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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 27

That afternoon, Jane decides that she must leave Thornfield at once.

Rochester pleads with her to stay. He begs for forgiveness, and he asks Jane to come with him to his villa in the south of France. No one there will know that they aren't legally married. He'll shut up Thornfield Hall and leave Grace Poole there with "that fearful hag."

NOTE:

Divorce is never mentioned. Under the law at that time, a man couldn't divorce an insane wife.

Jane tells him he mustn't hate his wife just because she's mad. That's not why he hates her, he says; does Jane think he would hate her if she were mad? "I do, indeed, sir," she replies.

He tells her she's wrong, and he explains why he feels the way he does about his wife. Whether or not you find his story convincing, it's certainly a dramatic one. He tells Jane that he never loved Bertha Mason and hardly knew her at the time of their marriage fifteen years ago. He was rushed into the wedding by his own father and by the Mason family, who managed to conceal from him the early symptoms of Bertha's condition. After the wedding Bertha turned out to be immoral, unintelligent, and a heavy drinker. Within four years she was completely mad. At this point, Rochester decided to commit suicide. He was standing with a pistol to his head when "true Wisdom" suggested another plan-he would take his wife back to Thornfield to be cared for while he traveled in Europe.


Jane seems satisfied with Rochester's answer, but you may not be. We feel sympathy for Rochester being tricked into marriage, but he doesn't really say anything that could make Jane believe he wouldn't also hate her if she went mad. Jane's worry is one that occurs to all of us at one time or another, What would happen if illness, or some other calamity beyond our control, made us unlovable? Would the people who love us now still feel the same way about us? Would our families still feel a duty to take care of us? The story has a lot to say about this subject, but it never does answer Jane's question in so many words. You will have to decide for yourself how you feel about Rochester's attitude toward Bertha.

Next, Rochester apologizes for being too cowardly to tell Jane the truth about Bertha. He had been afraid that "instilled prejudice" would prevent her from overlooking his legal marriage. "I should have appealed to your nobleness," he says. Grabbing her around the waist and devouring her with "a flaming glance," he once more begs her not to leave him.

Jane is tempted. Why not run away with Rochester? What could be more important than making the man she loves happy? "Who in the world cares for you?" she asks herself-no one will be injured by what she does. And then she has her answer: "I care for myself," she declares. "The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man."

Jane cannot be swayed. She will leave Thornfield and Mr. Rochester forever.

NOTE:

No doubt some of you will be very disappointed by Jane's choice. Is it really the law of God that keeps her from running away with Mr. Rochester, or just the divorce laws of England? And is the fear of sin Jane's only concern? Perhaps she's also afraid that Rochester will grow tired of her or lose his respect for her. Some readers find in Jane's answer a hint that if she had money of her own, or a social position equal to Rochester's, her decision might have been quite different. Others believe she is truly following her own idea of what's right. What do you think?

That night, Jane dreams that she is a child again and her mother is urging her, "My daughter, flee temptation!" She wakes before dawn and steals out of the house.

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