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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 36

The next morning, Jane finds a note from St. John telling her that he'll return two weeks later, just before leaving for India to see if she is ready to make a decision in his favor. But the voice Jane heard the night before, real or imaginary, has shown Jane what she must do. She leaves Moor House that same day to return to Rochester.

Jane can hardly wait to see Thornfield again. But she is in for a terrible shock. The mansion is in ruins. Nothing remains but a charred wreck, overgrown with weeds.

Back at the inn, the innkeeper tells Jane the story of Thornfield's destruction.

After Jane left, Mr. Rochester fell into a deep depression. Adele was sent away to boarding school, and Mrs. Fairfax (who has not known the secret of Bertha Mason) retired on a generous pension. Grace Poole remained to take care of Bertha. But it seems that Grace was given to drinking too much gin-which was why Bertha had been able to escape when she set fire to Rochester's bed and frightened Jane in her room.

One night, about two months after Jane's departure, Grace Poole fell into an especially deep, drunken stupor, and Bertha got out again. This time, she went into the room that had belonged to Jane and set the bed on fire. Fortunately, Mr. Rochester awakened in time to warn the servants and get them out. But when he ran back into the burning house to rescue Bertha, she ran out onto the roof. Witnesses saw Rochester trying to pull her to safety, but she leaped to her death from the burning battlements. Minutes later, the roof collapsed in flames. Rochester survived, but with horrible wounds. He lost one eye, became blind in the other, and had his left hand amputated.


Since that time, the innkeeper tells Jane, Rochester has been living as a hermit at Ferndean, a manor house about 30 miles away. Jane immediately hires a carriage to take her there.

CHAPTER 37

Ferndean is a roomy but sparsely furnished house buried deep in the woods, which Mr. Rochester's father had bought to use as a hunting lodge. Jane arrives just before dark, and after paying off her driver, walks the last mile through the dense forest on foot. As she comes near the house, she sees Rochester standing on the front steps, obviously blind and helpless. She longs to rush forward and greet him with a kiss.

NOTE:

Does this scene remind you of another fairy tale? What about Sleeping Beauty? In this version, however, it is the woman who has arrived to rescue her "sleeping prince."

Jane convinces Rochester's servant to let her carry in the glass of water he's asked for. Rochester, though blind, recognizes Jane's voice and is overjoyed. He tells her that he has often imagined her "dead in some ditch" or an "outcast among strangers" and blamed himself. On the contrary, Jane tells him, she is now independently wealthy, thanks to her Uncle John Eyre. She offers to be Rochester's neighbor, nurse, and housekeeper-to take care of him from now on. "It is time someone undertook to rehumanise you," she says.

Of course, what Jane really wants is to be Rochester's wife, but she's not sure whether he wants her, given his present condition. And he, in turn, is afraid to ask her for fear of being turned down.

The next morning, listening to the story of her life at Moor House, Rochester cannot help showing his jealousy of St. John. Jane teases him into admitting that he still loves her. At this, Rochester tells Jane that he is a "ruin of a man," like "the old lightning-struck chestnut tree in Thornfield orchard." Would Jane think him foolish if he still wanted a wife in spite of this?

Jane replies sensibly that her feelings would depend on whom he wanted as a bride. Choose "her who loves you best," she urges. He tells her he will choose "her I love best."

Rochester then asks Jane to marry him, and she gladly accepts. She dismisses his suggestion that marriage to a blind, one-handed man will be a sacrifice. If "to press my lips to what I love best" is a sacrifice, she says, then she delights in it.

Finally, Rochester tells Jane that he now knows he was wrong to try to trick her into a bigamous marriage. He is no longer bitter about losing his sight, and his sufferings have reconciled him with God. Only a few days ago, on Monday evening, he says, he prayed to God for Jane's return and called her name aloud. A voice answered, and he knew it was Jane's.

Hearing this story, Jane realizes that it was on Monday night, at the very hour Rochester called out to her, that she heard his voice crying her name at Moor House. Jane decides to keep her knowledge of this "inexplicable coincidence" to herself. Her reunion with Rochester is already a profound and moving experience in its own right-and the role of the supernatural in bringing them back together is something that she would prefer to ponder in private.

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