him now forces them apart.
Ironically it was the letter which Jane wrote to her uncle which caused the revelation.( Richard Mason worked for Mr Eyre and was with him when he received her letter)Coincidence does play an important part in the novel, both now and later.
It is tempting to view JE as a prig throughout the novel, but she is no such thing. Remember that by the standards of the time, she would risk social ostracism if she lived as R.'s mistress, but more importantly, her Christian faith is the fundamental yardstick of her life and what he wishes her to do goes against the Christian ideal of marriage (forever - in the eyes of God - until death do us part. R. is bound irrevocably to Bertha, as far as the Christian laws are concerned.)
JE's dilemma is total. Reason and duty - coupled with faith and belief compel her to take the action she does, but heart, love, passion and desire make it a dreadful sacrifice. She does not shun his embrace because she hates him ,or because she is repelled by him, but because she knows that she is lost if she gives in to him.
The vision (guardian angel?) which counsels her to "flee temptation" sustains the supernatural theme (it will recur later; in a different form; calling her back to Thornfield.)Her departure is furtive and hasty - she takes nothing with her - materially as well as morally she quits Thornfield completely.
The first part of her flight is pitiful - very powerful writing here, too. She is in a frenzy of distress, but implacable in what she has decided to do.
Chapter 28[Top of page]
Destitution and arrival at Moor House.
It is the force of Nature which sustains JE during the three days or so she wanders about the countryside. CB's knowledge of and love for moorland scenery (Haworth, the Bronte home is in the heart of the high moors of West Yorks), is an obvious influence in this passage of the novel. The elemental nature of the moorland is well suited to the starkness of JE's situation.
She is able to "find" God in the moorland, and her reconciliation with him as a benign and caring force begins here. Bodily, in contrast, her sufferings are acute. Slow starvation and exhaustion parallel the spiritual purging which JE is experiencing. She is reduced to real lowliness - not least because she is forced to beg from social inferiors.
It is believed that the Rivers girls, Diana and Mary, are based on CB's sisters Emily and Anne. Certainly their pastimes and habits are closely akin to the Bronte's, and they have similar personalities.
Once more it is a man, though, who is responsible for JE's fate. St John (pronounce it SINGE-EN) Rivers is the person who overhears her plea for death and takes her in.
The flight and the rescue, although short, are a pivotal point in the novel. Through the suffering, both mental and physical, there will be a cleansing. JE as in the past, will emerge changed and strengthened by her trials - not crushed by them.
Chapter 29[Top of page]
Return to health at Moor House.
JE soon re-establishes her position. The episode with Hannah in the kitchen may seem rather harsh, but in CB's time servants and quality knew their places. JE does not act out of character in putting Hannah right about her (JE's ) upbringing - she is "upstairs" despite her reduced circumstances!
St John Rivers described. He is the classical ideal in looks - everything R. is not, in fact, but there is a coldness about him which is apparent from the first. Note the "ivory" forehead, fair hair, blue, icy eyes. What we will see is that St J. is the ice contrast to R. and also, paradoxically, JE will be as fire beside St J.'s coldness. Exactly the opposite to the way she behaved with R.
There is a power about St J , but it is very different to that of R. They are the antithesis of one another physically, mentally and spiritually. JE will be in thrall in different ways to both, as the novel progresses.
There is an equality between them, of a sort. St J deals more directly with JE than he does with his sisters, for example.
Chapter 30[Top of page]
Relationships develop with the Rivers family.
The affinity between JE and the girls, Diana and Mary, is considerable. They quickly form a bond of sisterly friendship. (Remember the link with Emily and Anne) More interesting is the effect St J has on JE. She instinctively realises that he is not at peace, despite his religious fervour "I was sure St John Rivers..had not yet found that peace of God which passeth all understanding.." He is zealous in his duties, but lacks warmth in their execution. He is cold with his sisters, yet seems to love them. He is a creature of contradictions.
He is determined to go to India as a missionary and his reduced circumstances, rather than making him glad, seem to make him angry. there is passion , but so well concealed and harnessed that he burns inside. His scheme to establish a school at Morton seems to be out of a sense of obligation and duty, rather than a genuine desire to benefit the children of the village. There is little evidence of Christian love in him.
He does recognise the passion in JE's nature - her desire to be independent and to be in charge of her destiny - there is an affinity between them, as he also is ambitious and yearns for the freedom to exercise his intellect and talents in God's service. Contradictory, of course as he himself realises. he should be content with his lot - but he is not.
The family link between JE and the Rivers family is hinted at with the news of the uncle's death and the legacy left to the unknown relative. JE is given the position of schoolmistress at Morton village school.
Chapter 31[Top of page]
More about St J.
JE feels degraded as village schoolmistress, but contents herself despite it. We meet Miss Oliver - as beautiful as St John, and very much attracted to him. The Olivers are local gentry and fund the school.
St J. confides in JE his ambition to be a missionary, and the struggle it cost him to turn away from the temptations of the world (Miss Oliver, too!). His encounter with Miss O. at the cottage shows JE how inexorable (unmoving) St J. is. Although obviously in love with Miss O. St. J will not allow himself to unbend at all towards her, although he suffers greatly in her presence.
Chapter 32[Top of page]
More of the Olivers and St J
JE finds herself in the role of observer for much of the early time at Morton. St J 's conduct towards Rosamond (Rose of the World) is cruel, but JE careful to be just in her assessment - his heart is already laid "on a sacred altar" and he cannot /will not turn away from that obligation to God.
With her usual directness, JE tackles him about his feelings for Ros. He is more open with her than with anyone - allowing himself the indulgence of dreaming for fifteen minutes only as he gazes at Ros.'s miniature.
The consequence of JE's directness, of course, is to turn St J.'s interests to her - "You are original, and not timid" He confides his character to JE "I am ..a cold, hard, ambitious man.." Also devious and very clever, as he conceals the strip of paper with Jane's real name in his hand as he leaves.
Chapter 33[Top of page]
The Eyre/Rivers family connection revealed.The more St J becomes involved and passionate, the colder and more implacable becomes his outward appearance. JE is uncomfortable in his presence when he reveals the truth about their family connection. The Rivers children are in fact full cousins to JE.
St J conducts the revelation like an inquisition - he even knows about Rochester and dismisses him"A bad man". Note the recurrent image in their exchange "I am a hard man..difficult to persuade"
"And I am a hard woman..impossible to put off"
"I am cold, no fervour infects me."
"Whereas I am hot and fire dissolves ice"
It is the very opposite of the relationship between R. and JE and yet in its own way just as compelling.
Note St J.'s reaction to JE's generosity in offering to share the twenty thousand of her legacy between her new-found cousins. She shows true Christian charity, while he sees it as a further obligation . The struggle - he wants the money but can't accept the warmth of the gesture. Hypocrite that he is, he takes it, of course!
JE now has all that she lacked, but ironically lacks all that she really wanted - no Rochester, but a ready made family. This substitute love will suffice her for the moment, but don't forget that she still feels the same about R. and she still believes that he is lost to her.
CB uses a little poetic licence in the episode of the shared legacy. Legally JE would not have been able to make such a decision - she was still only nineteen, but dramatically it makes sense, as it provides a useful contrast to the lack of charity of St J.
Chapter 34[Top of page]
Christmas at Moor House
Diana and Mary are recalled from their governess posts and JE creates a happy homecoming for them. Their enthusiasm and liveliness again contrast with the serious taciturnity of St J. who finds Christmas and all forms of frivolity a severe trial.
News of Ros. Oliver's marriage surprising, but again St J seen as cold and implacable "inexorable as death" as his sisters have described him. His hold over JE intensifies as he demands that she learns Hundustani. She agrees because she wishes to please him, but does not realise that he has marked her as a "suitable" choice of wife. She describes herself as "under a freezing spell" and realises that the damping effect he has on her is potentially destructive. To please him would be to"disown half my nature", but the sense of obligation (he did, after all rescue her from certain death and has been the means by which she has gained self-respect and two dear friends/cousins) keeps her in bondage to him, even though it is distasteful to her.
Her attempts to trace Rochester are unsuccessful - she thinks he has abandoned her and St John makes his declaration to her at this point. He shows no love - no tenderness - only offers her a challenge and implies that it is her duty to take it up. In becoming his wife and going to India with him as a missionary she will be serving God. It is a hard choice for her, because her honesty tells her she does not love him, but at the same time if she rejects him she is by implication rejecting the chance to serve God. He is clever enough to emphasise this, of course, and leaves her in no doubt of his feelings. He is so compelling in his zeal and intensity that she feels compelled to say yes to him. She does offer to go with him as his sister/helper, but not as a wife. This outrages him, not least because it thwarts his carefully worked-out plans. He cannot and will not compromise on anything.
What he offers her is certain death, spiritually and probably physically as well. She feels her "iron shroud" contract round her as he persuades her to accept him. She is tempted again as she was with R. to give in and sacfifice herself - this time on the altar of duty. JE has the sense to realise that St J. is NOT a saint, but a man ""erring as I" and once that is realised, she is better able to resist him. She scorns his offer and he is human enough to be decidedly angry with her, because she has thwarted him.
His threats are cruel - if JE refuses the challenge she is damned in the eyes of God. There is enough hard-line biblical truth in what St J says to cause her acute agony of mind. He shows himself to be without compassion and exceedingly heartless when it comes to dealing with his fellow human beings. Exactly the antithesis of true Christianity.
Chapter 35[Top of page]
St J.'s final plea and the voice in the night.
St J. wears JE down by a combination of coldness and persistence. His sisters agree that JE should not accept him, but they are powerless to influence him. It is left to JE to make the decision. She almost gives in out of the same sense of honesty and rightness that made her leave Rochester. St J prays over her, implying eternal damnation if she should yield to the flesh (he knows she still thinks of R.)and promising (ironically and accurately in the words of Christ) that the sinner shall be saved even at the eleventh hour. She almost succumbs to him - he, sensing her indecision, presses her for a final answer. The supernatural intervenes (or is it heaven?) to Janes prayer for help "Show me the path". She hears Rochester call her name three times.
Cb's use of the premonition/vision is based on her own experiences. She did claim to have had several experiences of this sort and the physical effects are as she described in letters to friends.
For the last time, the intervention of a man changes JE's destiny; through the force of nature or of heaven (both linked in the Romantic genre, remember) Rochester defeats St J and calls Jane back to him.
Chapter 36[Top of page]
Return to Thornfield.
JE's return is swift and assured; less than a year after she fled from Rochester, she returns to find him. Previous visions/dreams are proved accurate when she discovers Thornfield a burnt-out ruin. CB uses a time-honoured device in the inn-keeper who recounts the tale of the fire; Bertha's death and Rochester's rescue attempt and maiming; not recognising JE as the governess who caused all the talk in the village.
Note the assurance of JE in organising the journey to Ferndean. She has acquired poise and the air of command after her changed fortunes at Moor House.
Chapter 37[Top of page]
Jane and Rochester reunited.
Ferndean in the middle of dark woods - very Gothic setting mirrors Rochesters desolate condition. Imagery of hooded, lethal bird-of-prey "brooding", "caged eagle". Although blind and crippled (lost hand and damaged leg) he is not weak; merely hurt; the strength is still there.
Roles now reversed. JE is the protector/provider. She can and does give the help he refuses from anyone else.
The reunion is touching, but not pathetic. They are still equals even though R. is physically changed.
"in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine"
The exchange about St J. is terse and truthful - exactly like their whole relationship. JE still calls Rochester her "master" but theirs is not the relationship of superior and inferior. If he is her master it is because she wishes him to be; she is as much his mistress.
R.'s sufferings have led him to God, but like JE his relationship with the Almighty is based on compassion and love - not stern abnegation and duty. He has paid the price for his deceit, but the message of forgiveness and reconciliation is strong; the rewards (Jane as his legal wife) great.
Chapter 38[Top of page]
Marriage; family and bliss for both. The real wedding is as quiet but this time straightforward. Both have suffered but become stronger as a result of their suffering.
The last words are given to St John Rivers - still implacable and full of zeal as a missionary. Knowing he is dying far from home, he looks forward to entering heaven - not for him the lures of the world.
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Copyrightę 2000 Val Pope