Chapter 22 (Pages 244-251)

Jane arrives at Thornfield at twilight, which is symbolically a time of transition from one state to another. Literally, day passes into night at twilight. Thus, twilight may symbolize dying, i.e., moving from life into death, or it may symbolize moving from the natural world into the supernatural world or from the known into the unknown. In this novel, Jane is moving from Gateshead, the house where she was rejected and abused, and Lowood, where she found a place but could not express her essential self, to Thornfield, a home where she is accepted and feels loved. She is aware that her return is a new experience, "How people feel when they are returning home from an absence, long or short, I did not know: I had never experienced the sensation" (p. 246).

When she first sees Rochester, she is emotionally shaken and keeps her veil covering her face so that she can hide her agitation. When Rochester calls Thornfield her home and expresses regret at her absence, Jane feels pleasure:

His last words were balm: they seemed to imply that it imported something to him whether I forgot him or not. And he had spoken of Thornfield as my home--would that it were my home! (p. 249).
Does his warmth also cause her pain? Why or why not?

Rochester goes on to discuss his marriage to Blanche Ingram. Why does he encourage Jane's belief that he is marrying Blanche? He knows perfectly well that it is Jane he wants to marry. Is he exerting power over her? Does he want to see her reaction, to force an admission of her feelings for him? Even if she doesn't speak, would her body language and what he can see of her face behind the veil reveal her feelings to him? Is he causing her pain?

Whatever the pain, Jane is delighted to be back at Thornfield. An impulse moves her to tell Rochester, "I am strangely glad to get back again to you; and wherever you are is my home--my only home" (p. 250). Jane, who has never had a home before, now faces the prospect of having to leave it. Adele, Mrs. Fairfax, even Sophie are pleased to see her, and, she says, "there is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort" (p. 250). She also faces the prospect of leaving people who love her. What do you think her feelings must be at this prospect? Is there any necessity for her suffering? Is Rochester being cruel? Is he toying with her? Whose needs is he placing first, his or hers?

In the next two weeks, Rochester sees her regularly but never refers to his marriage. Jane can only repeatedly ask Mrs. Fairfax, who knows nothing, about the wedding; how do you think Jane feels, living in this uncertainty? Rochester, who has full control over their relationship and his marriage plans, is happier than she has ever seen him, "I could not remember a time when it [his face] had been so uniformly clear of clouds or evil feelings" (p. 251). Jane does not explicitly describe her feelings; however, her description of their conversations is suggestive psychologically, "If, in the moments I and my pupil spent with him, I lacked spirits and sank into inevitable dejection, he became even gay" (p. 251). Is he enjoying the proof of his power over her, of her being unable to hide her feelings for him? From another perspective, is he enjoying her pain? Is her suffering necessary? What do you think of Rochester's treatment of Jane regarding his marriage to Blanche? Jane has no place to live except Thornfield, has no relatives or friends to turn to, and no income except what she earns as Adele's governess. Under these circumstances, what do you think of Rochester for making Jane live with the threat of having to leave? of once again being alone in the world?

Chapter 23 (Pages 251-261)

On another evening at twilight, Jane is unable to avoid a conversation with Rochester in the garden. Rochester leads Jane to believe that he is about to marry Blanche and that she must leave Thornfield soon and forever. How do you characterize or describe Rochester's treatment of Jane before his proposal? She becomes increasingly upset, as he must see. What is the point of telling her she must go to Ireland? why does he joke at her expense with the names Mrs. Dionysius O'Gall of Bitternutt Lodge? Jane's anguish becomes so unbearable that she "sobbed convulsively" and "was shaken from head to foot" (p. 256). Passion moves her to speak from her essential self, "I grieve to leave thornfield, etc." (p. 256).

His approach to a "proposal" is ambiguous; understandably, his insistence that she must stay at Thornfield doesn't sound like a proposal of marriage to Jane, who protests vehemently. She asserts her equality to Rochester and her sense of self-worth,

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!--I have as much soul as you,--and full as much heart! . . . I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, or even of mortal flesh:--it is my spirit that addresses your spirit: just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal,--as we are! (p. 257).
Jane speaks as the absolute individual, "I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you" (p. 257- 8). As the absolute individual, she will speak and act according to her own values and beliefs, regardless of custom, proper behavior, or any other of society's restrictions. She struggles free of his embrace. He tells her she is "over-excited," i.e., carried away by her emotions, just as Mrs. Reed did years before. In some ways, the adult Jane is still the same as the child Jane; she is not yet fully in control of her emotions. On the other hand, is Rochester pushing her beyond the control anyone could reasonably be expected to have? Or, to rephrase this question, is it natural that she would lose emotional control under these circumstances?

Jane does not believe his proposal, which acknowledges their equality and similar natures, "my equal is here, and my likeness" (p. 258). She only begins to believe him "in his earnestness--and especially in his incivility" (p. 259). Jane seems to equate sincerity and rudeness in Rochester. Why? Does her response indicate anything about her, about him, or about their relationship?

Rochester's behavior and statements are hardly the usual reactions of a man whose proposal has just been accepted. He asks for God's pardon and defies any man to meddle with him. He exults when Jane replies that she has no family to interfere, "No,--that is the best part of it" (p. 260). Would Rochester have been able to trick a lady (i.e., a person of his social class) with a family to protect her interests? Is he taking advantage of her solitary and economically dependent position? or of her inexperience of the world?

Should his responses alert Jane that something is wrong? Jane herself notes, "And if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage: but sitting by him, roused from the nightmare of parting--called to the paradise of union--I thought only of the bliss given me to drink in so abundant a flow" (p. 260). Is it her passion that keeps Jane from being warned that something is wrong? Though she perceives his savagery, she focuses on her love and happiness rather than question his response rationally.

Rochester murmurs,

It will atone--it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold, and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves? It will expiate at God's tribunal. I know my Maker sanctions what I do. For the world's judgment--I wash my hands thereof. For man's opinion--I defy it (p. 260).
If Jane's emotions were not dominant, might she have wondered about this speech? What is being atoned? what is being expiated and sanctioned? why the defiance of the world? Or is it only natural that happiness at marrying the man she worships predominates over Jane's reason?

What does this speech reveal about Rochester? Is he justifying his bigamy to himself? Does this speech show excessive pride, egotism, and unrestrained willfulness? Is Rochester being swept along by his passion and his selfish desires?

  • If Rochester does not believe he is committing an offense or transgression, why does he use the word atone? Atone means (1) to make amends or reparations for an offense, a crime, or a sin or (2) to make up for errors or deficiencies. The word has strong connotations.

  • When he contrasts her unhappy past with his intention to provide her with a happy future, is he merely stating facts or is he rationalizing his behavior to himself?

  • When he says, "It will expiate at God's tribunal," is he being egotistic and arrogant? [Expiate means to atone for or make reparations for wrongdoing or guilt; a tribunal is a place of judgment, a court of justice; God's tribunal is the Last Judgment.] Rochester assumes he can commit a wrong because God will approve, presumably because he loves Jane and will cherish and protect her.

  • He goes on to assert God "sanctions" his action [sanction: (1) to make free from sin, to purify; (2) to make sacred.] Sanctify has powerful religious meanings. He implies God approves adultery and bigamy. But has God given us a commandment which says, "You may commit adultery under certain circumstances"? Isn't Rochester equating his will and God's will? Can pride and arrogance go any further than Rochester's equating them? (Traditionally in Christianity, the chief deadly sin is pride; it was pride that caused Lucifer to equate himself with God, and it was pride that prevented Lucifer from repenting and being saved.)
Rochester is willing to run the risks of a bigamous marriage and whatever consequences may follow in order to possess Jane. Is he considering the consequences for Jane of his making her his mistress? (Isn't that how society would perceive a governess in this relationship?) If the truth comes out, will they be treated equally by society? Will Jane and/or Rochester both become outcasts,or will society treat a man of wealth and status differently from a poor governess? What alternatives will Jane have after their "marriage"? Who will hire a governess who had a sexual relationship with her employer? Even if the truth is never known publicly, how will Jane feel about her position when she learns the truth? By withholding the truth about his marital situation, Rochester takes the choice away from Jane about the terms of their living together; does he have a right to make Jane's decision for her?

The sudden darkness expresses the darkness of Rochester's proposal. The chestnut tree split by lightning foreshadows their parting.

Though previously Jane asserted her willingness to defy society for Rochester's sake, she cares what Mrs. Fairfax thinks of her kissing Rochester. Why?

Chapter 24 (Pages 261-279)

As is often the case in this novel, the weather reflects the action and Jane's feelings; the morning after their engagement, the beautiful sunny morning reflects Jane's happiness. In contrast, the novel opens on a dreary, rainy November day, reflecting Jane's unhappiness in the Reed household. It is cold and biting when Jane arrives at Lowood, with its initially harsh regime. The storm which follows Rochester's proposal parallels his moral disorder and emotional turbulence.

Once engaged to Jane, Rochester ignores Jane's protests at being given jewels, carriage, new clothes. Is he treating her like Blanche Ingram or Celine Varens? Aren't these the kinds of things Blanche and Celine, not Jane, would want? He perseveres in this behavior in their shopping spree later in the day. Why? Possible answers to this question may be clearer later in this chapter.

Nevertheless, he knows how different Jane is from other women, which is part of her appeal for him, "I never met your likeness, Jane" (p. 265). Rochester continues his expression of love for Jane in terms of power:

you please me, and you master me--you seem to submit, and I like the sense of pliancy you impart; and while I am twining the soft, silken skein around my finger, it sends a thrill up my arm to my heart. I am influenced-- conquered; and the influence is sweeter than I can express; and the conquest I undergo has a witchery beyond any triumph I can win (p. 265).
In other words, her apparent submission to or acknowledgement of his power conquers him. At the same time that he acknowledges her dominance, his reference to "any triumph that I can win" implies past efforts to dominate, if not a continuing need to dominate.

Does power or control constantly shift in their relationship? Does Rochester need to dominate the beloved? If so, would his needing her submission make him dependent on her? Another way of asking the question: Is the slave owner dependent on the slave in order to be the master? to be superior, must there be an inferior? To have control, must the tyrant have someone to control? To state these questions yet another way: is the dominant person dependent on the submissive person?

References to power, domination/submission, master/slave run through their relationship. Jane says, of Rochester's features,

they were full of an interest, an influence that quite mastered me,-- that took my feelings from my own power and fettered them in his. I had not intended to love him: the reader knows I have wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me (p. 177).
Is it a coincidence that she consistently calls Rochester "master" and refers to him as "master"? Mrs. Fairfax does not do this.

In this conversation, Jane's moral superiority is indicated by her concern that her engagement might be causing pain to Miss Ingram, even though she consistently treated Jane with contempt.

Mrs. Fairfax's incredulity at her engagement upsets Jane. It is a mistake to underestimate Mrs. Fairfax and her common-sense point of view, as both Jane and Rochester do. She correctly doubts the engagement of Blanche and Rochester, and her warning about Rochester proves invaluable to Jane, "Try and keep Mr. Rochester at a distance: distrust yourself as well as him. Gentlemen in his station are not accustomed to marry their governesses" (p. 269). The warning dampens Jane's spirits; she expresses her momentary doubt in terms of power, "I half lost the sense of power over him" (p. 271).

Though Rochester is apparently making Jane his wife, does he begin to treat her as the mistress that she will in fact become? He wants her to wear jewels, brightly colored gowns and to make the world acknowledge her beauty (p. 263).Has his false proposal or lying begun to corrupt his treatment of Jane? Does his dishonesty degrade their relationship?

His behavior and attitude upset Jane. Why does Jane say that the more he bought her, the more she feels "a sense of annoyance and degradation" (272)? Why is she upset? How does she perceive herself? Why does his showering her with gifts make her decide to write her uncle, to have the possibility of some day inheriting her own money? She interprets his smile "such as a sultan might, in a blissful and fond moment, bestow on a slave his gold and gems had enriched" (p. 272). How does that make her feel? His smile causes her to crush his hand and push it away "red with the passionate pressure" (p. 273). Why does his reference to the seraglio anger her? (A seraglio is a harem, where a Moslem keeps his wives and mistresses.) What does she mean when she says, "I will not be your English Celine Varens" (p. 274)?

Rochester acquiesces to her power--with the implication that he will dominate her sexually once they are married, "But listen--whisper--it is your time now, little tyrant, but it will be mine presently: and when once I have fairly seized you, to have and to hold, I'll just-- figuratively speaking--attach you to a chain like this" (p. 275). Ironically, the same statement which acknowledges her power reduces Jane to a possession. The chain reference may also connote slavery, particularly after the sultan-slave-seraglio references.

Mindful of Mrs. Fairfax's warning, Jane decides to keep Rochester at arm's length. She uses verbal barbs and repartee; she keeps power/control by needling him. Her language indicates an awareness of the power element in their relationship, "I could see he was excellently entertained; and that a lamb-like submission and turtle-dove sensibility, while fostering his despotism more, would have pleased his judgment, satisfied his common-sense, and even suited his taste, less" (p. 278). Her statement identifies two strands or warring elements in Rochester's nature, his emotional need for control and domination vs. his good judgment or reason.

Helen Burns' warning, "you think too much of the love of human beings" (p. 70), still applies to the adult Jane. Jane acknowledges,

My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world; almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature of whom I had made an idol (p. 279).
Jane has allowed her passion for Rochester to displace all other considerations and obligations. For Bronte and her readers, replacing the love of God for the love of a man was a terrible offense. Bronte's language indicates disapproval. Jane's saying "in those days" implies that her view at the time of writing is different. "Creature" has its literal meaning of "a being created by God," and "idol" connotes a "false god." After the truth about Rochester's marriage to Bertha Mason is revealed, Jane pays for having turned away from God.

Chapter 25 (Pages 279-291)

Jane's distress as she waits for Rochester is reflected in the weather, with the"blood-red and half-overcast" moon (p. 281), the wind, and finally the rain. As they talk, she expresses her expectations of her future life, "I thought of the life that lay before me-- your life, sir--and existence more expansive and stirring than my own" (p. 285). What would happen to Jane if she allowed her life to be incorporated into Rochester's? if she allowed her identity to be incorporated into his? Think not just of his genuine love for Jane, but also of his unrestrained passion and egotism and wilfulness. Jane tells him of her dream of a child, which in dream symbolism foretells misfortune.

Jane's active imagination shows itself in her associating the face in the mirror with a vampire. Her bridal veil being torn in two prefigures the separation of Rochester and Jane. Rochester promises to tell her the truth in a year and a day--again Rochester keeps control and he again thinks only of his needs and his desires. He knows with certainty that Jane would never agree to the arrangement he has planned, so he doesn't tell her. Though not satisfied by his promise, Jane acquiesces because she loves him.

Chapter 26 (Pages 291-301)

The interrupted wedding is a common literary convention or device in nineteenth century melodramatic literature. Clearly it is included for the purpose of drama and shocking the reader. Bronte has Mason and his lawyer loitering in the churchyard and letting the ceremony proceed before interrupting; why would they do this? Isn't it more likely that they would try to stop the ceremony before it started by talking to Rochester and to Jane? Is Bronte manipulating her material--and falsifying her material--to shock the reader?

Rochester gives a brief history of his marriage and his wife's madness, part due to heredity and part to her own excesses (alcohol and sensual indulgence). She attacks Rochester, who refuses to strike her at risk to himself. In the theme of passion-reason, Bertha Mason represents the culmination of unrestrained passion--insanity. A danger to others and to herself, she must be kept imprisoned, that is, restraint must be imposed by outside forces. Her attempt to burn Rochester in his bed symbolizes the danger that sexual passion poses to him.

Alone, Jane decides that Rochester's feeling for her was not love, but merely sexual desire or lust. Having forgotten God in her excessive love or idolatry of Rochester, she has no support now. She knows she must leave, but where will she find the strength to flee? In her agony, "One idea only still throbbed life-like within me--a remembrance of God" (p. 301). Her prayer is ineffective, "Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help" (p. 301). She finds no comfort, no lessening of her pain through this appeal to God. In the following description of her worst agony, it refers to trouble.

It was near; and as I had lifted no petition to Heaven to avert it--as I had neither joined my hands, nor bent my knees, nor moved my lips--it came; in full, heavy swing that torrent poured over me. The whole consciousness of my life lorn, my love lost, my hope quenched, my faith death-struck, swayed full and mighty above me in one sullen mass. That bitter hour cannot be described: in truth, "the waters came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing; I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me" (p. 301).
Kathleen Tillotson finds this experience the true center of the novel, for Jane undergoes a "crisis of event, character, and spirit." It tests her emotionally, morally, and spiritually. She is, I believe, lost in the "dark night of the soul," in which the individual feels hopelessly lost in darkness and is overwhelmed by emotional and spiritual chaos.

Bronte Syllabus

M, April 16 Bronte, Online overview
Jane Eyre, pp. 6-68
**Supplemental Reading**
      The Novel
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
**Supplemental Reading**
      Jane Eyre as the Other

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