Chapter 35 (Pages 417-428)
A passionate woman who yearns to be loved, Jane cannot bear
being alienated from St. John. Unfortunately, her effort to restore friendly
relations pushes him further away; he is offended at her saying,
"If I were to marry, you would kill me. You are killing me now"
(p. 420). She asserts her intention to find out what has become of
Rochester before deciding whether to go to India with St. John.
St. John proposes again. This time he speaks out of his
religious belief; he is motivated, in other words, by his finest
qualities, uncontaminated by egotism. His sincerity gives his
proposal power, "All men of talent, whether they be zealots, or
aspirants, or despots--provided only they be sincere--have their
sublime moments: when they subdue and rule" (p. 425). Jane is
swayed by the power of his words and the strength of his religious
faith; her response takes the form of submission. Is this a typical
I felt veneration for St. John--veneration so strong that its
impetus thrust me at once to the point I had so long shunned. I
was tempted to cease struggling with him--to rush down the torrent
of his will into the gulf of his existence, and there lose my own
Bronte clearly means this proposal as a second testing of Jane.
The first test was Rochester's proposal, which was motivated by passion; St.
John's proposal is motivated by reason. Jane explicitly says,
I was almost as hard beset by him now as I had been once before, in
a different way, by another. I was a fool both times. To have
yielded then would have been an error of principle; to have yielded
now would have been an error of judgment (p. 420).
Why would accepting St. John, the Man of Reason, be an error of judgment?
She wonders whether God is calling her to accept, "were I convinced
that it is God's will I should marry you" (p. 426). She knows St.
John does not love her; in considering his proposal she is choosing
duty and rejecting love:
... he surrounded me with his arm, almost as if he loved me (I say almost--I knew the
difference--for I had felt what it was to be loved; but, like him, I had now put love out of the question
and thought only of duty)... (p. 426).
In her uncertainty, she turns to God (as she
did in her ordeal rejecting Rochester), "Show me, show me the
path!" (p. 426).
As if in response to her prayer, she hears Rochester's voice calling
her. Jane, writing ten years after the event, says that Rochester's
cry was not superstition and not a miracle but "the work of nature"
(p. 427). Contemporary readers and modern readers divide in their
acceptance of this device. Some call her hearing Rochester's voice
at this moment sentimental and sensational; as such it is a
serious flaw because it is unrealistic and manipulative. Others
accept it. What is your feeling/thought about her hearing
Jane, who now has a justification for asserting herself, takes
the dominant role for the first time in this scene, "It was
my time to assume ascendancy. My powers were in
play, and in force" (p. 427). She asks St. John to leave her
alone; he "obeyed at once. Where there is energy to command well
enough, obedience never fails" (p. 427). Once in her room, she
falls to her knees and prays; her prayer is "effective," for she
"seemed to penetrate very near a Mighty Spirit; and my soul rushed
out in gratitude at His feet" (pp. 427-8). Jane's faith has helped
her in yet another crisis. She postpones her response to St. John's proposal in order to
return to Thornfield and learn Rochester's fate. A
question to consider: is Bronte implying that Jane has God's
sanction or approval for seeking out Rochester?
Chapter 36 (Pages 428-437)
Jane and Rochester have been separated for over a year, Jane has
supported herself as a teacher, and she is now rich; why does Jane
still refer to Rochester as "master" (e.g., p. 430)?
Approaching Thornfield, Jane is torn by the promptings of reason
and passion; "the monitor" or inner voice of conscience/reason
urges that even if he is at home, "you dare not speak to him or
seek his presence. You have lost your labour--you had better go no
farther" (p. 430). Rather than go to Thornfield, she should ask
the people at the inn. Nevertheless, she goes on to Thornfield,
driven by her emotions. Also Bronte likes dramatic
effects; Bronte is able to devote two pages to Jane's anticipation as
she approaches and her horror at what she sees.
Bertha's setting fire to Thornfield is psychologically
consistent with her previous destructive behavior and symbolically
significant. She has destroyed herself with her own unrestrained
passions, in setting the fire and in leaping from the roof.
For Rochester, the fire that burns down Thornfield is both destructive
Depending on the context, fire can be
an image of physical passions, an image of redemption, or even an image of spirituality (Christ
is sometimes depicted with a burning or flaming heart). It is a
mistake to think that a symbol can have only one meaning or that a
particular object, like fire or a sword, can have only one meaning
or necessarily consistent meanings.
- Fire as destructive. The destructiveness of the fire is obvious literally and symbolically.
Rochester is crippled by the fire, which parallels his being emotionally, morally, and spiritually
crippled by passion.
- Fire as redemptive. Fire refines by removing impurities from metals like iron and gold.
For this reason, fire is often used to symbolize the process of human purification or redemption. Just as
impure gold is literally transformed into pure gold by fire, so the sinful soul is symbolically purged of sin
and restored to purity by fire. The fire begins the process of Rochester's redemption. He
begins to acknowledge his transgressions and to turn to God.
The fire also reveals Rochester's admirable qualities. Since I
have focused on Rochester's negative qualities, this seems
an appropriate place to discuss Rochester's positive qualities.
Is Rochester an honorable, responsible, moral man? Or is he
an honorable, responsible, moral man except when his need for love and his passions are involved? Or
is he an egoistical, self-indulgent, weak man? Or is he an immoral or evil man?
- Rochester takes in Adele and provides for her care and
education, even though he does not believe she is his child. He
does not take out on her any resentment he might feel at her
mother's betraying him. After Jane flees, he still takes care of
Adele by sending her to a boarding school.
- When he ended his affairs, he gave Clara and Giacinta enough
money to be financially independent. He even paid all the bills of
Celeste Varens, who betrayed him and verbally abused him with her
- The servants call him a good master, and he pays good
wages. After Jane flees, he settles a generous annuity on Mrs.
Fairfax for life; he doesn't just dismiss her.
- He does not put Bertha in an asylum. He hires a capable
woman to look after her. He keeps her at Thornfield, even though
he has Ferndean, a secluded house where no one would know of her
existence. He regards Ferndean as unhealthy, and he does not want
to contribute to Bertha's death. Ironically, after the fire, he
lives at Ferndean. During his struggle with Bertha after the
interrupted wedding ceremony, he refuses to strike her to subdue
her; in other words, he doesn't want to hurt her, despite the
danger to himself.
- During the fire, he helps the servants escape. He tries to
save Bertha, even though her death would free him from their
marriage. He is injured because he stayed so long to insure that
every one, including Bertha, gets out.
- He appreciates Jane's nature and encourages her, even
though she is a servant. He worries about Jane after she flees
Thornfield, and the story of her privations while she was homeless
causes him deep pain.
Chapter 37 (Pages 437-456)
Jane announces herself to Rochester in a teasing way, a variant of
the game of "guess who's holding her hands over your eyes." After some
minor embarrassment at having been too bold, Jane realizes
Rochester has not proposed because of his physical condition.
Their situations have changed; she is financially and socially independent, and he is physically
dependent. Is Rochester also emotionally dependent? Seeing him
wait for her the next morning, Jane comments,
reminded one of a lamp quenched, waiting to be relit--and alas! it
was not himself that could now kindle the lustre of animated
expression: he was dependent on another for that office! (p. 447).
His physical dependence continues the pattern of Jane's helping him
that began when they met on the road to Thornfield. Now, however, he willingly accepts
her help, "Hitherto I have hated to be helped--to be led;
henceforth, I feel, I shall hate it no more" (p. 453).
Has there been a reversal in their relationship? During the
Ingram "engagement," Jane's unhappiness made Rochester lively.
Now, as Rochester "relapsed again into gloom," Jane "became more
cheerful and took fresh courage" (p. 443). As Rochester encouraged
Jane's jealousy over Blanche, so Jane briefly encourages
Rochester's jealousy of St. John. Is the power struggle still
continuing? If so, who has the upper hand?
Whether or not you think that Jane and Rochester are involved in a
power struggle, there is no question that Rochester and Jane are happy with each
There was no harassing restraint, no repressing of glee and
vivacity with him; for with him I was at perfect ease, because I
knew I suited him: all I said or did seemed either to console or
revive him. Delightful consciousness! It brought to life and
light my whole nature: in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he
lived in mine. Blind as he was, smiles played over his face, joy
dawned on his forehead: his lineaments softened and warmed (p.
When Rochester tells Jane about crying out and hearing her
voice respond, Jane does not tell him she had the same experience
at the same time. Why not? Do you accept Jane's explanation?
The coincidence struck me as too awful and inexplicable to be
communicated or discussed. If I told anything, my tale would be
such as must necessarily make a profound impression on the mind of
my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings too prone to
gloom, needed not the deeper shade of the supernatural. I kept
things then, and pondered them in my heart (p. 456).
Wouldn't telling her experience strengthen his belief in God? Why
doesn't she tell him years later, when he is no longer subject to
Rochester's trial by fire and his crippling have profoundly
changed Rochester. In planning their marriage, he dismisses the need to buy jewelry and
clothing; during their first engagement, he attempted to shower her
with clothing, jewelry, and other luxuries. More important, he
is no longer driven by passion, egotism, and wilfulness. He has
turned to God and repents his transgression against Jane,
I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower--breathed
guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. I, in my
stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of
bending to the decree, I defied it. Divine justice pursued its
course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through
the valley of the shadow of death. . . . Of late Jane--only--only
of late--I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom.
I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for
reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief
prayers they were, but very sincere (p. 454).
The legal, moral, and religious barrier to their marriage
disappears with Bertha's death. But if Rochester does not change
emotionally, morally, and spiritually, can they have a marriage of
equals? Would Jane be able to achieve the freedom she has been
seeking? could she express her essential self in the marriage? Or
would Rochester dominate? Does Rochester have to be tamed to allow
them to have the type of marriage Jane describes in the next
I know what it is to live
entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself
supremely blest--blest beyond what language can express; because I
am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever
nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his
bone, and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's
society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the
pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms;
consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be
at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. . . . All my
confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to
me; we are precisely suited in character--perfect concord is the
result" (p. 459).
Jane has achieved her ideal relationship. Would this type of
closeness, i.e., merging into one life, have been possible with
the old Rochester? Would they have been equals, or would Jane have
run the risk of being submerged into Rochester's life, desires, egotism, and
Some readers see Rochester's blindness and loss of a hand as a
symbolic castration; he has been emasculated and hence has become
safe. This is, of course, a twentieth century reading.
In crippling Rochester, has Bronte avoided the issues raised by her
material? Until the fire, Rochester expresses masculine
aggression, vitality, magnetism, and will. He would not or could not
resist the force of his own passions. With the crippling of
Rochester, does Bronte avoid dealing with the problems and dangers
Jane would have faced in marriage with him? Could Jane devote her life to the unreformed Rochester
and maintain her
integrity and express her essential self?
Or does the ending merely bring out the good qualities that were
always present in Rochester but were distorted because of his early
errors and the resulting anguish and despair? Is the possibility of his redemption present from the
beginning? Even in early conversations with Jane, he refers to his
hope of reforming and leading a better life.
The question you must decide is whether the happy
ending/marriage grows naturally and convincingly out of the
narrative or whether it is imposed onto the material to force a
With her ideal marriage, has Jane changed fundamentally? Has she
been become the conventional wife, the Angel of the House? Is Jane
What do you notice about the pronouns in the opening sentence of
this chapter? "Reader, I married him." Would the effect/meaning be different if Bronte had
written either "Reader, we married" or "Reader, he married me"?
Why does the novel end with St. John? his devoted service as a
missionary? and his impending death? Is ending with a religious note consistent with the
meanings of the novel, or should it have ended with the love of Rochester and Jane?
Core Studies 6 Page || Melani Home
|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