Summary of Chapter 24
Preparations for Jane and Rochester’s wedding do not run smoothly. Mrs. Fairfax treats Jane coldly because she doesn’t realize that Jane was already engaged to Rochester when she allowed him to kiss her. But even after she learns the truth, Mrs. Fairfax maintains her disapproval of the marriage. Jane feels unsettled, almost fearful, when Rochester calls her by what will soon be her name, Jane Rochester. Jane explains that everything feels impossibly ideal, like a fairy-tale or a daydream. Rochester certainly tries to turn Jane into a Cinderella-like figure: he tells her he will dress her in jewels and in finery befitting her new social station, at which point Jane becomes terrified and self-protective. She has a premonitory feeling that the wedding will not happen, and she decides to write her uncle, John Eyre, who is in Madeira. Jane reasons that if John Eyre were to make her his heir, her inheritance might put her on more equal footing with Rochester, which would make her feel less uncomfortable about the marriage.
Summary of Chapter 25
The night before her wedding, Jane waits for Rochester, who has left Thornfield for the evening. She grows restless and takes a walk in the orchard, where she sees the now-split chestnut tree. When Rochester arrives, Jane tells him about strange events that have occurred in his absence. The preceding evening, Jane’s wedding dress arrived, and underneath it was an expensive veil—Rochester’s wedding gift to Jane. In the night, Jane had a strange dream, in which a little child cried in her arms as Jane tried to make her way toward Rochester on a long, winding road. Rochester dismisses the dream as insignificant, but then she tells him about a second dream. This time, Jane loses her balance and the child falls from her knee. The dream was so disturbing that it roused Jane from her sleep, and she perceived “a form” rustling in her closet. It turned out to be a strange, savage-looking woman, who took Jane’s veil and tore it in two. Rochester tells her that the woman must have been Grace Poole and that what she experienced was really “half-dream, half-reality.” He tells her that he will give her a full explanation of events after they have been married for one year and one day. Jane sleeps with Adele for the evening and cries because she will soon have to leave the sleeping girl.
Summary of Chapter 26
Sophie helps Jane dress for the wedding, and Rochester and Jane walk to the church. Jane notes a pair of strangers reading the headstones in the churchyard cemetery. When Jane and Rochester enter the church, the two strangers are also present. When the priest asks if anyone objects to the ceremony, one of the strangers answers: “The marriage cannot go on: I declare the existence of an impediment.” Rochester attempts to proceed with the ceremony, but the stranger explains that Rochester is already married—his wife is a Creole woman whom Rochester wed fifteen years earlier in Jamaica. The speaker explains that he is a solicitor from London, and he introduces himself as Mr. Briggs. He produces a signed letter from Richard Mason affirming that Rochester is married to Mason’s sister, Bertha. Mr. Mason himself then steps forward to corroborate the story. After a moment of inarticulate fury, Rochester admits that his wife is alive and that in marrying Jane he would have been knowingly taking a second wife. No one in the community knows of his wife because she is mad, and Rochester keeps her locked away under the care of Grace Poole. But, he promises them all, Jane is completely ignorant of Bertha’s existence. He orders the crowd to come to Thornfield to see her, so that they may understand what impelled him to his present course of action.
At Thornfield, the group climbs to the third story. Rochester points out the room where Bertha bit and stabbed her brother, and then he lifts a tapestry to uncover a second door. Inside the hidden room is Bertha Mason, under the care of Grace Poole. Jane writes:
In the deep shade, at the farther end of the room, a figure ran backwards and forwards. What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.
Bertha attempts to strangle Rochester, who reminds his audience, “this is the sole conjugal embrace I am ever to know.” Jane leaves the room with Mason and Briggs, who tells her that he learned of her intent to marry Jane via a letter from Jane’s uncle, John Eyre, to Mason. It turns out that the two men are acquaintances, and Mason had stopped in Madeira on his way back to Jamaica when John received Jane’s letter. Approaching death, John asked Mason to hurry to England to save his niece. After the wedding crowd disperses, Jane locks herself in her room and plunges into an inexpressible grief. She thinks about the almost calm manner in which the morning’s events unfolded and how it seems disproportionate to the immense effect those events will have on her life. She prays to God to be with her.
Summary of Chapter 27
After falling asleep for a short while, Jane awakes to the realization that she must leave Thornfield. When she steps out of her room, she finds Rochester waiting in a chair on the threshold. To Rochester’s assurances that he never meant to wound her, and to his pleas of forgiveness, Jane is silent, although she confides to the reader that she forgave him on the spot. Jane suddenly feels faint, and Rochester carries her to the library to revive her. He then offers her a new proposal—to leave England with him for the South of France, where they will live together as husband and wife. Jane refuses, explaining that no matter how Rochester chooses to view the situation, she will never be more than a mistress to him while Bertha is alive. Rochester realizes that he must explain why he does not consider himself married, and he launches into the story of his past.
Unwilling to divide his property, Rochester’s father left his entire estate to his other son, Rowland, and sent Rochester to Jamaica to marry Bertha, who was to inherit a massive fortune—30,000 pounds. Bertha was beautiful, and although she and Rochester spent hardly any time alone, the stimulated, dazzled, and ignorant youth believed himself to be in love and agreed to the marriage. Shortly after the wedding, Rochester learned that Bertha’s mother was not, as he had been led to believe, dead, but mad and living in an insane asylum. Bertha’s younger brother was a mute idiot. Rochester’s father and brother had known about the family’s unpromising genetic legacy, but they had promoted the marriage for the sake of the money. Bertha soon revealed herself to be coarse, perverse, and prone to violent outbreaks of temper and unhealthy indulgences. These excesses only hastened the approach of what had been lurking on her horizon already: absolute madness. By this time, Rochester’s father and brother had died, so Rochester found himself all alone with a maniacal wife and a huge fortune. He considered killing himself but returned to England instead. He resolved to place Bertha at Thornfield Hall “in safety and comfort: to shelter her degradation with secrecy, and leave her.” Rochester then drifted around the continent from one city to the next, always in search of a woman to love. When he was met with disappointment, he sank into debauchery. He was always disappointed with his mistresses, because they were, as he puts it, “the next worse thing to buying a slave.” Then he met Jane. Rochester retells the story of their introduction from his point of view, telling her that she enchanted him from the start.
Jane feels torn. She doesn’t want to condemn Rochester to further misery, and a voice within her asks, “Who in the world cares for you?” Jane wonders how she could ever find another man who values her the way Rochester does, and whether, after a life of loneliness and neglect, she should leave the first man who has ever loved her. Yet her conscience tells her that she will respect herself all the more if she bears her suffering alone and does what she believes to be right. She tells Rochester that she must go, but she kisses his cheek and prays aloud for God to bless him as she departs. That night, Jane has a dream in which her mother tells her to flee temptation. She grabs her purse, sneaks down the stairs, and leaves Thornfield.
Summary of Chapter 28
Riding in a coach, Jane quickly exhausts her meager money supply and is forced to sleep outdoors. She spends much of the night in prayer, and the following day she begs for food or a job in the nearby town. No one helps her, except for one farmer who is willing to give her a slice of bread. After another day, Jane sees a light shining from across the moors. Following it, she comes to a house. Through the window, Jane sees two young women studying German while their servant knits. From their conversation Jane learns that the servant is named Hannah and that the graceful young women are Diana and Mary. The three women are waiting for someone named St. John (pronounced “Sinjin”). Jane knocks on the door, but Hannah refuses to let her in. Collapsing on the doorstep in anguish and weakness, Jane cries, “I can but die, and I believe in God. Let me try to wait His will in silence.” A voice answers, “All men must die, but all are not condemned to meet a lingering and premature doom, such as yours would be if you perished here of want.” The voice belongs to “St. John,” who brings Jane into the house. He is the brother of Diana and Mary, and the three siblings give Jane food and shelter. They ask her some questions, and she gives them a false name: “Jane Elliott.”
How were insane people treated during this time period?
either the asylum or attic, not treated like human beings
Women were disproportionately locked up to men
Women’s bodies and hormones drove them crazy (hysterical)
How can Rochester’s actions be defended?
the asylum might have been worse, divorcing her is not an option, Rochester is insistent that he will not strike Bertha, although Rochester threatens to hurt Jane
Why did Rochester marry Bertha?
His father and brother manipulated him into marrying Bertha, he likes her because she is pretty
What does Bertha symbolize?
“The Mad Woman in the Attic” – Bertha is symbolic of all Victorian marriages; confined to the house, domestic life, venture outside is with the permission of husband, tearing up the veil is a warning to Jane, Bertha is an alternate version of Jane, Bertha is from Jamaica, we do not know her ethnicity, plausible she is mixed, representative of racism because the only person of color is crazy, England trying to civilize savage people
What does Jane call her wedding dress? (279) What does Jane’s dream immediately preceding Bertha’s
intrusion suggest? (286-7) What happens to Jane as Bertha leans over her? (288) What does Rochester blame all of these events on?
She calls it a white dream. In the first dream Jane is walking with a child chasing Rochester and in the second one she drops the baby. From past experiences dreams involving children is an omen of something bad in the future. Jane loses consciousness as Bertha leans over her. Rochester says it was half reality and half a nightmare.
How is Bertha described once they enter her room? (295) How is the room described? What does she do
to Rochester? (296) What is his response and what does this demonstrate about his character?
She is described as a wild animal with hair like a mane. The room has a lamp and no window. Bertha grabs his throats and puts her teeth on his cheek. Rochester makes a point not to hit her instead he just wrestles with her. This shows he has compassion for Bertha.
Jane undergoes a number of changes at the end of chapter 26. What does she mean when she says, “I
thought” (300)? How does prayer change her (last two paragraphs) and how does this connect to earlier
portions of the novel? (orchard scene, Helen, etc.)
She means that in the chaos of the events of the day, she needs to have time to reflect on them in order to better understand the circumstances and evaluate her blind love for Rochester. She remembers God and comes to terms with her problems, which she describes as washing over her soul. This connects to Helen, who taught Jane to pray.
How does Jane explain her internal struggle? (302) After she exits the room, how does Jane already feel
towards Rochester? (303)
She wants to leave Thornfield and Rochester but is sad to leave because she feels like she belongs there. She forgives Rochester.
Do you believe Rochester when he says he would love Jane even if she went mad like Bertha? (306) Why or why not?
I think he would still love Jane because she never loved Bertha, but Rochester insists that his love for Jane is so deep that even in times of sickness, including mental illness, he would still love her.
What is Jane’s “inward power” that she feels after Rochester threatens violence? (307-8) What feminine power does she have here? What, if anything, is the larger commentary?
She has influence over Rochester and he will do what she says. She has power emotionally over Rochester, and the larger commentary is that while some men may have more physical strength over some women, women have power emotionally over men.
Although Rochester blames his father and brother for the marriage, to what extent is he culpable? (310)
What eventually happens to Bertha and what is his solution? Is this appropriate? (311-3)
He didn’t protest the marriage because he thought Bertha was beautiful. Bertha goes insane and Rochester travels to Europe to get away in response. Bertha is kept in the third floor of the house because Rochester felt it was safer/better than a mental asylum. Considering the treatment of mentally ill people during that time Rochester’s actions were appropriate but retrospectively his treatment of Bertha is not acceptable.
Why can’t Jane live with Rochester as he so ardently desires? (317) there are multiple reasons here What does her reference to religion/possession (“idol”, “yours/mine”, and the “laws of God”) suggest?
After listening to how Rochester spoke of his past mistresses, Jane refuses to be like them and she doesn’t not want to be inferior to Rochester. She will keep the law of God sanctioned by man and will not be tempted by Rochester.
As Rochester grabs Jane, what is he really longing for? (323) What does this demonstrate about the two
characters? What does this demonstrate about gender and power?
He doesn’t just want Jane physically but also spiritually and emotionally. It demonstrates that he doesn’t desire her for her looks, but her mind and heart. Usually women have power over men because of their physical beauty, but Jane has power over Rochester because of her beautiful mind and spirit. This shows the genders as more equal because women are more than their looks just like men are more than their looks as well.
What does Jane dream about after this long conversation? (324-5) How does she leave Thornfield and what is her hope for her readers at the end of the chapter? (327)
She dreams she is in the red room at Gateshead and the moon tells her to flee. She leaves Thornfield quietly and only takes what she needs. Her hope is that her readers will never have to experience the pain she feels.
As she seeks a new home, where does she go for comfort and solace? (328-330) How is this indicative of her character and other portions of the novel?
She seeks comfort in nature. This shows that she is a Romantic character and speaks to the isolation coping mechanisms she has used many times before through nature.
How is Jane received and treated by the various people of this chapter? What is the class commentary?
What leads her to her eventual abode and what signals her? (336)
She is treated poorly and people assume she is a beggar without getting to understand who she is as a person. The class commentary is that people were rude in England and the poor had a difficult life. Jane wanders in the wildness and eventually sees a light.