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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 18

Jane's spirits reach their low point when one evening, during a game of charades, Mr. Rochester and Blanche Ingram appear dressed up as a bride and groom. Jane reflects that she doesn't believe Mr. Rochester truly loves Blanche. She can see that Blanche, despite her fine figure and outgoing personality, is cold-hearted and not very bright. Surely Mr. Rochester sees this, too. If he marries Blanche, it will only be for her money and position in society!

NOTE:

Does Jane's reasoning sound convincing to you? It's nice to think that we fall in love because we are attracted by our beloved's inner goodness. But truthfully, aren't most of us influenced by appearances? The story goes on to suggest that Jane is right in thinking that Rochester could never love a woman like Blanche. Still, some readers suspect that Jane is rather naive-uncharacteristically so-on the subject of Blanche.

As you read on, you might find it interesting to look for evidence for and against Jane's opinion on this topic. What does Mr. Rochester himself have to say about Blanche? What do other people, such as Mrs. Fairfax, think of her? How is Blanche's flirting with Rochester different from Jane's own "unconventional" conversations with him. Jane obviously thinks there is a big difference.

One afternoon a few days later, the guests are waiting for Mr. Rochester to return from an errand when a tall, well-dressed stranger appears at the door. He's Mr. Richard Mason, who says he's an old friend of Rochester's from Jamaica, in the West Indies.

While Mr. Mason is waiting in the drawing room, a servant announces another unexpected visitor. An old gypsy woman has come to the house, demanding to tell the ladies' fortunes. Blanche thinks this sounds like fun. One by one, the ladies take turns going into the library where the gypsy woman is waiting. All of them emerge giggling-except for Blanche Ingram, who has obviously heard something that upset her very much.

CHAPTER 19

Now it's Jane's turn to have her fortune told. Jane finds the gypsy wearing a red cloak, a wide-brimmed hat that hides her face, and smoking a pipe. Not very impressed, she compares the woman unfavorably to a Sybil-a prophetess from classical mythology. The gypsy tells Jane that she is going to read her fortune by studying the shape of her head.


NOTE:

The belief that a person's character was revealed by the shape of his or her skull-called phrenology-was prevalent in the mid-19th century. In an earlier scene (Chapter 14) Jane has already analyzed Mr. Rochester from the shape of his forehead.

The gypsy questions Jane at length about her feelings for Mr. Rochester and the rumors of his engagement to Miss Ingram. Since the gypsy mentions in passing that she's a friend of Grace Poole, Jane becomes wary and avoids saying how she really feels about Rochester. In a long and rather flowery speech, the gypsy then tells Jane that her eyes are "full of feeling" and her mouth meant to know laughter, but the shape of her forehead shows self-respect-it seems to say, "I can live alone... I need not sell my soul to buy bliss."

By the end of this speech, Jane realizes that the gypsy is speaking in the voice of-Mr. Rochester!

Very pleased with himself, Mr. Rochester removes his disguise and asks Jane whether he didn't do a wonderful job of imitating a gypsy. Jane is not charmed, however. She tells him that it was very unfair of him to try to trick her. Silently, however, she is congratulating herself for having managed to get through the interview without saying anything embarrassing.

Suddenly Jane remembers to tell Rochester about the arrival of Mr. Mason. Rochester is staggered by the news. He tells Jane that he wishes he could be far away with her on some island, away from danger. And he asks her, mysteriously, whether she would still be his friend even if it meant defying society.

She answers cautiously that she would remain true to any friend who deserved her loyalty.

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