Chapter 27 (Pages 302-327)

In this crisis, Jane is torn between passion and reason, between the desire to stay and the decision to leave. She struggles to find the strength to leave Rochester, "I wanted to be weak that I might avoid the awful passage of further suffering I saw laid out for me; and conscience, turned tyrant, held passion by the throat" (303). At this point, reason is dominant and restraining passion.

When Rochester explains, apologizes, and expresses his love for her still, she forgives him. As in the experience in the Red Room, Jane's emotional turmoil affects her physically; she is so weak that she can barely stand, so he carries her, barely conscious, downstairs. As after the Red Room experience, the first thing she is aware of as she returns to consciousness is the fire. Rochester is still determined to make Jane his own, which means making her his mistress.

The tone of Rochester's description of his wife ("the paroxysms, when my wife is prompted by her familiar to burn people in their beds at night, to stab them, to bite their flesh from their bones," p. 306) is the tone which Jane used as a child to describe Mrs. Reed. Jane comments on his hatred for and cruelty to a madwoman, i.e., someone who can't help her condition.

After Rochester proposes that she live with him, Jane shakes her head. This action requires "a degree of courage" because of his growing agitation (p.307). Driven by passion and determined to have his way, Rochester implicitly threatens to rape her if she does not agree to his proposal:

"Jane! will you hear reason?" (he stooped and approached his lips to my ear) "because, if you won't, I'll try violence." His voice was hoarse; his look that of a man who is just about to burst an insufferable bond and plunge headlong into wild license (p. 307).
His using the word "reason" is certainly ironic; by "reason," what he really means is "my will, what I want." "Wild license" is a roundabout way of saying rape. One danger of uncontrolled violent emotions like rage and hatred is that they may lead to violent actions, as we see in Rochester's threat and in Bertha Mason's actions.

Jane's response to the threat of rape deserves close attention,

I saw that in another moment, and with one impetus of frenzy more, I should be able to do nothing with him. The present--the passing second of time--was all I had in which to control and restrain him: a movement of repulsion, flight, fear, would have sealed my doom,-- and his. But I was not afraid: not in the least. I felt an inward power; a sense of influence, which supported me. The crisis was perilous; but not without its charm: such as the Indian, perhaps, feels when he slips over the rapid in his canoe (p. 307).
Jane remains rational and in control of her emotions when Rochester threatens her. Yielding to emotion (fear) would endanger her. Is it because she has a power-based relationship with Rochester that she believes in her ability to control him? In the first four sentences, reason predominates in Jane. But the terms of the last sentence overturn the dominance of reason; she finds "charm" in the danger. She enjoys skirting the abyss; as we discussed in class, being at the edge of danger can be thrilling. The comparison to the Indian is an image of the individual in control of the danger (paddling the canoe skillfully over the rapids). Thus, emotion predominates in the last sentence. Has one of Rochester's charms for her been the violence of his emotions and the danger of being with him? (Think of the volcano-eruption images used to describe his emotions.)

Jane adopts a strategy of tears to calm Rochester; reason and emotion are working together in her strategy. She deliberately uses her own emotions as a weapon; at the same time, her feelings are real, and yielding to tears gives necessary expression to her emotions. Is there some hostility and satisfaction in her statement about her tears, "If the flow annoyed him, so much the better" (p. 308)? She stops crying when his "softened voice announced that he was subdued" (p. 308). His becoming calmer is described in terms of her power over him, "subdued."

Uncontrolled egotism drives his insistence that she live with him as his wife, "You mean you must become a part of me" (p. 308). Jane is pained both at having to refuse him and at seeing him so frenzied, "To agitate him thus deeply by a resistance he so abhorred, was cruel; to yield was out of the question" (p. 309). She is conscious of the pain she is forced to cause him; he, in contrast, sees only his own pain and needs. Needing support, Jane cries out to the surest source of comfort and strength, "I did what human beings do instinctively when they are driven to utter extremity--looked for aid to one higher than man: the words 'God help me!' burst involuntarily from my lips" (p. 309). Is her appeal to God a deeply felt and meant prayer?

Rochester attempts to justify making Jane his mistress by telling her about his misery and his wife's loathesomeness. He married Bertha Mason because of competition with her other admirers and lust. His father and brother may have urged Rochester to marry (their motive being  money), but he agreed. Sensuality overpowered his judgement, "I was dazzled, stimulated: my senses were excited; and being ignorant, raw, and inexperienced, I thought I loved her" (p. 310). There was no other basis than sexual attraction for the marriage and, to a lesser degree, rivalry with her other admirers, "I never loved, I never esteemed, I did not even know her. I was not sure of the existence of one virtue in her nature: I had marked neither modesty, nor benevolence, nor candour, nor refinement in her mind or manners-- and I married her" (p. 310). There was no judgment or reason, only passion.

Bertha Mason represents passion without bounds, a total yielding to sensual indulgence and self gratification, a total denial of reason; Rochester exclaims, "What a pigmy intellect she had--and what giant propensities!" (p. 311). Consumed by her passions, Bertha is irrational and finally becomes insane. Fire, which destroys what it feeds on and anyone/anything near it, is an appropriate symbol for her passions and her insanity. The symbolic (sexual) meaning of her setting fire to Rochester's bed is obvious. Jane pities his torment in living with an insane wife. (Of course, divorce from an insane spouse was impossible under English law.)

Ever wilful and passionate, Rochester finds it "absolutely rational that I should be considered free to love and be loved" (p. 315), and so he seeks love on the continent and buys mistresses; ironically, he has contempt for the lifestyle he chose, "Hiring a mistress is the next worst thing to buying a slave: both are often by nature, and always by position, inferior: and to live with inferiors is degrading" (p. 317). Jane applies his harsh judgement of his mistresses to herself should she accept his terms and is strengthened in her resolve to leave him.

His review of their meeting and developing relationship gives the reader Rochester's view of it. Disillusioned in women and despairing of ever finding true love, he observes her closely and tests her, to determine her true nature. One of the appeals which Jane holds for Rochester becomes clear and has been hinted at in previous speeches; he will be regenerated or made emotionally, morally, and spiritually whole by Jane. Her innocence and goodness will redeem him, "You are my sympathy--my better self--my good angel" (p. 320). During their engagement, he says to Jane, "Ten years since, I flew through Europe half mad; with disgust, hate, and rage, as my companions; now I shall revisit it healed and cleansed, with a very angel as my comforter" (p. 264). It was the hope that "Regeneration [was] possible" (p. 314) that caused him to return from the West Indies to England. Words like "my angel," "my better self," and "regeneration" are often used loosely, but for Rochester they are genuinely heartfelt, though their application is distorted and misguided.

He pledges himself to Jane and asks for her pledge in return. Jane is convulsed by emotions and torn between passion and reason/duty,

        I was experiencing an ordeal: a hand of fiery iron grasped my vitals. Terrible moment: full of struggle, blackness, burning! Not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved; and him who thus loved me I absolutely worshipped: and I must renounce love and idol. One drear word comprised my intolerable duty--'Depart!'" (p. 321).
What exactly is the "hand of fiery iron" which grasps her "vitals"? Is it sexual passion? or is sexual passion a part of what she is experiencing? She goes on to describe her experience as "blackness" and "burning." Jane's sense of right, prevails, however "intolerable" duty may seem. Although love has been an urgent need for Jane since childhood, she resists his kisses and embraces. To his plea that it would not be wicked to love him, she replies, "It would to obey you" (p. 321). This reply is consistent with her earlier statements expressing her willingness to obey--in all that is right.

Rochester, who is nearly twice Jane's age, asks Jane what his life will be if she leaves, whom he will turn to for companionship and hope. She replies, "Do as I do; trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there" (p. 321). God is Jane's resource and guide. Rochester takes no responsibility for his own life, does not accept the consequences of his own actions, and refuses to acknowledge the higher authority of God and to follow God's laws. Note his egotism in the following accusations to Jane; look carefully at the pronouns, which I have italicized:

  • "Then you condemn me to live wretched, and to die accursed?"
  • "Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on lust for a passion--vice for an occupation?" (p. 322)
Is Jane responsible if Rochester lives a wretched life, as Rochester implies, or is Rochester? Is she snatching love and happiness from him, or do his own actions force her to leave? If Rochester turns to lust and vice, is Jane responsible for his choice, as Rochester implies, or is he? Jane replies to these accusations: "Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you than grasp at it for myself. We were born to strive and endure--you as well as I; do so" (p. 322).

Rochester makes a last, desperate appeal--you have no family, so who would be hurt by your complying? Jane agrees,

This was true; and while he spoke my very conscience and reason turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling: and that clamoured wildly. "Oh, comply!" it said. "Think of his misery; think of his danger look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature; consider the recklessness following on despair--soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?" (p. 322).
In this crucial temptation, Jane is betrayed by reason and her sense of duty. Conscience and reason turn "traitors" and join with passion Conscience and reason are necessary restraints on passion, but they are not always enough to control or direct passion. In thinking of Rochester's plight and danger, is she placing him first? Are women typically encouraged to be selfless? Is Rochester using her friendless and solitary state against her for his own benefit?

Jane finds an answer within herself to the question, who cares for you? Jane is the absolute individual, who decides on her course of action based on her own values,

          Still indomitable was the reply--"I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane--quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart is beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot" (pp. 322-23).
She chooses to rely on God and His laws to sustain her. All her own resources--passion, conscience, reason--have failed her. In this greatest need, she turns to the strength that never fails, God.

Fury drives Rochester past all restraint; he grabs Jane and "seemed to devour me with his flaming glance; physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless as stubble exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace" (p. 323). Note the fire imagery which describes his passion--"devour," "flaming," and "glow of a furnace." Jane stands firm in God, "mentally, I still possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety" (p. 323).

Rochester, who does love Jane and values her spirit and essential self, is restrained and defeated by her self-possession, "it is you, spirit--your will and energy, and virtue and purity-- that I want; not alone your brittle frame" (p. 323).  

Do you hear echoes of Helen Burns in Jane's statements and decisions in this exchange between Jane and Rochester?

That night she dreams of the Red Room, but this time the light is her mother who tells her to flee. Is the dream a message from God? Is the woman in her dream really the spirit of her mother returned from the dead? or is she the part of Jane's unconscious which enables her to resist Rochester? As she walks to the road in the dawn, all her thoughts are of Rochester's pain, his danger, his need and of herself as "the instrument of evil" to Rochester (p. 327). Yet she continues her flight, attributing her strength to God, who "must have led me on" (p. 327).

Chapter 28 (Pages 327-343)

When Jane gets off the coach, without money and possessions, she is totally alone, "Not a tie holds me to human society at this moment" (p. 328). She is literally the outsider. All she has is her inner resources. Unable to sleep on the ground, she turns to God, sees God's presence in nature, and prays for Rochester:
I felt the might and strength of God. Sure was I of His efficiency to save what He had made: convinced I grew that neither earth should perish nor one of the souls it treasured. I turned my prayer to thanksgiving: the Source of Life was also the Saviour of spirits. Mr. Rochester was safe: he was God's and by God would he be guarded.
Feeling secure in God's mercy, she sleeps. The next day she suffers terribly from her isolation and hunger; she is drawn by a church bell for help, but the minister is not home. She finds no help in the village either. Driven by hunger, the rain, and her need for shelter and warmth, she makes her way to a house. There she looks in the window, separated yet seeing the warmth and closeness of two sisters. Jane is again literally the outsider and close to dying of her separation from other human beings.

Rejected by the servant, Jane resigns herself to a miserable death. She gives herself to God, "I believe in God. Let me try to wait His will in silence" (p. 341). This reliance on God proves her salvation. The minister who was not home when she was seeking aid overhears her and takes her inside. Being with human beings, a part of society again, restores Jane to a sense of herself, "I felt no longer outcast, vagrant, and disowned by the wide world. . . . I began once more to know myself" (p. 343). She resumes her identity as a lady and is free to express her essential self. While the brother and sisters decide to allow Jane to stay with them, Jane sits by the fire. Does her sitting by the fire and her calling it "genial" (p. 343) reflect her being accepted by this family?

Chapter 29 (Pages 344-355)

After her journey from Thornfield, she enters stasis or stillness at Marsh End. (There is a pattern of movement and stasis in this novel--Gateshead to Lowood to Thornfield to Marsh End. Do you notice anything about the names of the places Jane has lived? Do they indicate something of the character of the house/institution or its place in her life journey?)

Having been restored to society, Jane resumes her status as a lady and takes on a new identity (Jane Elliott). The servant's distrust bothers her; she insists on being seen as respectable and wins over the servant with her neatness, her willingness to work, and her education.

Jane finds kindred spirits in the Rivers sisters. They have similar tastes and interests; she enjoys being taught by them. She also enjoys submitting to Diana, who is assertive and strong- willed: "It was my nature to feel pleasure in yielding to authority supported like hers; and to bend, where my conscience and self- respect permitted, to an active will" (p., 349). Has Jane found a new home and family, even if only temporarily? (The sisters and brother will be leaving Marsh End soon.) Do the sisters treat her as an equal?

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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