Chapter 18 (Pages 184-198)
Jane observes Blanche Ingram's unsuccessful efforts to snare
Rochester and hold his attention. She also observes Blanche's
superficiality, her artificiality, her general lack of positive
qualities, and her dislike of Adele. Though Jane feels contempt for Blanche, she accepts that he is
marrying Blanche not out of love, but "for family, perhaps
political reasons; because her rank and connections suited him" (p.
189). She excuses him--and Blanche--in vague terms "for acting in
conformity to ideas and principles instilled in them, doubtless,
from their childhood. All their class held these principles" (p.
Does her excuse come out of her judgment or her feelings? Jane is
a woman who believes in living according to her own sense of right
and wrong, not society's values. Is her excusing Rochester an example of her love for him overcoming
her judgment? Jane admits,
I was growing very lenient to my master: I was forgetting all his
faults, for which I had once kept a sharp look-out. It had formerly
been my endeavour to study all sides of his character: to take the
bad with the good; and from the just weighing of both, to form an
equitable judgment. Now I saw no bad. The sarcasm that had
repelled, the harshness that had startled me once, were only like
keen condiments in a choice dish; their presence was pungent, but
their absence would be felt as comparatively insipid (p. 190).
Is more being expressed in this passage than passion overcoming
reason or judgment? She suggests she has gotten used to Rochester's
harshness and sarcasm and would miss them solely because of habit.
But are they part of his appeal for her? does she expect, at an
unconscious level, to be abused? Does she find his moodiness exciting and stimulating?
This passage continues with a description of Rochester's Byronic
And as for the vague something--was it a sinister or a sorrowful,
a designing or a desponding expression?--that opened upon a careful
observer, now and then, in his eye, and closed again before one
could fathom the strange depth partially disclosed; that something
which used to make me fear and shrink, as if I had been wandering
amongst volcanic-looking hills, and had suddenly felt the ground
quiver, and seen it gape: that something, I, at intervals, beheld
still; and with throbbing heart, but not with palsied nerves.
Instead of wishing to shun, I longed only to dare--to divine it;
and I thought Miss Ingram happy, because one day she might look
into the abyss at her leisure, explore its secrets and analyse
their nature (pp. 190-91).
Originally Rochester's inexplicable emotions, which expressed some
secret, frightened Jane and caused her to pull back emotionally.
Now, however, they draw her; she wants to look "into the abyss" and
"explore its secrets and analyse their nature." The abyss
(abyss means primeval chaos, a bottomless gulf, or chasm) is
the dark secret or transgression hidden in Rochester's psyche. Her
language is passionate and intense--"fear and shrink," "volcanic-
looking hill," "quiver," "gape," "throbbing heart," "palsied nerves."
Jane's passionate nature responds to Rochester's passionate nature. The similarity of their natures is
expressed in the similar heightened language both use; Rochester, in the next chapter, also uses a volcano
metaphor to describe his life (p. 219). Has reason, which made her fear and shrink, been overcome?
Chapter 19 (Pages 198-208)
What is Rochester's purpose in disguising himself as a gypsy? If
it is part of his power struggle with Jane, what is he trying to
make her reveal? Does he succeed in his purpose? Why or why not?
She kneels so close to the fire that it "scorches" her (p. 203).
The fire is real, but it is also symbolic of Jane's passion for
Rochester and his for her. You may see the passion as idealized romantic love
only or as including sexual desire as well. What is the
significance of the fire scorching rather than merely warming Jane
or lighting her? that is, what quality or possibility of passion is
For the third time Jane helps Rochester, this time with Mr. Mason.
Is there much difference, emotionally, between Jane the child
who told Helen Burns she would cut off her arm for someone she loved
and Jane the adult who says to Rochester, "I'd give my life to
serve you" (p. 207)?
Rochester asks Jane what she would do if his guests and society at
large turned against him. She affirms her determination to stay
with him, regardless of others. In doing this, Jane affirms the primacy of the
individual, a major idea in this novel. She will judge and make
decisions based solely on her own sense of right and wrong; the
pressures and values of society have little, if any power over the
self-reliant, absolute individual. She sets one condition to her
determination to ignore the censure or condemnation of society for
him, "I could dare it for the sake of any friend who deserved my
adherence; as you, I am sure, do" (p. 208). That condition of being worthy of her loyalty shows
that her passion is tempered by judgment and morality, that emotion and reason
are working together. She repeats her commitment and condition
again, "I like to serve you, sir, and to obey you in all that is
right" (p. 220). Her condition ("in all that is right") foreshadows a later, excruciating
decision she will have to make.
Chapter 20 (Pages 208-223)
That night, when Mason is stabbed, Jane helps Rochester yet again,
by sitting at Mason's bedside while he goes for the doctor. Jane's
integrity and Rochester's belief in her integrity are shown in this
scene; she keeps her promise not to speak to Mason, and Rochester
believes she will keep her promise. Why doesn't she ask Rochester
why he fears Mason or why he allows Grace Poole to live at
Thornfield? In Byronic mode, Rochester uses violent and grandiose
imagery to express the turbulence of his barely restrained
passions, "To live, for me, Jane is to stand on a crater-crust
which may crack and spue fire any day" (p. 219).
Rochester describes, in vague language, the situation of someone whose
entire life is ruined because of an error in judgment. To
regenerate his life, wouldn't such a person, he asks Jane, be
justified "in overleaping an obstacle of custom--a mere
conventional impediment, which neither your conscience sanctifies
nor your judgment approves?" (p. 221). Is it fair of Rochester to
ask Jane to agree to such a proposition? What does this proposition
suggest about Rochester's morality and his wilfulness
(determination to have his own way)? Jane replies, "a wanderer's
repose or a sinner's reformation should never depend on a
fellow-creature .... let him look higher than his equals for
strength to amend, and solace to heal" (p. 222). To whom should
Rochester look for help, according to Jane? Does her advice sound
like any other character's? What does Jane's statement indicate
about her values?
Rochester's vague description of his past and his transgression (which he minimizes by calling an "error")
indicates part of Jane's appeal for him. She is the new acquaintance whose company, he asserts,
revives, regenerates: you feel better days come back--higher wishes, purer feelings; you desire to
recommence your life and to spend what remains to you of days in a way more worthy of an immortal
being (p. 221).
He expects her purity, her honesty, her moral strength to redeem him, to release him from the burden of
his past, and to enable him to start life anew. In other words, he looks to her to supply basic traits which are lacking
in his life. Is this a psychologically valid motive or has Bronte made a mistake in motivating Rochester?
Do we, in relationships, look to others to provide traits we lack?
At the same time that Rochester is expressing a deeply felt desire, he continues to toy with or play his
power game with Jane. He does not explicitly name her as the source of his salvation, though he does
come close, "I believe I have found the instrument for my cure, in --" (p. 222). He breaks off just before
he would have named her and so committed himself. After a pause, in which his face and tone become
sarcastic, he identifies Blanche as his potential salvation, "... don't you think if I married her she would
regenerate me with a vengeance?" (p. 222). How does Jane feel during this conversation? What does she
feel when he asks her to sit up with him the night before his wedding "to talk of Blanche" (p. 223)? Jane
doesn't tell us, so you must infer her response from what you know of her and her feelings for Rochester.
Chapter 21 (Pages 223-244)
Jane reports a number of dreams, to which she attaches meaning. Is
she being superstitious or are her dreams prophetic? Her dreaming
of a baby, a dream foretelling misfortune, proves accurate; her cousin
John Reed is dead and her aunt Reed is dying.
Her return to Gateshead shows how the adult Jane has changed and also
develops the theme of reason/judgment vs passion/emotion. She
returns, despite her childhood vow never to see Mrs. Reed again.
One of her hopes is to be reconciled, "I came back with no other
emotion than a sort of ruth [ruth: pity] for her great sufferings, and a strong
yearning to forget and forgive all injuries--to be reconciled and
clasp hands in amity" (p. 234). Once at Gateshead, she ignores her
cousins' selfishness, rudeness, arrogance, and indifference; she
received as I had been to-day, I should, a year ago, have resolved
to quit Gateshead the very next morning; now, it was disclosed to
me all at once, that that would be a foolish plan. I had taken a
journey of a hundred miles to see my aunt, and I must stay with her
till she was better--or dead; as to her daughters' pride and folly,
I must put it on one side; make myself independent of it (p. 233).
Her ability to be guided by reason, rather than driven by emotion,
is also shown in her reaction to her aunt, who hates her as much
as ever. Bronte does not give in to sentimentality by converting
Mrs. Reed on her deathbed and imposing a reconciliation between her
and Jane. Mrs. Reed's behavior and attitude remain consistent with
her younger self, as do the behavior and natures of Eliza and
Georgiana. Jane, who as a child learned from Helen Bums to subdue
her bitterness toward Mrs. Reed, asks for forgiveness. Rejected,
Jane initially feels pain, anger, then "a determination to subdue
her--to be her mistress, in spite both of her nature and her will"
(p. 234); Jane is not an idealized saint. Quickly, however, her
habit of good judgment surfaces, and she talks to Mrs. Reed calmly,
patiently and rationally. Her final words to and about her aunt show her moral growth, her magnanimity,
and her judgment controlling passion:
"Love me, then, or hate me, as you will," I said at last, "you have my full
and free forgiveness: ask now for God's and be at peace."
Jane contrasts the peace and assurance of Helen Burns's death with
the uneasiness and agitation of Mrs. Reed's (p. 241). The
difference provides additional confirmation of the validity of Helen's beliefs and
the importance of spiritual faith and a reliance on God. Jane's
forgiveness of Mrs. Reed exemplifies Helen's advice to turn the
other cheek, advice which Jane did not understand as a ten year old.
Mrs. Reed's revelation of an uncle will become important later in
Poor suffering woman! it was too late for her to make now the effort to
change her habitual frame of mind: living she had ever hated me--dying she must hate me still. (pp. 243-
The destructiveness of unrestrained emotion and self-indulgent wilfulness is exemplified in John
Reed and in his mother. The sisters are meant to exemplify the
emotion/reason split. Georgiana is all feeling, and Eliza is all
reason. After observing the sisters, Jane generalizes,
"Feeling without judgment is a washy draught indeed; but judgment
untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human
deglutition" (p. 240). In other words, the individual must attain
a balance between reason and passion, not be dominated by one or
|M, April 16
||Bronte, Online overview
Jane Eyre, pp. 6-68
|W, April 18
||Jane Eyre, pp. 68-130
|F, April 20, Online class
|Jane Eyre, pp. 130-184
Caucus: To read and to send postings
|M, April 23
||Jane Eyre, pp. 184-244
|W, April 25
||Jane Eyre, pp. 244-302|
|F, April 27, Online class
|Jane Eyre, pp. 302-355
Caucus: To read and to send postings
|M, April 30
||Jane Eyre, pp. 355-417
Paper 2 due
|W, May 2
|Jane Eyre, pp. 417-461
Jane Eyre as the Other